Fabulous Las Vegas: a World Dining Capital
Once known for buffets and cocktail waitresses, Las Vegas is now one of the world's best places to eat. Sin City's most dazzling eateries are set in the Strip's hotel casinos, where the world's top chefs have set up shop.
These are Las Vegas's Top 10 Restaurants according to the 2013 edition of the indispensable annual guidebook, Eating Las Vegas. It is written with passion and authority by Sin City's reigning triumvirate of dining critics: John Curtas, Al Mancini, and Max Jacobson (a frequent Guest Author here at Luxury Travel).
Below, a sneak preview of Eating Las Vegas 2013: the Three Fresskateers' Top 10 Restaurants in Vegas, in alphabetical order.
Is your inner carnivore calling? The beef at CUT, Wolfgang Puck's contemporary steakhouse in The Palazzo is dry-aged for weeks, soaking up flavor and character. But CUT's starters, salads, sides, seafood, and desserts are crave-worthy, too.
The problem with CUT, notes Eating Las Vegas critic Al Mancini, is that "after one meal here, you'll never visit your local steakhouse again without feeling a little disappointed." Echoes John Curtas, "CUT is "the perfect Las Vegas Restaurant."
- Eating Las Vegas critics' picks from the CUT menu:
bone-marrow flan; maple-glazed pork belly; Indian-spieced Kobe beef short ribs; potato knishes; tempura onion rings; artisan cheeses
- CUT website
Estiatorio Milos occupies the pinnacle of seafood restaurants in North America. The pescatarian empire founded in Montreal by Costas Spiliadis now flaunts restaurants in New York and Miami. But the Milos in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is the most spacious and gracious of them all. Somehow, you feel you're in the Cyclades, not in a casino.
Milos' sunny mood aside, the main event is its glittering seafood. But in Vegas, beauty comes at a price. As John Curtas says, "The fresh fish selection here is as stunning as the bill you will receive for it." Yet there's value at Milos: the $20 lunch, with a glass of wine, is one of Vegas' most dazzling deals.
- Eating Las Vegas critics' picks at Estiatorio Milos:
avgolemono or kakavia soup; grilled octopus; crudo; crab cake; "Milos Special" appetizer; red mullet; lavraki in sea salt
- Estiatorio Milos website
The look of Restaurant Guy Savoy is modern and jazzy, and so is renowned chef Guy Savoy's French cuisine. His dishes may sound and look simple, like butter-roasted sweetbreads or tournedo steak. But their flavors exude "wow-factor flavor," says Eating Las Vegas author Al Mancini.
There's more to love: Guy Savoy, set in Caesars Palace, "is the friendliest of the haute-French restaurants in Vegas," says Max Jacobson. "Eating here never fails to make me happy."
- Eating Las Vegas critics' picks from Restaurant Guy Savoy's menu:
"peas all around;" oysters en gelée; "colors of caviar;" artichoke soup with black truffles and Parmesan; guinea fowl lobster with morels and asparagus
- Restaurant Guy Savoy website
Joël Robuchon is the ultimate in French flavor and flair. The flower-laden black-and-white room is breathtaking, and servers make you feel like a mogul, even if a casino windfall is footing your lofty tab. Diners are treated to limo rides on the house to and from MGM Grand, Joël Robuchon's setting.
Expect ultra-rich and eye-rollingly delicious food, like sliced guinea hen layered with foie gras. Even Robuchon's bread and chocolate trolleys are unforgettable.
Says Al Mancini, "If there's one word to describe Joël Robuchon's namesake restaurant, it's 'exquisite.'" On his part, Jacobson calls Joël Robuchon "transcendent."
- Eating Las Vegas authors' top picks at Joël Robuchon:
La Tomate; truffled langoustine; smoked mackerel; cauliflower cream with caviar; lobster with morels and asparagus; guinea hen with truffles; chocolate ganache
- Joel Robuchon website
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon is a less formal (and less pricey) version of its big-brother restaurant steps away at MGM Grand, Joël Robuchon. L'Atelier presents the vibrant flavors of the master chef in tasting or a la carte menus.
But L'Atelier's recipes are simpler and the environment more casual, with burnished wood accents, dramatic lighting, and a long counter surrounding a semi-open kitchen. Here, James Beard Award-winning chef Claude Le Tohic works his magic. As at Joël Robuchon, tasting menus at L'Atelier showcase modern French cuisine, at once classic and creative.
- Eating Las Vegas critics' favorites at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon:
"Unique" early-dinner tasting menu when available; anchovies; poached Kumamoto oysters; roasted quail stuffed with foie gras; all desserts
- L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon website
Le Cirque is sui generis -- one of a kind," says Eating Las Vegas author John Curtas. This New York-birthed legend, opened in Bellagio in 1998 "has never stumbled," says co-author Al Mancini.
Le Cirque means "the circus," and its ambiance is festive. Its equally celebratory cuisine is classic French deliciously and innovatively updated by chef Gregory Pugin. "It's the best of both worlds," raves Mancini. "Chef Gregory Pugin has the rare ability to create visual oeuvres without sacrificing flavor," says co-author Max Jacobson. "His food is creative, ad colorful, light yet flavor-charged."
- Eating Las Vegas critics' picks from Le Cirque:
steak tartare; raisin brioche with foie gras and white chocolate; langoustines with caviar; bouillabaisse; lamb chops with espelette pepper; roast chicken with black truffles; poached Maine lobster; loup de mer with crispy potatoes
- Le Cirque website
What is an off-the-Vegas-Strip wine store with a dining patio doing in Eating Las Vegas' Top 10? Well, according to Al Mancini, Marché Bacchus is "a world-class French restaurant."
Offers Max Jacobson, "It was about time that someone challenged the gourmet hegemony of the Strip, and this classy little bistro is doing it in spades." Husband-and-wife owners Jeff and Rhonda Wyatt engaged Vegas top toque Alex Stratta to mastermind Marché Bacchus' menu, which now attracts serious epicures.
The view may distract you, though. "The restaurant's lakefront terrace is one of Vegas' great places to be at sunset," says Jacobson. "And it's nice to get off the Strip once in a while."
- Eating Las Vegas critics' picks at Marché Bacchus:
charcuterie plate; seared sea scallops; lobster ravioli; pork belly Benedict; crispy duck breast; ile flottante dessert; bread pudding
- Marché Bacchus website
Picasso, a French-Spanish restaurant in Bellagio, is a multi-sensory treat. The eyes are gratified by open views of The Fountains of Bellagio -- and actual Pablo Picasso paintings studding the walls.
But "take your eyes off the paintings," counsels Eating Las Vegas critic John Curtas. "Treat your palate to exciting, sometimes unfamiliar, but always delicious French-Spanish food." Picasso was the first Vegas kitchen of Madrid-born master chef chef Julian Serrano, and he's now a Sin City superstar.
- Eating Las Vegas critics recommend these Picasso creations:
quail salad; Nantucket scallops; medallions of deer; roasted pigeon with wild-rice risotto
- Picasso website
Raku is tucked modestly into a side street off the Strip. But foodie locals and demanding visitors flock to Raku's counter, tables, and private rooms. They come not for sushi but for Raku's impeccably authentic Japanese izakaya menu of cooked and grilled dishes.
Chef-owner Mitsuo Endo, a Tokyo native, is especially admired for his kaiseki, a Japanese meal with as many as 15 artfully served tasting courses, some just one bite's worth. Endo is a perfectionist, and the concentrated flavor that he packs into his food is astounding.
Reviewer Max Jacobson points out that night-owl diners enjoy a bonus: "Raku serves till three in the morning, and serves as a lively after-hours chefs' hangout. You never know what famous Vegas chef will stop by for a bite after work."
- Eating Las Vegas critics' picks from Raku's menu:
salt-crusted sea bream; agedashi tofu; chicken and rice bowl; poached egg with sea urchin and salmon roe; kaiseki dinner
- Raku website
"A lot of what Americans think of as modern Italian food originated here at Valentino in the 1980s," says Eating Las Vegas critic Max Jacobson. "Piero Selvaggio's original recipes are landmarks. Now helmed by by Chef 'Looch," Luciano Pellegrini, Valentino at The Venetian is the best Italian restaurant in Vegas, and possibly the U.S., with the exception of the original Valentino in Santa Monica."<,p>
Recommends Max, "Ask Looch to create a chef's tasting for you." Al Mancini's tip: "The private-dining Barolo Room is far too romantic to waste on a party larger than two."
- Eating Las Vegas critics love these Valentino dishes:
lobster carpaccio; black pasta with lobster carbonara; egg and ricotta ravioli with parmesan fondue; duck prosciutto; chicken cannelloni; wild boar sausage with polenta; anything with white truffles
- Valentino website