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Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Reboots New Fresh Menu

The Chocolate Hurricane needs no introduction, but it may need its own zip code.
The Chocolate Hurricane needs no introduction, but it may need its own zip code.
L Colagiovanni

Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville - Las Vegas, located inside the Flamingo Hotel and Casino has rebooted their menu for the first time in 10 years and is now offering a variety of new fresh choices, along with a new Gluten Free and Sugar Free menu, while boasting of increasing the quality of all ingredients used.

12 oz NY Strip cooked to perfection
l colagiovanni

The kitchen is commanded by the award winning Chef Frank Zmuda. Educated at Johnson and Wales University, Chef Zmuda boasts an impressive resume having been a chef for 15 years. He has been with the Las Vegas Margaritaville location for 14 months and is a member of the American Culinary Federation. He has won competitions across the nation for dishes as varied from chili to desert pastries! Chef Zmuda is a powerhouse in the kitchen, and his work speaks for itself.

Upon arrival at the door a gentlemen in a suit greets one with a smile. Entering provides an entirely different sensory experience when coming from the strip. Loud classic Jimmy Buffet hits play, palm trees, an extended bar, wooden floors, and flashing lights that strobe to the beat of the music strike the eye. A couple individuals were walking around on stilts crafting balloon animals. Regrettably I did not seize upon the opportunity to procure an animal, as my party was seated immediately.

I visited this establishment in an official capacity to offer a review of '#MargaritavilleRefreshed' as it is called on the menu. This meant that my choices were limited to a beverage and an entree. The appetizers and deserts provided for sampling were pre-selected for media members. Let us start with the drinks.

The menu boasts over 30 signature drinks, with 11 of them being, you guessed it; margaritas. One may venture to try The Blueberry Pomegranate Margarita, served with Margaritaville Silver Tequila, Cointerau, blueberry pomegranate puree, and a special house blended margarita mix, or the 'Last Mango In Paris' which is made with Last Mango Tequila, Cointreau, special house blend margarita mix, and cranberry juice. These drinks are a reasonable $10.75, considering the size. For those interested in sampling, I would suggest the 'Margarita Flight' which is four different varieties of margarita for a mere $17.95 and includes, 'Who's To Blame, Blueberry Pomegranate, Fins To The Left, and Last Mango In Paris. For myself I elected to sample The Chocolate Banana Colada, made with Pinnacle Chocolate Whipped Vodka, 99 bananas, coconut puree and a float of Myer's Dark Rum. I was rather parched and finished off the first round in moments, which tasted more like a desert than a drink. The alcohol was well disguised. I then ordered a 'Bama Breeze' which is made with a fine mixture of Cruzan Vanilla Rum, Margaritaville Silver Rum, orange juice, along with coconut and mango puree.

The first course consisted of fried white cheddar cheese curds in the famous LandShark batter. The curds were accompanied by a tangy LandShark Lager BBQ sauce, and a standard marinara. I would recommend the BBQ. Each bite carried a hint of beer battering, but the cheese was solid in the curd, rather than melted and devoid of its original form which was a nice surprise, adding an extra level of difficulty to this simple but delicious dish. For $10.99 the cost is reasonable for the quantity of curds served.

The second course was 'Lava Lava Shrimp', fried to perfection. The sauce used was a rare chili and lime spiked aioli which provided a bold taste. The presentation is creative and adds a wow-factor. At $12.99 a round, this is an equitable accompaniment.

Moving onto the third course, The Asiago Crab Dip is something to behold. It consists of a decadent combination of sharp asiago cheese cream, mixed with real, absolutely not imitation, lump crab meat, and baked until it reaches a sizzling golden color. This item was my absolute favorite, and while it was served as an appetizer it could certainly have been consumed as a meal. The dip was served with thinly sliced crostini bread, baked with cheese and herbs and spices. The only drawback of this item is I do not feel enough crostini bread was given to consume all of the dip. Unless the bread was not meant to accompany every bite, which with it being so delicious I can not understand why that would be. Even missing a couple pieces of bread does not detract from this phenomenal dish. The cost of $13.99 is an absolute bargain. I would happily pay $25 to enjoy this fine dip again.

The fourth course was served in two different 'Key West Quesadillas' and who doesn't drool for those? In particular I was served a Carne Asada Steak, and a Chicken Tinga Quesadilla! Both came overflowing with meat, and the presentation was colorful and added an extra dimension to the dish. Topped with guacamole, lime crema, Oaxaca and Monterrey Jack Cheese, and finished with a fine pic de gallo. While both were hearty, in all I would recommend the steak over the chicken for the simple fact that I prefer beef. Either dish will run an interested customer $14.99 for chicken, and $15.99 for beef.

The fifth and final appetizer was the 'Drunken Shrimp Skillet.' This item came served in a bowl of sorts, with red, green, and yellow peppers along with roasted garlic and onions. The shrimp were presented in warm standing tequila key lime butter. $13.99 is the menu price and is a fair market value.

After charging head first through the appetizer section, it was time for the entrees. For this evening two were sampled. The first was, in my opinion, the most important staple of any restaurant; a steak, a New York Strip Steak to be specific. In a make or break proposition, the 12 oz strip had all of the tenets of a beautiful piece of meat with diamond shaped grill marks. I ordered the steak medium well, and it arrived as such while being succulent. I happily recommend the steak and at $26.99 the price is competitive with other restaurants in the area that may not boast as high of quality cuts of meat, or preparation. You could try other establishments to see for yourself, but I have taken the trouble of testing this for you and it is, in Vegas terms, aces. Accompanied by the steak were loaded Yukon gold mashed potatoes, which is not an exaggeration. Covered with cheddar cheese and laced with applewood-smoke bacon, green onion, and sour cream, the dish tasted exactly as described. A healthy portion of green beans were also served. The beans were cooked in a light butter sauce, which did not distract from their fresh flavor. The green offered a welcome contrast.

The second entree was the 'Shrimp Trio', which was served with three varieties of shrimp; massive butterflied and deep fried golden coconut shrimp, with an orange glaze sauce. Delicious. The grilled blackened shrimp skewers were divine and the sauteed island lime shrimp were similar to the drunken shrimp skillet. Served alongside with french fries was cilantro lime coleslaw. The coleslaw had an unexpected contrast, as it reminded me of fresh blackberries picked off the vine in springtime. In an island themed restaurant the flavor combinations hit the mark. A serving of jalapeno tartar sauce was also included. A price of $24.99 is reasonable considering the quality of the shrimp.

We now come to the desert course, in two sections, and what a hoot this round was. I was fortunate and honored to have been served personally by the Executive Chef of Margaritaville, Frank Zmuda, who took ten minutes of his valuable time on a Friday night to explain the differences in menu and to extend his warm thanks for coming in. All of the items I sampled were made with the highest quality ingredients possible said Chef Zmuda. Fresher ingredients, higher quality meats, cheeses, and spices. Their objective was to reinvigorate the menu to be more relevant and competitive, and I would say they met their requirements. Chef Zmuda served 'The Chocolate Hurricane.' He explained why they had elected to create such a mountain of a desert:

'We would walk around and see customers eating a brownie out of a glass, but others at the table would not see what was being eaten. With The Chocolate Hurricane, which after its introduction is now one of our most popular deserts, tables of families are enjoying this while talking, sharing, and laughing. It makes desert fun!'

After saying goodnight to Chef Zmuda there was a formidable task before me.

The Chocolate Hurricane has its own serving lazy susan platform, to give one an idea about size and scale. The picture included in this article doesn't do that mammoth item justice. It was much larger than it appears here. Two mammoth glumps of whipped cream separated a middle of premium gourmet vanilla bean ice cream, with a stack of over inch thick brownies. Two double shots of caramel, and chocolate sauce. The lazy susan is turned while the sauces were drenched over the entirety of the desert. Topped with cherries, of course. The outside was decorated with Kit-Kat bars, crumbled Heath bars, butter and pirouette cookies, banana slices, and macadamia nuts. This variety of accompaniment allows for innumerable flavor selections of mixing whatever items seems opportune in the moment. Without hesitation one will recognize that The Chocolate Hurricane could be a meal all by itself for several people. $16.50 is a bargain as one could easily pay $50 for this desert elsewhere on the strip.

Finally I was served a single slice of key lime pie, with heavy emphasis on lime. The taste, if unprepared, may take the breath of some away. Being more than lime, the pie has an element of freshness to it. The graham cracker crust was buttery. At $7.99 a slice you can begin to understand by The Chocolate Hurricane is such a bargain for a gourmet desert.

Regarding service, Margaritaville passed every instance with flying colors. I absolutely must give the nod to my wonderful server for the evening, Vanessa, who drew the short straw in dealing with a reviewer but was seamless in her service. Being a server on a Friday night is already a task in itself, and then to have the extra pressure of literally being graded on a job performance can be understandably nerve wracking, but I am pleased to say on this night the service was exemplary.

The Director of Operations, Deborah Canez, gifted myself and my party each with over $50 of collectible merchandise, including a high quality Margaritaville hat, t-shirt, and a large hot-cold mug.

The total cost of the 9 course meal was around $180.

Now, friends, you could very easily have the same experience as I, while ordering half of the menu. It's Vegas. Why not? You could also start small and see where your meal takes you. The possibilities are many in Margaritaville and it is certainly a trip I would recommend you take. You may find yourself going back again and again. I know that I will be.

I was kindly invited to this re-launch by Rockaway PR, located in Miami and Orlando, Florida.

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