There is a certain allure to seafood – especially lobster. The thought that it is compactly contained in a shell and once inhabited cold, unfamiliar waters, is enticing. Discovering the succulent meat inside the vibrant red shells is like discovering a treasure. I have savored lobster from the Atlantic Seaboard to Sweden, but some of the most delicious lobsters I have ever eaten were enjoyed at Pala Casino’s Oak Room.
The three-pound Maine lobsters are flown in live; and the lobster tails are flash-frozen on boats, then transported by air from Australia.
Alaskan king crab is shipped from the Bering Sea where the cold water fosters a rich flavor. The twelve-inch crab legs dangle over the plate a bit. They are steamed and served split so there is no fuss or pesky errant crab juices.
Fresh fish is delivered to the restaurant six days a week, but it is not always the same fish. Orange roughy, pink snapper (from Hawaii), swordfish, and John Dory are a sampling of the fish available sporadically. Because of this, the fish menu at the Oak Room doesn’t stand still. It is ever-changing with only two exceptions – the Alaskan halibut and Atlantic salmon. Diners know the menu selections are as fresh as the fish.
One of the most provocative items on the menu has the longest name: Broiled Stuffed Shrimp in Apple Wood Bacon. Stuffing shrimp with crab makes them appear larger, but in this case the shrimp are quite large on their own. The tails tell that secret. Innovative crab-stuffed shrimp are tied with a ribbon of crisp bacon – these three components meld to create a definite taste explosion.
Eight-ounce, twelve-ounce, one-pound and two-pound are the size choices for the Oak Room’s lobster tails. They are fire-roasted with butter, which seeps marvelously into the crevices of the meat to enhance the already enticing sea-borne flavor.
I sit at an eggshell-white linen-draped table and close my eyes. I take another bite of the flame-seared lobster tail. It is succulent and slightly sweet. The butter drips a bit. It doesn’t matter. In this elegant European-inspired restaurant several miles inland from the ocean, a delicious world of seafood is waiting to be discovered; and I think I am doing a pretty good job at exploring.
The Oak Room is located at Pala Casino Spa & Resort, 11154 Hwy. 76 in Pala. Reservations are suggested, and can be made by calling (760) 510-5100 before 5 p.m., or (760) 510-4540 after 5 p.m. Hours: Monday/Tuesday – Closed. Wednesday/Thursday/Sunday – 5 – 10 p.m. and Friday/Saturday – 5 – 11 p.m.