For 15 years, POM restaurant inside Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio has served up a weekly barbeque menu every Wednesday. The restaurant is building upon that and recently added a weekly dinner special that explores new waters, or at least the delicious sea critters that inhabit them.
POM is now offering Seafood Night Tuesdays at $49 per person.
Casino executive chef Freddy “Chef Freddy” Rieger and POM chef A.J. Atkins said the idea came from Jay Chesterton, vice president of hotel and food & beverage at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. Adkins and Rieger then came in to help to curate the different dishes and are still tweaking things, but said they’re already getting positive customer feedback.
“We put our heart and soul into this,” Rieger said. “The chefs and servers care more than you know, and you’re not going to get this much seafood for 49 bucks.”
The dinner is served family-style, with multi-course items served at the center of the table and can be ordered by one or more people. For those who may not be too enthusiastic about the seafood, Rieger recommends ordering something off the regular menu, but going with someone who will take advantage of the seafood special.
“You get so many different options at your table,” Rieger said. “Before long, you’re going to be rolling your sleeves up, asking for a bib and you’re going to be digging in.”
The first course includes a salad, King Hawaiian sweet rolls and steamed shrimp cooked with butter, lemon and spices. The main course includes steamed crab legs and guests are provided tools such as crackers, splitters and picks to ensure no crab leg meat goes to waste.
The main course also features crab cakes, butterfly shrimp with tartar and wine sauce, Lowcountry coleslaw and a Creole-style rice pilaf. Dessert is a chocolate mouse cake made with fresh whipped cream and raspberry sauce.
The produce is all sourced from California and some seafood items, such as shrimp and crab, are imported from Cisco Foods. Rieger said that he also gets seafood deals from a distributor in New Jersey that helps keep the prices low for patrons.
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“Everything else the chefs make from scratch,” Rieger said. “All the baking is done on the premises with our pastry division at the pastry shop.”
Rieger’s experience as a chef raised on the Jersey coast has taught him how to perfect the seasoning blends for his meals. For example, the menu’s crab cakes contain jalapeños and bell peppers, not to increase the spicy levels, but to awaken the flavors.
“I believe in what we call layering seasoning,” Rieger said. “If you’re going to make fried shrimp, for example, you have to make an egg wash, seasoned flour and then you have to make seasoned breadcrumbs. That’s the most important thing.”
The culinary styles in the kitchen are also a combination of Adkins’ skills acquired from traveling to Asia, the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean and various locations around the world. He grew up in Maui, Hawaii, but also picked up his cooking skills at home. The Lowcountry coleslaw is a family recipe from Adkins’ African American and Native American grandmother who grew up in Georgia.
“I got a lot of the soul food cooking influence from her, from the island cooking with my mother and traveling all over, so I took a little bit of everything and put it in my repertoire,” Adkins said. “The seasoning is pretty much how my grandmother would season food growing up.”
For the chefs, cooking seafood for customers who enjoy the results brings them unrivaled mutual satisfaction.
“Over the years of making so much and serving in restaurants, I get a charge from watching people’s faces when they’re happy with their seafood dinners or appetizers,” Rieger said. “There’s nothing wrong I can find with seafood.”
When: 5-11 p.m. Tuesdays
Where: POM at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84-245 Indio Springs Pkwy., Indio
Price: $49 per person; For more information or to see the full menu, go to fantasyspringsresort.com.