Fabulous Las Vegas: a World Dining Capital
Once known for buffets and cocktail waitresses, Las Vegas is now one of the world's tastiest places to eat. If you think you're a celebrity chef and you don't have a restaurant in Vegas...you're not one.
Sin City's celebrity-chef restaurants are set mainly in the Strip's hotel casinos, and they are dazzling. These are Las Vegas's Top 9 Restaurants according to Al Mancini, restaurant reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and a top opinion-maker in this gourmet town. (Al's neon Mohawk coif gets a lot of attention, too.) He kindly put together this list exclusively for TripSavvy. Yes, the restaurants are pricey, but it costs nothing to look.
Joël Robuchon in MGM Grand
Says Al Mancini, "If there's one word to describe Joël Robuchon's namesake restaurant in MGM Grand, it's 'exquisite.'"
"Perhaps no kitchen in Las Vegas is as respected and as honored," Al wrote in Vegas Seven. "This is undoubtedly the most elegant restaurant in town...at a level of luxury you won't find anywhere else in Vegas, or perhaps the entire U.S. But thankfully, the staff is friendly and welcoming," he notes.
Chef Robuchon's restaurant empire spans the world, but he visits his Vegas showplace at least four times a year to help design new seasonal menus. In 2017, Robuchon appointed Frenchman Christophe De Lellis, then 28, as executive chef and Japan-raised, Paris-trained Kentaro Komoda, then 31, as De Lellis' right-hand man, the chef de cuisine. "Independently, each boasts an impressive résumé, and together they make an unparalleled team,: Al wrote in his Vegas Seven story about the passing of the torch.
What Al thinks you should eat in this ultimate shrine to French flavor and flair: soft-boiled egg with smoked salmon and caviar; truffle langoustine ravioli; guinea hen layered with foie gras; roasted duck and seared foie gras with sweet and sour cherries; the bread cart and the chocolate trolley. Get tempted by the restaurant's site and by Al Mancini's video with Joel himself.
José Andrés is America's favorite avant-garde Spanish chef. He's the one who made tapas a go-to light dinner choice, and the reason paella is currently on your mind. Señor Andrés is particularly loved in Vegas, where he runs a handful of eateries. Here's what Al says about this one, a secret hideaway.
"é by José Andrés is one of the most exclusive restaurants in this town. Tucked into the back of his Jaleo restaurant in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the tiny room seats only eight at a single curved bar where Chef Andrés' team prepares your meal in front of you."
You'll feast on a tasting menu of over 20 small courses. Yes, twenty. The basic meal is $195 with beverage pairings going for $130 or $300 (prices as of March 2017).
The eight seats at é by José Andrés don't come easy. You must email the restaurant starting at midnight 90 days before your requested date, which they confirm by mailing you a golden ticket.
é by José Andrés doesn't have a website beyond its homepage, so you can't view a menu till you get there. "Trust the chefs," says Al.
Monsieur Guy Savoy is a culinary legend in France, and this restaurant in the iconic Caesars Palace is his sole American venture. The mood is modern and jazzy, and so is this kitchen god's French cuisine. "His dishes may sound and look simple, like butter-roasted sweetbreads or tournedo steak," says Al. "But their flavors exude wow-factor flavor."
Restaurant Guy Savoy offers the chef's classic dishes in a spare, modern space. All the better to focus on his nine-course signature menu that updates the French classics.
Besides the main dining room, patrons can dine in the Bubbles Lounge or in the most-wanted place of all: the glass-enclosed Kitchen Table back where the culinary action is.
Another deluxe option for Guy Savoy diners: The Caviar Room, opened in 2016. This swanky lounge serves delectable aquatic specialties such as the indulgent Colors of Caviar, Salmon “mi cuit” (half-cooked), and succulent Kushi oysters from British Columbia.
Al's' picks from Restaurant Guy Savoy's menu: grilled marinated hamachi; "peas all around," truffle artichoke soup; white asparagus and caviar with smoked sabayon. Check out Restaurant's Guy Savoy website.
"Of all the French chefs in Las Vegas," says Al, "Pierre Gagnaire is the most experimental. He is the mad genius: experimental, modern, whimsical."
"Gagnaire's food is complex and outlandish, and intimidating to many diners," Al thinks. "Still, serious foodies with well-developed palates shouldn't miss Twist."
Set in the subtly opulent, triple-five-star Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, Twist is a brilliant stroke of restaurant design by master Adam Tihany. It's illuminated by over 300 gold globes that seem to float in the air. If that sounds bubbly, you get it. Order up some French Champagne and prepare for an effervescent evening.
Vegas is a sushi town, and its best sushiyas are little places on side streets off the Vegas Strip. Gen Mizoguchi's Yui Edomae Sushi is such a place, and Al thinks it's the best Japanese eatery in town.
The restaurant serves exclusively multi-course omakase meals. "Mizoguchi gets his fish flown in every morning from Japan, and guests get a list of the day's 20-plus varieties," Al notes. "If you indulge in the eight-course omakase menu you'll likely taste all of them, raw or grilled."
"For diners with a true love of this cuisine, Yui will earn every penny of the $120 you pay for the eight-course omakase," Al says. "The five-course nigiri meal is a relative bargain at $68." There's also a $160 extravaganza. (Prices are as of March 2017.)
That was the headline for Al's review of Bazaar Meat by José Andrés when it opened in SLS Las Vegas in 2014. Al described the restaurant's look as "polished hunting lodge" and confessed, "There’s one thing I’m certain of: I love Bazaar Meat!"
"Leave it to José Andrés to take on the steakhouse — the most boring dining concept — and turn it on its head," he wrote. "Bazaar Meat, with its polished hunting-lodge interior, is more than just a steakhouse."
But oh, that steak. Bazaar Meat's "heart and soul is the fire pit," Al wrote. "And the steak I've sampled has been great...simply seasoned and perfectly grilled."
In addition to lush dry-aged steaks, Bazaar Meat offers a selection of cured meats and a raw bar: a meat raw bar of tartares and carpaccios. "And then there are the suckling pigs cooked in the fire pit," says Al. ...Savvy foodies of all stripes will recognize its greatness and make Bazaar Meat a destination restaurant."
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in MGM Grand
L'Atelier means "workshop" or "studio," and this Robuchon restaurant is a less dressy (and less pricey) version of its big brother steps away at MGM Grand, Joël Robuchon."
L'Atelier offers both tasting and a la carte and menus. The tasting meals are the best way to experience Executive Chef Steve Benjamin's classic yet creative approach to modern French cuisine. (Chef Benjamin may have an American-sounding name, but he is Paris-born and bred.)
Al wrote, "L'Atelier feels more like a nightclub than a temple of fine dining. [But] don't let the relaxed atmosphere fool you: the food here is every bit as good as what's being offered in Robuchon's formal restaurant next door."
Al's favorites at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon: scallop carpaccio with sea urchin; Iberico ham with toasted tomato bread; crispy langoustine fritter with pesto. Get hungry on L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon's website.
Picasso in Bellagio
This French-Spanish restaurant in glamorous Bellagio is a multi-sensory treat. The eyes are dazzled by open views of the Fountains of Bellagio and by Pablo Picasso paintings on the walls. "The place blows me away every time," Al admits.
Picasso the artist was Spanish and worked mainly in France. And Julian Serrano the chef was born in Madrid and works as a French chef in Vegas. In fact, he's a Sin City superstar.
Unlike most of Vegas' celebrity chefs, Serrano "actually lives in Vegas, which means he's always in his kitchens," notes Mancini. (He also runs Lago here at Bellagio and Julian Serrano Tapas at ARIA Resort.)
Chef Serrano cooks succulent French dishes at Picasso, but with creative passion and Spanish touches like quince jam on his foie gras torchon cone.
These dishes could be on Al Mancini's Picasso plate: scallop with potato mousseline; crispy langoustines with piquillo peppers; roasted pigeon with wild rice risotto. See more on the Picasso website.
This near-legendary restaurant name was born in New York and opened in Bellagio in 1998. According to Al, "Vegas's Le Cirque has never stumbled."
Le Cirque means "the circus," and Adam Tihany's three-ring design is exuberant yet refined, with, says Al, an unrivaled view of the Bellagio fountains. The equally celebratory cuisine is classic French, deliciously and innovatively finessed by French-born chef Wilfried Bergerhausen. Only 28 when appointed executive chef of Le Cirque, Bergerhausen climbed the kitchen ladder at Joël Robuchon's and Michael Mina's restaurants in MGM Grand.
This critic's menu picks from Le Cirque: citrus-marinated hamachi; langoustines with caviar; honey-glazed Barbary duck magret; poached Maine lobster; loup de mer with crispy potatoes. Step up to the big top: Le Cirque's website.