Star chefs rule in Las Vegas, which boasts restaurants from Mario Batali, José Andrés, Joël Robuchon and a slew of other geniuses from around the country and the world. Here, F&W’s picks for the city’s best splurges, as well as value spots like a well-loved off-strip Thai restaurant. » F&W’s Full Las Vegas Travel Guide
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Las Vegas Restaurants: Insider Picks
Photo courtesy of Aburiya Raku.
Tokyo-born Mitsuo Endo made his name cooking at Megu in New York City. Now über-chefs (Joël Robuchon, Michael Mina) venture to this strip mall to eat Endo’s robata—charcoal-grilled seafood and meats—and more creative Japanese-fusion dishes, like silky foie gras egg custard, all served until 3 a.m. raku-grill.com
Bruce and Eric Bromberg run 10 wildly popular restaurants in New York City, serving everything from matzoh ball soup to paella to very traditional nigiri sushi. The Vegas version, their first restaurant outside New York, also serves top-quality Japanese-style fish, plus a smattering of dishes from the Brombergs’ other Blue Ribbon restaurants, including the beloved beef marrow with oxtail marmalade. cosmopolitanlasvegas.com
Las Vegas Restaurants: Splurge
Chef Mario Batali and business partner Joseph Bastianich have brought signature dishes from their New York-based empire to this luxurious space, decked out in Italian marble and leather banquettes. On the menu: Babbo’s two-minute calamari “Sicilian Lifeguard style” (tossed with Israeli couscous and plenty of red pepper) and beef cheek ravioli. bandbristorante.com
At this sprawling, two-story Italian restaurant, chef Paul Bartolotta prepares extravagant, expensive Italian coastal cuisine with seafood flown in daily from the Mediterranean. On mild evenings, the best place to eat the salt-baked Sicilian amberjack or simple grilled langoustines is outside, in one of the dozen cabanas that surround a faux lagoon. wynnlasvegas.com
Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio presides over a spectrum of new American restaurants from a beloved mini chain of sandwich shops (’wichcraft) to this brawny, elevated steak house. The daily-changing menu includes impeccably sourced meat from Brandt Beef in California and Snake River Farms in Idaho, along with simply prepared seasonal side dishes like a roasted garlic and leek gratin. mgmgrand.com
Multi-Michelin-starred Parisian chef Guy Savoy’s first American restaurant, opened in 2006, is one of the most expensive in the country (appetizers hover around $65). For the stratospheric prices, diners are enveloped in opulence (soaring ceilings, dark wood panels) and super formal French-style service (there’s even a bread “sommelier”). The modern French dishes use plenty of high-roller ingredients, like the artichoke and black truffle soup with warm mushroom brioche. The “Bites and Bubbles” menu at the 20-seat Bubble Bar offers a taste of Savoy’s creations at lower prices ($40 for tasting portions of four signature dishes). caesarspalace.comPhoto courtesy of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon.
Joël Robuchon, possibly the best chef on the planet, has two restaurants in the MGM Grand: the ultra-high-end Joël Robuchon at the Mansion with a Swarovski-chandeliered dining room and a $400+ 16-course tasting menu, and the less formal L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. The latter, just like the Paris original, shatters traditional notions of French high-end dining: Diners sit on red leather stools at a shiny black counter (sans tablecloth), watching as cooks prepare signature dishes like the crisp, juicy quail stuffed with foie gras. joel-robuchon.com
The seemingly ubiquitous chef has some 20 eating and drinking establishments around the country, five in Las Vegas alone. But only two bear the Michael Mina name, his flagship in San Francisco and this handsome Tony Chi-designed dining room, outfitted with a semi-open kitchen, blond wood and two paintings by pop artist Robert Rauschenberg. The menu includes luxurious seafood dishes like lobster pot pie—lobster and vegetables in a brandied cream sauce, topped with buttery pastry—and three varieties of osetra caviar parfait. bellagio.comPhoto courtesy of RM Seafood.
Rick Moonen’s Vegas spin-off of the late Restaurant RM in New York City has two floors devoted to seafood served in many variations. Downstairs is R-Bar-Cafe, a sushi bar and brasserie serving inventive sashimi and maki rolls prepared with rice puffs and pickled plum chips as well as Moonen’s signature catfish sloppy joes; upstairs is Restaurant RM, a high-end spot that uses only sustainable seafood, like wild Panamanian cobia accompanied by black olives and pomegranate and Hawaiian walu in a cherry blossom leaf. rmseafood.comPhoto courtesy of MGM Mirage.
At his first restaurant outside the Windy City, chef Shawn McClain, formerly of the vegetarian Green Zebra, turns his attention to sustainable fish and well-raised meat. The menu may emphasize quality products, but it’s not necessarily light: highlights include an oxtail and beef marrow crostini and crispy sweet-and-sour sweetbreads. The restaurant also has an especially strong cocktail and beer program, and will compose a flight of beers to accompany any menu. arialasvegas.com
After cooking in some of New York City’s top Italian kitchens, chef Scott Conant debuted Scarpetta in 2008, and the restaurant was an immediate hit. Now Conant has expanded the Scarpetta brand around the country. The Vegas branch in The Cosmopolitan has the look of a Milanese mogul’s mansion—Armani-style minimalism done in shades of gray, slate and brown—and serves the elegant, delicious pastas he’s known for, including the ultra-rich duck and foie gras ravioli. The wine list is especially strong, with over 500 bottles, mostly from Italy. Also in the hotel is Conant’s casual wine and espresso bar, D.O.C.G., named after Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, the top classification for Italian wine. cosmopolitanlasvegas.comPhoto courtesy of MGM Mirage.
This Japanese restaurant has an edgy Yabu Pushelberg design (video art displays on a 50-foot wall of mirrored cubes) along with excellent sushi and luxe griddled teppanyaki, such as Australian wagyu beef and whole Maine lobsters. The stellar, Japanese-focused bar program includes more than 25 Japanese beers and a sake list featuring more than 125 selections. mgmgrand.com
French legend Pierre Gagnaire presides over a vast empire that stretches around the globe, and is known for head-scratchingly complex dishes like the seven-part signature starter Parfums de Terre—a parade of components including a puck of white-beet puree laced with horseradish, star anise-spiked fennel and an icy carrot granita and a bed of aromatic hay with a mixture of fresh chanterelles and porcini, rosy Iberian pork and highbush cranberry bread in an amontillado-foamed jus. At Twist, his first US spot, Gagnaire embraces American products like Maine lobster and uses a (slightly) simpler cooking style: The dishes top out at three components. mandarinoriental.com
Las Vegas Restaurants: Best Value
“If Mexico hadn’t shared its chiles with China, would we have spicy Chinese food?” asks Spanish chef José Andrés, whose casual Vegas spot focuses on the seemingly unrelated cuisines of China and Mexico. The menu and kitchen are divided in half, offering traditional dishes from both cuisines (spicy dan dan mian noodles, ceviches) and playful tacos that blend both (Asian duck tacos, beef-and-oyster tacos with Sichuan peppercorn sauce). Andrés operates two more spots at The Cosmopolitan: a branch of his D.C. tapas spot Jaleo and, in a hidden private room, the super exclusive é, which has just eight seats and serves an avant-garde El Bulli-influenced tasting menu. chinapoblano.com
This no-frills strip mall joint by chef Saipin Chutima and her husband, Bill, is one of the best Thai restaurants in the country. After the Chutimas’ short-lived stint in New York City (the restaurant and name remains, although they have relinquished control), the Vegas strip mall original is the only place where Saipin can be found cooking her famously authentic curries. Lotus of Siam is also popular with wine lovers, who stop by for manager Bank Atcharawan’s 350-bottle list, with pages of hard-to-get German Rieslings. saipinchutima.com
In an unassuming strip mall spot that’s 20 minutes from Las Vegas Boulevard, chef Hiro Nakano creates a $55 Japanese-fusion omakase of cold plates (albacore with yuzu ginger vinaigrette) and warm dishes (tempura calamari with jalapeño salt) that recalls Nobu. (Nakano ran the Nobu at the Hard Rock Hotel.) The setting is generic—there’s a flat-screen TV blaring above the sushi bar—but the quality is incredible and the servers are well-versed on the range of Sen’s excellent sake menu. senofjapan.com
Las Vegas Bakery
Photo courtesy of Caesars Palace.
Renowned pastry chef François Payard’s Las Vegas outpost includes a pâtisserie offering his ethereally crunchy macarons and made-to-order crêpes; tucked off to the shop’s side is an intimate bistro worth seeking out for its sublime croque-madame, topped with a perfect sunny-side up egg. caesarspalace.com