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Seafood in the desert

It's been a few millennia since Northern Nevada was near the ocean, but that hasn't stopped local chefs from keeping up with seafood trends. In a town based on tourism and entertainment, it's expected that a little thing like distance won't keep fish off the menus. While strip mall sushi joints and casino crab platters abound, here are some of the region's most overlooked catches.
Wine offerings at Francis Asian Bistro

Francis' Asian Bistro

1. Francis' Asian Bistro (4796 Caughlin Parkway, www.francisasianbistro.com) offers a unique, modern take on Asian fusion accompanied by an impressive view of the city and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Look for sushi, oysters and curried vegetables as well as Chilean sea bass, the house special.

2. La Vecchia Italian Restaurant (3501 S. Virginia St., www.lavecchiareno.com) is known for Northern Italian dishes so traditional that they'll seem new to many Americans. It's hard to go wrong here, and you might be better off just asking for the daily special, which is usually a new item the chef is testing out before he puts it on the menu. While homemade pasta is a staple, numerous fresh fish fillets are available and the fritto misto, a platter of carefully fried calamari, shrimp, zucchini and artichokes, is exceptional.

3. Local favorite Rapscallion Seafood House & Bar (1555 S Wells Ave., www.rapscallion.com) wins regional dining polls pretty much every year, and with good reason. A quiet, dimly lit space (except on St. Patrick's Day, when it's the center of the area's festivities), Rapscallion aims to recreate the fish joints of old-world San Francisco with dishes such as tiger prawn and sea scallop fettuccini and crab-stuffed monk fish.

4. A total departure from standard seafood restaurants, Marisco's El Pescador (499 E. Plumb Lane) offers Mexican-style seafood in a more relaxed setting. In addition to being a popular hangout for local Latinos, El Pescador offers some of the best seafood cocktails and soups in town. Traditional fare including raw oysters are also served.

5. Bleeding-edge bistro Cafe de Thai (7499 Longley Lane, www.cafedethaireno.com) features a spectacularly spare dining room and decor so hip it can be tough to figure out how to work the bathroom sink. The bar often draws a crowd of young business people as the evening wears on, but the patio offers a more intimate atmosphere. The seafood menu leans heavily on prawns and salmon, but lobster spring rolls and blue crab chowder are the most memorable.

Pasta at Reno's La Vecchia restaurant

La Vecchia Italian Restaurant

6. Fin Fish (2500 E. Second St., www.grandsierraresort.com) inside the Grand Sierra Resort represents chef-about-town Charlie Palmer's first foray into seafood. Decorated in subway tiles and aged driftwood, the restaurant features a wide-open kitchen area so you can see what the cooks are up to. The menu offers iced shellfish, lobster corn dogs, grilled bone marrow and a wide variety of other trendy fare. Most of the fish is flown in fresh from the coast. Definitely pricey but worth it for serious foodies.

7. You may need to take your time looking for it, but the visibly unremarkable Royal Seafood Buffet chinese restaurant (3255 S. Virginia St.) actually offers some serious seafood along with its egg-rolls and fried rice. Baked salmon, black bean mussels and spicy squid frequently show up in the rotation, as do corn cakes stuffed with shredded fish. If you're traveling with kids whose interest in weird food is limited, this might be a good compromise.

8. A standout among Reno's many Japanese eateries, Sushi Moto (748 South Meadows Parkway, sushimotoreno.com) is the rare sushi bar that improves on the original cuisine. The menu includes old favorites as well as dishes with a Hawaiian, Korean, vegetarian and even Southern twist. While it might sound like a restaurant in the midst of an identity crisis, Sushi Moto succeeds most of the time, making it one of the most unexpected fish experiences in town. However, sushi purists may go into convulsions when they see that some rolls include asparagus, macadamia nuts or mango.

9. Ichiban (219 North Center Street, www.ichibanreno.com) inside Harrah's casino combines flashy Teppanyaki cooking with traditional Japanese cuisine. While you can get sushi and noodle dishes, the best choice is to sit at one of the grills, where chefs prepare sizzling steak, lobster, shrimp, scallops and more right at your table. If you or your kids have yet to experience the pyrotechnics that go on at these places, it's worth a look. For the price, there may be better meals in town, but Ichiban offers a show to go along with it.

10. Calling John's Oyster Bar (1100 Nugget Ave, Sparks, www.janugget.com) a secret is a bit of a stretch, since it's among the region's most respected fishmongers. But one simply can't talk about seafood in Northern Nevada without a nod to this perennial favorite inside John Ascuaga's Nugget casino. Dishes include a variety of award-winning pan roasts and a world-class cioppino alongside clams, salmon, prawns, gumbo and fish sandwiches. The price range is wide, from $9 for salads to more than $30 for some entrees, meaning the place is appropriate for a quick lunch as well as a full evening out. The nautical decor and artfully designed aquariums will help get you in a fishy mood, but after one taste of seafood Louie, you shouldn't need much encouragement.

Read more articles about Reno

Article written by Matt Farley. Farley is a Nevada native who has worked for the Reno Gazette-Journal and Nevada Magazine and been syndicated by The Associated Press, Gannett News Service and the Las Vegas Review Journal.

 
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