Fresh fish

Kyle Archuleta at Rapscallion will make sure your water glass is never empty and your ice is never melted.

Kyle Archuleta at Rapscallion will make sure your water glass is never empty and your ice is never melted.

Photo By David Robert

Rapscallion is a genuine Reno institution that’s been the area’s top-billing seafood restaurant for as long as anyone can remember, so much so that some long-term residents might have started to take it for granted. Which would be dumb—we’re lucky to have such great seafood in our little desert town.

The subdued lighting, elegant décor and energetic yet intimate atmosphere are all conducive to happily behaving like a self-satisfied rapscallion. So is the head-spinning wine list—so vast as to quickly overwhelm the novice wine drinker. Watch out for rascally behavior; the fish get so fresh you might need a restraining order.

Rapscallion might have built its reputation on seafood, but the menu doesn’t end there. Land-locked dishes like lamb, pork and steak also play a big role. The menu is in constant flux, with daily specials that change according to what’s in season.

Here is my first instruction: order appetizers. My friend Mark and I had the Seafood Combo ($14), which is a great deal because you get to try a few of the many different appetizing flavors Rapscallion has to offer. The crab cakes, with Cajun remoulade, are quite good. The coco prawns, with an orange marmalade sauce, are even better—practically a dessert, they’re so decadent. But the Diablos on Horseback are my favorite: sea scallops cloaked in bacon and riding croutons. It’s cute yet evil. And as Mark said, “Wrapping bacon around other meat is genius.”

I had a salad, which was fine, crisp and fresh, but if I had to do it again, I would do what Mark did and have the clam chowder (cup, $4).

“As good as any clam chowder in San Francisco or New England,” Mark said.

For the entrée, I had one of the specials, the Horseradish Encrusted Alaskan Halibut ($20), baked and served on garlic mashed potatoes with fried leeks and lemon garlic butter. The great thing about dining at a restaurant like Rapscallion is that it can reaffirm your beliefs in the power of food. The best dishes captivate and beguile and sustain a sense of culinary intrigue throughout the meal.

Mark, like myself, would attest to such an experience. He had the Bleu Cheese Pork Chops ($19), and, continuing the praise he began lavishing during the appetizers, announced the flavor combination of pork chops and bleu cheese to be “another ingenuous idea.”

I finished dining with a piece of Chocolate Truffle Cake, which was (as it is customary to say of the best desserts) to die for.

The service is excellent. Our waiter was a consummate professional but still good-humored enough to joke around with us. He was incredibly attentive to detail: When our water glasses were emptied, they were promptly refilled; when they remained full for too long and the ice had melted, they were promptly refreshed with new ice.

In addition to having the best seafood around, Rapscallion also has banquet accommodations, Sunday brunches and jazz and blues performances. Even if you’ve been living in Reno for as long as Rapscallion has been around (and it was founded before I was born), it’s still worth revisiting. Reservations are recommended and recommended for as soon as possible.