Vegas Dining With New York Attitude

By now it’s common knowledge that Las Vegas is one of the greatest eating cities in the world. However, what isn’t as widely known is that The Strip is home to numerous restaurants that first met success in New York City.

MGM Grand's Fiamma dining room

MGM Grand's Fiamma dining room.


More and more, restaurateurs that have proven concepts that work in the Big Apple are realizing that opening up another outlet in Las Vegas is a great way to ensure success. It’s a big trend in SinCity dining and one that’s sure to pick up speed in the future.

Here are some of our favorite East Coast gone West Coast dining picks.

Mesa Grill

A Fifth Avenue
classic since 1991, Bobby Flay’s ubiquitous Mesa Grill was imported to Las Vegas in 2004 and features many of the same elements that brought this restaurant acclaim in New York. Located at Caesars Palace, Mesa Grill is Flay’s first foray outside New York City and focuses on southwestern flavors and textures. It’s right off the casino floor in the heart of the action.

What was most interesting to us was how some of these dishes, which were first introduced 17 years ago in New York, still feel relevant and fresh today. Keep in mind how much more sophisticated America’s tastes have become since Flay’s star rose with the advent of the Food Network. And, it’s even more impressive how ahead of the pack he was with these creations. Dishes such as Tiger Shrimp and Roasted Garlic Corn Tamale with Corn-Cilantro Sauce; the Blue Corn Pancake with Barbecued Duck and Habanero Chile Sauce; and the New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon-Ancho Chile Sauce and Sweet Potato Tamale with Crushed Pecan Butter are all triumphs in combining seemingly disparate elements into a seamless multi-layered flavor experience. Be sure not to miss the chili!

Bobby Flay at Mesa Grill

Bobby Flay: Mastermind behind the Mesa Grill in Las Vegas.

Save room for dessert too. Each one is an unforgettable spin on a classic, such as the Espresso-Pine Nut-Toffee Ice Cream Sandwich with Milk Chocolate Wafers and Warm Toffee Sauce. Plus, there’s an extensive tequila menu focusing on premium and ultra premium varietals, as well as an extensive wine list.

MesaGrillCaesarsPalace offers lunch on Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Saturday/Sunday brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner is served seven nights a week from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. For reservations or for more information, visit www.caesarspalace.com, or call 702-731-7731.

Fiamma Trattoria

Located at the MGM Grand’s Studio Walk, Fiamma is an updated spin on its New York location. A new menu and a new chef, Carlos Buscaglia, are the stars here. Focusing on regional Italian specialties, Fiamma’s Italian food is light and delicate, leaving you satisfied and not stuffed.

The relaxed menu complements the contemporary design of the space, which features custom bamboo “nest” lighting, “woven towers” and a “wave wall.” The gnocci is a major accomplishment and prepared with sautéed lobster, baby portobellos, roasted leeks and a black truffle crema. Also try the Short Rib Ravioli with Barbera Wine and Imported Pecorino Romano or the Seared Diver Sea Scallops with Wild Mushrooms and a Smoked Bacon Potato Purée. The menu changes seasonally, so new items are regularly introduced, while others are retired.

There is also a nice selection of wines and a great handcrafted cocktail menu that uses a variety of ingredients, such as muddled fruits and fresh juices. Desserts too are not to be missed. One “must try,” created by Executive Pastry Chef Elizabeth Katz, is the crispy Amaretti and Ricotta Beignets served with a trio of scrumptious dipping sauces. They are perfectly crisped on the outside while soft and delicate on the inside.

For more information, visit www.mgmgrand.com, or call 702-891-7600. Fiamma is open Sunday - Thursday, 5:30 p.m to 10:00 p.m. and Friday & Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

RUB BBQ

Sure it has barbecue prepared in the Kansas City style, but when RUB BBQ opened in New York City in 2005 it was an instant hit. RUB, which stands for Righteous Urban Barbecue, is now open at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. Don’t let its New York pedigree fool you, this is some of the best barbecue around and a definite must for any passing barbecue fan or wizened aficionado.

RUB BBQ features standard dishes, such as Barbequed Ribs prepared St. Louis-style, Barbequed Sausage and Pastrami. They’re all prepared the way barbecue should be, slow-cooked over wood in pits for 14 hours. Specialty menu items include Burnt Ends, smoked twice until crispy and lightly sauced; Szechwan Smoked Duck; and The Taste of the Baron, which includes a tasting of beef, pork, ham, pastrami, turkey, chicken and sausage, topped off with a quarter-rack of ribs. We must suggest the baked beans, which might be the best we’ve ever had. Be warned however, because of the extended prep time, certain selections may run out. The Burnt Ends, which are particularly popular and extremely delicious, is one item that’s known to vanish. So be sure to suggest that your clients get there early.

Recipes are from Executive Chef Paul Kirk, who has won more than 400 awards, including champion of the American Royal Open (the largest barbecue competition in the world) and seven World Barbecue Championships.

For more information, check out www.riolasvegas.com or call 866-746-7671. It’s open Monday – Tuesday, 4 p.m. to 11p.m. and Wednesday – Sunday from 11a.m. to 2a.m. There is also live music on the weekends. Call for a schedule.

BLT Burger

While chef Laurent Tourondel has made his name on the east coast creating a variety of concepts, he chose to bring this temple of comfort food to the Mirage. Opening later this spring, the extremely casual and comfortable restaurant is all about the burger, fries and shakes.

But what makes Tourondel’s style so approachable is his lack of pretention. Although he is a classically trained French chef, Tourondel is not afraid to deliver extremely tasty fresh food designed for a mainstream palate. BLT Burger is about taking traditional foods and giving them a nudge in a new direction. So aside from the traditional hamburger made from sirloin, short rib, chuck or brisket, there are also Kobe, lamb and Ahi tuna burgers. Of course, there are the ubiquitous onion rings and French fries (waffle-cut, sweet potato and chili cheese). Anything topped with jalapeños and cheese is our choice. Even milkshakes get a new spin. After sampling the classics, try a “Spiked Milkshake,” such as Grandma’s Treat made with Maker’s Mark, caramel syrup and vanilla ice cream.

Expect an energetic atmosphere, since the restaurant space is being designed to accommodate a bank of flat-screen TVs and will feature a rock ’n’ roll soundtrack as well as an illuminated bar. This is a great place for a late night bite. For more information, check out www.mirage.com or call 702-791-7111.

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