Betting on Good Taste

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Sommeliers in Sin City

Blackjack dealers make way for sommeliers in Sin City.- By Norman Sklarewitz

You may head to Las Vegas in the weeks ahead to catch such headliners as Celine Dion at Caesars Palace or the limited engagement of Elton John—of course, there’s the Blue Man Group at the Venetian (venetian.com) or a half-dozen productions of Cirque du Soleil all over the Strip. But attracting discriminating patrons, too, will be the Masa Toro with caviar at Bar Masa at ARIA Resort & Casino (arialasvegas.com), the 16-course degustation menu at Joël Robuchon in the MGM Grand (mgmgrand.com), or the FleurBurger 5000 at Fleur by Hubert Keller in the Mandalay Bay (mandalaybay.com).

That’s right. In Las Vegas, haute cuisine is packing ‘em in, too. Dining well turns out to be one of the city’s more popular attractions. As in the dinner shows, big names are part of the draw here, and some of the food world’s major players are the biggest new names in the Vegas culinary stratosphere. These include Joachim Splichal, Michael Mina, Tom Colicchio, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Joël Robuchon, Wolfgang Puck, Nobu Matsuhisa and Emeril Lagasse, among others. How do you like them apples, Manhattan?

“It seemed that almost overnight, Las Vegas went from being a ‘buffet town’ in terms of cuisine to being one of the greatest cities in the world for fine dining,” says Stuart Faber, a Los Angeles-based restaurant writer for biztravelerschoice.com who has reviewed hundreds of restaurants all over the world. He says, “The change came with the opening of all the new hotels. Management clearly felt that with the influx of high rollers and convention delegates that there was sufficient demand to support fine dining restaurants run by celebrity chefs—and they were right. Today, you won’t want for a memorable dining experience when you visit Las Vegas.”

Never shy in making claims for greatness, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (lvcva.com) considers the town a “global gourmet mecca” with “more master sommeliers than any other city in the world and with more wine sold per capita than any other destination.”

Even a casual swing along the Las Vegas Strip takes you to a foodie’s heaven.

The Cosmopolitan Hotel (cosmopolitanlasvegas.com), for example, has 13 restaurants and boasts that these offer patrons the widest range of cuisines of any property in town. As proof, it ticks off this lineup of international choices: the Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill; China Poblano with a combination of Chinese and Mexican dishes; Comme Ça, a French brasserie; D.O.C.G, an Italian wine bar; Estiatorio Milos for Greek delights prepared by chef Costas Spiliadis; Jaleo for tapas by José Andrés; Scarpetta for great Italian favorites along with a 3,000-bottle wine cellar; and Va Bene, an Italian coffee bar. But then if you just want a great burger, you’ll get it at Holsteins, steaks at STK and other familiar menus at either The Henry or Wicked Spoon buffet. Not only are these all within the hotel, but they’re all grouped together on two adjoining levels. The space is whimsically called the P3 Commons and is effectively a “neighborhood” of restaurant experiences.

Big Names, Big Eats

Since the Cosmopolitan opened in December 2010, its restaurants have been popular celebrity hangouts. Spotted just in from New York, Hollywood and points in-between include Jude Law, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Blake Lively, Kellan Lutz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kirsten Dunst, Gavin Rossdale and Lebron James. Celebs in particular like to hang out in é by Jose Andres. This eight-seat chef’s tasting room is situated within Jaleo. Not surprisingly, it’s often booked up, so make your reservations well in advance.

If that selection isn’t enough for you, just make your way along the Strip to ARIA, which has 14 restaurants, or Bellagio (bellagio.com), which  not only also has 14 restaurants, but claims more master sommeliers (three) under one roof than anywhere else on the planet. MGM Grand is home to the only Robuchon restaurants in North America outside of New York City, with L’Atelier and Joël Robuchon, the only Michelin three-star restaurant in Las Vegas. And you’re still nowhere close to running out of gourmet fare. At Mandalay Bay, Susan Wolfla presides over its 16 restaurants as the first female executive chef at a major Strip resort.

What’s Hot on Vegas’ Plate

Existing hotel restaurants aren’t left out of the city’s culinary makeover. The latest of these is the replacement of Les Artistes Steakhouse in the Paris Las Vegas (parislasvegas.com) with Gordon Ramsay Steak.  Expected to open around May, the Michelin-starred chef and TV personality plans to offer a contemporary menu that, in addition to top quality steaks, will feature his signature fish and chips and shepherd’s pie. Gordon is, after all, British.

By no means is every fine restaurant alongthe Strip necessarily one that just opened. One of the well-established locations is Verandah in the Four Seasons Las Vegas (fourseasons.com/lasvegas). It launched 13 years ago when the property first opened near Mandalay Bay, but its cuisine has changed in the recent past. From a more eclectic continental menu, guests are now offered what is described as a “new, modern Italian” concept.

It is there that chef Antonio Minichiello has drawn on his native Neapolitan background to come up with tantalizing distinctive signature dishes. Among these is his La Pasta Cotta Nel Vaso, which is a house-made artichoke pasta cooked in a jar with scallops, calamari, langoustine, shrimp, tomato and basil.

In a very real way, this renaissance of fine dining reflects the eclectic mix of entertainment already offered up and down the Strip. From headlining solo artists to lavish multi-million dollar productions and everything in-between, the guest has plenty of choices. Whether continental, Latin, Asian or your favorite American fare, Las Vegas serves it up in fine style. LBM

 

 

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