March 28, 2014 at 7:57 PM ET
How hot is the food scene in Sin City right now? Blazing. More than 60 restaurants in Las Vegas have just opened, been redesigned, or plan to open soon.
And this being Vegas, high meets low in delicious ways. The best new restaurants range from Michelin-starred Chinese in an opulently redesigned space to a Strip-side, margaritas-to-go burger joint ratcheted up with potato chips and celeb-chef pizzazz.
Steven Weitman, SVP of food and beverage at Wynn and Encore, sees the advance of super chefs such as Daniel Boulud and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto as a particularly exciting sign the city is back on top. Bonus points: They’ll actually be in the kitchen here.
From fresh new formats (such as restaurants that also sell take-home provisions) to more locally sourced food and plenty of celeb-chef buzz (Giada! Bobby! Guy!), read on for our picks of the best new and soon-to-open Las Vegas restaurants.
The Cosmopolitan has created a three-page, wax-sealed love note to late-night dining in its reinvented social club: 10 rooms, notably a ballroom, study, and Hall of Curiosities, host a riot of acts by Vegas Nocturne (neo-burlesque, flash dancing) as the night progresses. In one room, diners feast on a dramatic King crab for eight, while rare champagnes cascade down a 350-coupe tower. In another, deconstructed beef Wellington is served with Hudson Valley foie gras, creamed spinach, and black truffle. If you’re a caviar maven, savor everything from California white sturgeon to Russian osetra. It’s all extravagantly served in the glow of a backlit "Garden of Earthly Delights painting." roserabbitlie.com
Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare
Paul Bartolotta’s Mediterranean seafood palace has gotten a facelift after only eight years: a gold-leaf fish chandelier, new patterned-stone floor, and orange-and-yellow shocks of paint reminiscent of Italian travertine create a convivial, somewhat more casual feel. Looking out to the cabana-lined lagoon (you can eat there too), it all feels like a sunny seaside retreat. Order the ricciola di Sicilia all’acciughe (Sicilian amberjack, radicchio, and anchovy sauce), or splurge for Bartolotta’s Gran Menu di Mare — his family-style feast (from $160 per person) gets prime pick of his weekly two-and-a-half-ton haul of sustainably caught seafood (microchipped to live-track its freshness on the journey in).
Miki Agrawal opened her additive-, hormone-, and pesticide-free Wild concept in two New York City locations, challenging diners to leave their cares and cell phones at the door and feast on pizzas made with gluten-free flour and vegetables sourced from nearby farms. If this all sounds a bit hippy-dippy to you, you’ll become a convert in the new, seems-like-it-was-always-there location in Downtown’s hotel and condo complex, The Ogden, where weathered kitchen tables encourage communal dining. Don’t miss the Wild White pizza (mozzarella, white truffle ricotta, mushrooms) or one of the restaurant’s most creative and delicious items: a beet and kale cupcake with avocado frosting. Weird? Maybe. Delectable? Absolutely. eatdrinkwild.com
Visitors to downtown Mexican restaurant La Comida or La Cave, the wine bar in Wynn, might sense the love that owners Michael and Jenna Morton have for travel. But in Crush: Eat Drink Love, their new shared-plate, modern-yet-rustic kitchen, the feeling truly goes global. Here, every dish is inspired by a travel memory, such as littleneck clams in chile and coconut broth harkening back to dining beachside in Thailand, or veal Bolognese with roots in a Roman holiday. Other standouts include a light-as-air California sea bass with kale and tomato, and gnocchi with braised short-rib and pea purée. Just as transporting: a party-ready “greenhouse” garden and dining cellar complete with barrel-vaulted ceiling.
Bobby’s Burger Palace
Bobby Flay may have 16 other Burger Palaces — the “crunchified” potato-chips-on-top option one reason they’re among the world’s top fast-food restaurants — but only on the Strip could his margaritas-to-go stand exist, the signature cactus pear and mesa margaritas a classier alternative to yard-long frozen drink bongs. Gourmet burgers such as the Carolina (smoked American, green onion slaw, mustard barbecue sauce), New Mexico (queso sauce, roasted green chiles, pickled red onions), and restaurant-exclusive Vegas Burger (white American cheese, Fresno red chiles, barbecue potato chips) all hover around $9.50, a downright steal compared to other restaurants in the luxury Crystals mall. Plus there’s patio seating.
The Wynn’s Michelin-starred standout has undergone a dramatic makeover, replacing its deep, formal reds with colors evoking traditional Chinese jewelry: bright white, gold, and jade greens. Every detail is symbolic, such as the custom cloud-motif carpet designed after the embroidery of an Imperial jacket from the Ming period. The décor even influenced some new dishes on the Cantonese-Shanghainese-Szechuan menu, such as a smoked-salmon salad with mandarin oranges, pickled shallots, and pineapple-yuzu vinaigrette formed into a precious flower. Eat it all while wondering where you are — particularly if you’re looking out the window at centuries-old imported pomegranate trees.
If you’re not sure what real Las Vegas residents look like, you’ll find them at Container Park, a mixed entertainment/dining complex hewn from old shipping containers. The open-air operation, fronted by a fire-breathing praying mantis, is a retail and restaurant incubator and a draw for dedicated eaters and Downtown hipster families alike. Among the most promising and consistently delicious are Bin 702 (with a crisp, light lobster roll with sriracha aioli), cozy wood-paneled Pork & Beans (don’t miss a mini version of chef Kerry Simon’s Iron Chef Burger, with caramelized onions, bacon, and red onion jam), and Pinches Tacos (for perfectly done carnitas, beef tongue, and cactus street tacos). downtowncontainerpark.com
The Blind Pig
Block 16 Hospitality is well known for its fun-loving restaurants like Holsteins, Public House, and The Barrymore. Now in a somewhat unlikely location, the Panorama Towers just west of I-15, comes The Blind Pig, a vintage-inspired lounge with craft beers and artisanal bites, plus a market selling provisions to gourmet ingredient–starved locals. Chef Anthony Meidenbauer makes the trip worth everyone’s while, with creative dishes such as crispy pork nuggets with sweet chile glaze and sriracha aioli, sprinkled with peanuts; strozzapretti pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage in a rustic tomato sugo; and a signature porchetta sandwich bursting with herb-marinated goodness. theblindpiglasvegas.com
Dedicated DB diners have felt the loss since chef Daniel Boulud shuttered his eponymous Brasserie at the Wynn in 2010. Later this month he makes a triumphant return to the city with a brand-new DB Brasserie, opening in the former Valentino space at the Venetian, serving a mix of what Boulud’s reps will only coyly say are “Boulud classics” in a space designed by Jeffrey Beers International. What we do know: the restaurant was originally planned as a more casual DBGB Kitchen + Bar, but he made a late-stage decision to create a restaurant that bridges the more casual kitchen and his high-end Daniel. Opening late March 2014. danielboulud.com
Chef Matthias Merges brings his imaginative, wildly popular fine-dining riff on Japanese street eats from Chicago (where it was named one of Food & Wine’s Best Restaurants of 2012) to Las Vegas’s Monte Carlo. Expect the cedar walls and exposed-wood beams of the 76-seat space to invigorate the hotel casino as a newfound foodie destination. On the menu: Merges’s famous ramen (crispy pork shoulder croquette, poached egg, nori, and cucumber); yakitori-like octopus charred over an open flame; marinated eggplant steam buns; and even not-too-sweet plump donuts made with tofu, sweet potato, and rosemary. Opening April 2014. montecarlo.com
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