With more than 50 world-class restaurants, Las Vegas has become the dining mecca of the United States.
The 2009 opening of the $8.5 billion CityCenter upped the ante with another huge handful of big name chefs, while the arrival of Gordon Ramsay as well as recent restaurant openings at the Wynn have kept the culinary cognoscenti chattering.
Alongside celebrity chefs from around the world, Las Vegas offers master sommeliers in charge of wine cellars of such depth that oenophiles swoon with pleasure. The James Beard award-winning chef Bradley Ogden has been quoted as saying that “the top 100 restaurants in the country [are] within a two-mile radius.”
Apart from New York and maybe San Francisco, no other city in the US offers such a breadth of culinary talent in such spectacular settings. To help you with your gustatory peregrinations, here’s a list of five hot dining spots in Vegas (plus one for a killer hangover brunch).
Jaleo by José Andrés @ The Cosmopolitan
The best tapas in the world? Jaleo, which means “revelry” in Spanish, is a restaurant where the open kitchen with its olivewood fire pit sends flames leaping into the air as patrons drape themselves around wooden tables and brightly-colored banquettes to eat Chef José Andrés’ inspired food.
Andrés opened the first Jaleo in D.C. in 1993 and the subsequent two metropolitan Washington iterations made Jaleo a beloved local favorite. Andrés’ fourth Jaleo outpost opened at the Cosmopolitan in 2011 and was quickly awarded “Best New Restaurant” in Vegas.
Molecular gastronomy makes an appearance in Jaleo’s liquid olives, dedicated to Ferran Adria of El Bulli: spherical blobs like tiny black egg yolks are loaded with concentrated flavor. With a surfeit of playful creativity and ingenious flavor combinations, a meal at Jaleo reminds you of your first trip to Spain and the culinary revelations that ensued.
Mizumi @ The Wynn
Overlooking the Wynn’s private gardens with waterfalls and koi ponds, Mizumi, the brand-new Japanese restaurant at the Wynn, is a stunning example of design that focuses on space and perspective.
In such a refined setting, exceptional cuisine is almost mandatory. Chef Devin Hashimoto intuitively – and creatively – grasps the full expanse of Japanese cuisine, offering not only sushi and sashimi, but also robatayaki and teppanyaki.
For those interested in personal (and planetary) health, Steve Wynn and his wife recently became vegan, which means that all Wynn Resorts in Vegas offer vegan cuisine prepared by vegan wunderkind Chef Tal Ronnen who creates animal-free meals that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are healthy.
Opened in May 2012, Mizumi is the latest star in Vegas’s constellation of fine dining.
miX in Las Vegas @ THEHotel at Mandalay Bay
You might come here for the view, which is arguably the best perspective of the Strip in all of Vegas, but you’ll be happy that you’re eating Alain Ducasse’s classic French/American cuisine at this 64th-floor restaurant in the sky.
Named “Best Restaurant” (2006) by Travel + Leisure magazine, miX is a mid-century modern vision of white and silver with a sweeping staircase that recalls Morris Lapidus’s “Staircase to Nowhere” at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. Murano glass bubbles float through the air – and even the bathrooms provide panoramic views.
Dining in this stunning room is the equivalent to floating in a cloud; it’s no wonder that one recent evening a newly-married couple, the bride still in her wedding gown, chose miX to celebrate their nuptials.
The menu is sprinkled with Ducasse’s signature dishes including lobster and shellfish artisanal pasta and baba à l’Armagnac, both from le Louis XV in Monte Carlo, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Gordon Ramsay Steak @ Paris Las Vegas
To get to Gordon Ramsay Steak, you leave behind the (painted) Parisian sky of Paris Las Vegas and enter a room festooned with a massive Union Jack.
Opened in May of 2012, the two-level space with private dining rooms overlooking the casino’s main floor buzzes with a cacophony of global accents as omnivores from around the world chomp into Ramsay’s reinterpretation of American steakhouse fare.
Beef Wellington is a crowd-pleaser as is the toxically delicious toffee pudding. Cocktails (and wines) are ordered from an iPad. The service is impeccable and polished, not unlike a British gentleman, and the entire evening evokes the glories and good times of Merry Old England.
Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood @ THEHotel at Mandalay Bay
When you feel like slurping oysters in the middle of the afternoon, this is where you want to be. Chef Rick Moonen has been a long-time advocate for ocean conservation, working to insure that his restaurants support sustainable fishing. All fish are caught or farmed without harm to the environment.
Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood utilizes produce from local purveyors, including the Andracki farm, which supplies Vegas restaurants with its basil, squash flowers, turnips, and radishes.
A salad of organic greens from the Andracki family is sprinkled with yellow and orange marigold flowers and tastes as fresh as if you were eating it in your mother’s garden. An oyster sampler of six oysters arrives with descriptions as evocative as wine. Best of all, each oyster is as delicious as the descriptive prose, necessitating a second sampler.
Chef Moonen graduated first in his class at CIA in Hyde Park and his background includes stints at La Cote Basque, Le Cirque, Chelsea Central, and Oceana. Vegas has him now and seafood has never tasted better in the desert.
Serendipity 3 @ Caesars Palace
Let’s imagine that you had a rough night of it in Vegas. Hard to imagine, but still, maybe you had a few too many of everything. When you wake, the thunder down under is in your head and what you need is breakfast at Serendipity 3.
What you order is Fried Eggs Benedict: a pair of corn meal crusted fried poached eggs, with classic Hollandaise and Canadian bacon atop sausage gravy and housemade biscuits.
Located next to the Caesars Palace fountains, right across the street from the Flamingo, this outpost of New York City’s legendary comfort food favorite fits perfectly into the excesses of Vegas.