Appetizers

Sure, the ribs were fine, but the seafood pan roast ruled

The lobster pan roast at John’s Oyster Bar at the Nugget is the best dish on the menu.
The lobster pan roast at John’s Oyster Bar at the Nugget is the best dish on the menu. apierleoni@sacbee.com

The 27th annual Best In the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off brought 500,000 barbecue lovers to the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks over the Labor Day weekend. Under clear blue skies and moderate heat, they ate a quarter-million pounds of pork spareribs prepared by 24 professional cookers from around the nation.

The sprawling outdoor venue for the five-day feast, Victorian Square, was pandemonium. Meanwhile, inside the hectic Nugget, John’s Oyster Bar kept doing what it’s done for 56 years. It’s an old-school holdout from the 2013 sale of the former John Ascuaga’s Nugget to Global Gaming & Hospitality, which ended a half-century of family ownership.

You will no longer find a pu pu platter at the Nugget’s Trader Dick’s retro Polynesian restaurant that opened in the 1950s (it’s now a Gilley’s country-themed nightclub), but the four-star seafood pan roasts are still on John’s Oyster Bar menu. We dropped by.

The pan roast – an upscale cross between a bisque and a seafood stew – has long been a staple at the legendary oyster bar at Grand Central Station in New York City. The inspiration for the Nugget’s version came from there. Quoting from the menu: “This is the aristocrat of all stews and is cooked to your order with the very finest of spices, white wine, clam broth, cream, butter, special cocktail sauce, a drop of lemon and your choice of seafood.”

The fragrant lobster pan roast was chunky with pieces of succulent Maine lobster; we accentuated it with old-fashioned oyster crackers and dashes of Tabasco sauce ($17; options include oysters, shrimp, crab and a combo). You know the saying: “The next time you’re in town...”

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe

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