As a New York City native I’m taking an inordinate amount of pride in just how good the restaurant scene here is in the middle of this bad economic moment: In the past three months alone, the run of outstanding new places has included Locanda Verde, DBGB, Marea and Minetta Tavern. So it’s with a mixture of excitement and jealousy that I’ll watch one of the world’s great chefs, the avant-gardist Pierre Gagnaire, make his American debut not in NYC but at the super-deluxe Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas in December. His restaurant will be on the 23rd floor, in an Adam Tihany-designed space with a wine loft (a glass staircase will get you there). The menu isn’t confirmed—there’s word it will be more rooted in classic French cooking than, say, the menu at Pierre, Gagnaire’s exceptional restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, where a featured dish might be scallop roe with roasted potato ice cream. Either way, it’s going to be the biggest opening of 2009 in my world, even if it’s not happening in NYC.