The high stakes culinary gamble in Las Vegas is paying off handsomely. And it’s a long-standing bet. A good quarter of a century has gone by since Sin City first set its sights on foodies. Today, celebrity-branded restaurants are marquee attractions up and down the Strip.
From Michelin stars to Food Network personalities, new eateries and over-the-top culinary concepts are spinning off faster than roulette wheels. Agents with clients heading to Vegas should be familiar with the established names, latest openings and foodie finds in the news.
Travel Agent got the dish at the 11thAnnual Vegas Uncork'd Food Festival by Bon Appétit. Here’s what you should know.
If recognizable names are what clients are looking for, it’s hard to beat the lineup at The Venetian Las Vegas and The Palazzo Las Vegas. Celebrated chefs with one or more outlets there include Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali, Thomas Keller, Emeril Lagasse and even Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro.
Newly opened at The Venetian is CHICA Las Vegas by Top Chef Masters’ chef Lorena Garcia. She’s the first Latina to helm a restaurant at a major Strip resort. CHICA features Garcia’s take on her native Venezuelan cuisine, with influences as well from Peru, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Menu best bets include piloncillo arepas stuffed with braised short rib; Meyer lemon rotisserie chicken with Peruvian purple potato salad; and Maz (Peruvian corn) con Queso.
Salmon Cake Benedict, on the brunch menu at GIADA at The Cromwell Hotel
The Cromwell is a luxury boutique Strip property that opened in 2014. It’s home to GIADA, the only namesake restaurant by chef and author Giada De Laurentiis. Her menu features Italian classics with a California touch. Many dishes are familiar to fans of De Laurentiis’ Food Network TV shows. Among them: lemon spaghetti, marsala herb chicken meatballs and her signature lemon ricotta cookies for desert.
Since opening in 2014, GIADA has become one of the most popular dining spots in town. (At Vegas Uncork’d, a brunch event was completely sold out, despite a ticket price in excess of $300.) A charismatic, hands-on owner, highly rated food and expert staff aren’t the only reasons for the restaurant’s success.
“With all this natural light and the views from the windows, this is the most beautiful dining room on the Strip,” Bon Appetit editor in chief Adam Rapoport proclaimed during the Vegas Uncork’d brunch.
De Laurentiis remains charmingly humble, despite the crowds lining up for her appearances at the food festival.
“Coming to Las Vegas has been a success beyond our wildest dreams. It’s such an honor for me to be in this city with so many fabulous colleagues. We’re so grateful for loyal customers who keep coming back to us,” De Laurentiis tells Travel Agent.
The Cromwell is one of the more recent additions to the vast Caesars Entertainment family. Caesars Palace is on the other end of the spectrum. At fifty-plus, it’s one of the last vestiges of old-world Vegas. But, it keeps up surprisingly well on the culinary front.
Case in point: the 181-room Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace opened as a hotel-within-a-hotel in 2013. It’s home to the world’s largest Nobu Restaurant and the only one in the U.S. with teppan tables. That’s a source of pride for the Japanese-born culinary icon who opened his first U.S. restaurant, Matsuhisa, in Beverly Hills in 1987.
In addition to rare sakes from Japan’s Sado Island, clients might want to splurge on Nobu’s seven-course, Japanese A5 Wagyu beef banquet. Or, they can pay for a honeymoon instead.
Chef Nobu is but one of the culinary luminaries affiliated with Caesars Palace. Others include Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Guy Savoy and Michael (aka Mr.) Chow.
Brunch is big in Las Vegas, where late-nights are a regular occurrence. Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace is a good bet. The celebrity chef hosts “Brunch at Bobby’s” on The Cooking Channel and claims that brunch is his favorite meal.
During the Vegas Uncork’d event, Flay showed off some of his brunch specialties. They included Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with Clementine and blood orange honey and toasted almond crunch; charred beef and scrambled eggs; shrimp and toasted polenta with poached eggs; pomegranate-glazed black pepper bacon; smoked paprika home fries and cinnamon crusted French toast.
Chef Yiu Ming Tsui preparing handmade Beijing noodles available at MR CHOW at Caesars Palace
Internationally acclaimed MR CHOW recently marked its first anniversary at Caesars Palace with a tribute to its first location. Artist-designer Michael Chow opened the original MR CHOW in London in 1968. His son Maximillian hosted events during Vegas Uncork’d, offering up hand-pulled noodles, Glazed Prawns with Walnuts and other delicacies.
Chef Gordon Ramsay runs a Michelin-starred global restaurant empire. But he’s best known for his many TV shows, such as MasterChef, MasterChef Junior and Hell’s Kitchen. The last begins its 17th season this winter on FOX. The timing will coincide with Ramsay’s newest entry in the Las Vegas market: Gordon Ramsay Hell's Kitchen at Caesars Palace.
Designed to transport guests to the studio set, the restaurant will provide an “experiential and immersive” experience. Seating 300, every table will have a view of the bustling kitchen. Whether the Hell’s Kitchen experience will come through without Ramsay’s colorful “verbal encouragement” is unclear. But, the chef (who is soft-spoken and quite polite in person) has already rolled the dice and won in the Las Vegas restaurant scape.
Hell’s Kitchen is his fifth outpost in the destination. The others are BurGR at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace, Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas and Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips at The LINQ Promenade.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is known for its whimsical bars and bespoke cocktail lounges. It’s a great setting for a girl’s getaway. Colorful concoctions to try include The White Rabbit cocktail at The Study; The Paradigm Shift at Vesper Bar; Benny Blanco at CliQue Bar & Lounge and The Verbena at The Chandelier.
After cocktails, dining options are plentiful, as well.
Chef José Andrés is renowned for his avant-garde take on Spanish tapas and other dishes. He’s brought the taste of his native Spain to Jaleo at The Cosmopolitan. Items in demand include José’s Taco, which is a slice of jamón ibérico de bellota topped with osetra caviar and gold flakes and Coca con Erizas del Mar, or crusty Spanish bread topped with sea urchin, ibérico bacon and butter. Clients should definitely save room for the signature paellas, cooked in huge pans atop live fire pits.
“We’re not the Italians. We’re not the French. We Spaniards are not afraid to use fire,” Andrés told wide-eyed guests gathered around the soaring flames at a Vegas Uncork’d lunch event.
Though not as dramatic, a second Andrés eatery at The Cosmopolitan offers a taste of the chef’s famous creativity. China Poblano fuses Chinese and Mexican cuisines. Results include soy-marinated duck and salsa tacos, guacamole served with mi fen noodles and a signature Salt Air Margarita.
In addition to Andrés, a few New York favorites have recently joined The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas lineup.
They include chef David Chang’s Momofuku. Its menu is inspired by U.S., Korean and Japanese influences, as well as other Momofuku establishments (including Ko, with two Michelin stars). Favorites include Fuku chicken sandwiches, ramen, fried chicken with caviar and bo ssam pork.
The adjacent Milk Bar offers the chance to try Christina Tosi’s quirky and much buzzed-about deserts. The author of “Momofuku Milk Bar” and “Milk Bar Life” cookbooks is a judge on MasterChef and MasterChef Junior. Her Las Vegas location offers exclusive menu items, such as MilkQuakes. The housemade soft serve (in four flavors) comes with sweet bites to add texture. Flavor combinations include Crack Pie, B’day Cake and Sweet Potato Pie. Also exclusive to Las Vegas are alcohol-infused Fancy Shakes. Varieties include the Cereal Milk White Russian, Fancy Fruity Shake, and the Fancy Chocolate Malt Cake Shake.
The grown-up versions of the classics are tailor-made for the grown-up playground. It amounts to a winning hand for the destination, according to Valarie Segarra, executive director of strategic initiatives for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
“We’re bringing in 42 million visitors this year. But, we couldn’t do without the chefs who call Las Vegas home. We’re so grateful to them for coming to this destination,” she tells Travel Agent.