Wynn takes dayboat sourcing to new heights—and depths—for its menu at Lakeside restaurant

By Travel & Leisure
June 11, 2015

It would make perfect sense that a Las Vegas resort that serves thousands of people each week in its 19 restaurants would procure its fish via a massive commercial operation. But at Lakeside restaurant at Wynn Las Vegas, that would undermine an important story – Chef David Walzog's poetic interpretation of dining, water lapping at your feet, in a beachside spot in Maui.

The fish themselves, pulled from their warm Hawaiian waters only a day ago, are a big part of what makes dining at Lakeside a more interesting experience than the typical extravagant Vegas dining event. The other is their journey, which starts with Greggie and Gina Lind, a third-generation fishing family in Hana, famous for its rugged, winding road that connects the isolated town with the rest of the island. "When I visit Greggie in Maui, we do what he does every day: hook up the trailers and go out at 5:30 in the morning. Sometimes we're reminded that it's called 'fishing,' not 'catching," Walzog laughs. But the catches do happen, and they reinforce Walzog's commitment to supporting people who treat his fish like precious cargo. "You can only imagine 200 pounds of fish traveling that nice, winding road – and us getting it the next morning in pristine condition."

When Walzog is in Las Vegas, Lind sends him updates via text from the boat on the next day's haul. "He'll say, 'I'm at 150 pounds. Stop, or keep fishing?' The next morning, it's here." The precision with which the Lind register their catch – Gina serving as a voice for regulating the Hana fishing population – reminds Walzog, too, of why he keeps this relationship sacred. "They do this out of the good graces of keeping the population alive for future generations." Bringing the Lind to Las Vegas to talk to his staff about what they are serving deepens the connection for the kitchen and servers – and ultimately diners.

This embrace of dayboat fishing to preserve freshness and source responsibly is nothing new to Wynn, which has garnered acclaim for a similar program at its Costa di Mare that has become known as a celebration of coastal Italy. These imaginative culinary offerings rank highly—alongside sumptuously-appointed rooms and suites, a sophisticated array of designer boutiques, and dazzling shows, including the latest, Steve Wynn's ShowStoppers —among the reasons Wynn and Encore have captured more Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Awards than any other Las Vegas resort.

Walzog takes over when the fish arrive, working with a series of four deceptively simple preparations designed to coax out the beauty of the fish itself. Both Hawaiian names and more commonly known names appear on the menu, though you can often expect a surprise from an exceptional haul. From the dependable snapper family, guests might choose a delicate opakapaka (pink) with his market-driven citrus (tangerines, candied kumquats, olive oil, chervil and dill). A favorite Walzog pairing is Onaga – a long-tailed snapper – whose clean oceanic flavors are showcased by a set of Japanese vegetables, grilled scallions, soy and yuzu. The Mediterranean set's concentrated tomato, artichoke, olives and oregano vinaigrette stand up to the meaty shutome (swordfish). Monchong – a snub-nosed, deep-sea fish better known as Pomfret – becomes rich and earthy with confit mushrooms, herbs, beurre blanc and a bit of truffle.

"Of course people care that their food is free of antibiotics and want to know its provenance," Walzog says. "But now we can tell them how the fish arrives and about the people who bring it to us. We have the responsibility to tell them the story."