AquaKnox has long been considered one of the best seafood restaurants in Las Vegas, known for its fresh seafood and outstanding raw bar. In 2013, Forbes named AquaKnox one of the top seafood restaurants in the United States and gave it it’s coveted four star award. Wine Spectator in 2015 gave them the Award of Excellence for their amazing wine collection. Everything about the restaurant says “excellent” including it delightful selection of caviar. Thus it was a surprise to me and much of the culinary world when Samba Brands announced they were placing the SushiSamba offshoot, SugarCane right across from AquaKnox after winning a bidding war to get the former V Bar/Club space. Several restaurant managers even told me that they believed AquaKnox would be closing, or creating a non-competitive venture in the same location.
However, Tavistock Restaurant Collection CEO, John T. Bettin emailed me personally to inform PaceVegas that they were dedicated to continuing in that space, and keeping AquaKnox. Andrea Von Utter, their Chief Markting Officer was nice enough to take some time out of their busy schedule to answer some questions about their future, what they are planning next year, and more importantly, what is really tasty at AquaKnox.
In general, what is the future of AquaKnox in the Venetian? Is AquaKnox dedicated to being a part of Las Vegas for the foreseeable future? Yes, AquaKnox is dedicated to continuing our reputation as one of best places for fresh, quality seafood in Las Vegas. We have 8 years left on our lease and we fully intend to operate through that time period.
Sushi Samba is opening a competing Raw Bar near AquaKnox. What is AquaKnox doing to differentiate itself from this project? While both restaurants specialize in seafood, the selection at AquaKnox is very broad while Sushi Samba focuses Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine. The AquaKnox menu is chef-driven based on seasonal and fresh seafood available from around the world.
We pride ourselves on unique offerings such as our signature John Dory dish plated with lobster corn succotash and corn nage. The way we serve it is exclusive to AquaKnox.
What should we expect this summer from AquaKnox that is innovative and interesting menu-wise?
With a seasonal menu, we continually offer interesting and innovative food and drink options for our guests. This summer, Executive Chef James DeFraga is featuring a fresh variety of seasonal items including wild king and sockeye salmon, and halibut. We’re also featuring a 28oz Australian waygu tomahawk rib-eye steak.
What are restaurants like Aquaknox doing to help keep seafood sustainable for the next generation? How has this affected prices and availability of menu items? At AquaKnox, we only buy our seafood from credited sustainable purveyors. Our oysters come exclusively from Blue Island Oyster Company. The crab legs are sourced through a local vendor, The Crab Broker. They can trace the crab to the specific boat and time when the crab was harvested. Sourcing the freshest ingredients can sometimes have an impact on availability and price, but we’re committed to serving our guests the absolute best.
Tavistock Restaurants LLC has locations all over the US, and two restaurants both in the Palazzo Venetian. What makes Las Vegas the most interesting place for opening restaurants, and the most challenging? Las Vegas is a wonderful restaurant town. There’s tremendous accessibility to different cuisines, dining styles, and atmospheres – it’s a very rich landscape that we’re happy to have a presence in. There’s certainly a high level of competition here with all of the new restaurants opening and the renowned mainstays that continue to evolve. That competition can be challenging, but it’s also motivates us to continue to keep our restaurants at the forefront of the Las Vegas dining scene.
I noticed that Tavistock doesn’t use the same concept more than once, while many concept and even celebrity chef restaurants will duplicate their brands. Why did you guys make this decision? We do have a few of our brands that operate in more than one location – Abe & Louie’s, Timpano and Joe’s American Bar & Grill all have multiple restaurants. Overall, we believe in building individual restaurants that cater to the surrounding community. Whether that’s the same concept in two different cities or a unique brand, each restaurant is designed to support and reflect its community with a focus on creating memorable experiences for our guests each and every visit.
What does AquaKnox and Canoñita look for mainly in food service employees? Where should be people apply if they are interested in working in Las Vegas for your company. For AquaKnox, Canonita and all of our restaurants, we believe an exceptional dining experience depends on engaging service. We are looking for employees with passion, integrity, intellect and a solid work ethic who strive for excellence and seek opportunities for growth. Tavistock Restaurant Collection employs hundreds of employees for each restaurant location and we’re dedicated to helping people build lasting careers. If you’re interested in working for us, please visit http://tavistockrestaurantcollection.com/careers