The dining scene in Las Vegas seems to change with seasons. A new casino opens and foodies flock to the hottest new spot. A casino is bought out and a special restaurant closes, only to land elsewhere a year later. A resort decides to end a chef’s contract and a once-shining spot ends up closing.
But through these ebbs and flows, the dining scene in Vegas remains strong with a boatload of celebrity chefs manning the kitchens. CityCenter’s entry into the market opened the door for a bevy of new dining options to muse the palate. James Beard Foundation nominations give others a boost on the scene. Here’s a look at the Haute 5 new restaurants to open in Las Vegas, all since December.
Michael Mina opened his fifth Vegas restaurant with American Fish at Aria. Think of this as your high-end camping excursion as Mina takes you on a culinary ride through dishes poached in ocean water, griddled over a cast iron skillet, baked with sea salt and wood-grilled and smoked. Start with the tuna tartare, one of the most perfect dishes you will ever encounter with its quail egg and pine nuts. Diver scallops with foie gras and carmelized pears creates a divine pairing of sweet and salt. Shrimp and grits updates the Southern classic with a touch of jalapeno and white cheddar cheese. For a main dish, pair up and order the exquisite lobster Wellington meant to share. Or sample a little bit of everything with the tasting menu for $95 per person. On the dessert menu, you would be remiss not to order fried banana fritters with a banana mousse and rum ice cream or the chocolate custard red velvet cake. The wine list focuses on boutique American growers and producers while the cocktail menu specializes in classic drinks from the pre-Wold War Two era.
American Fish at Aria at CityCenter, 1.877.230.2742 for reservations
Take your tapas experience to the next level at Julian Serrano. The executive chef in charge of Picasso at the Bellagio explores his native Spanish cuisine at this Spanish restaurant at Aria at CityCenter. He toys with molecular food like tuna raspberry and lobster pineapple skewers. His paella could feed an army and changes with the seasons. Or try one of the entrees like the lamb chops served with an aioli sauce, a beef tenderloin with cheese and honey walnuts or the grilled Angus flat-iron steak in a mushroom demi-glace. More than 500 wines make the list, mostly with an emphasis on Spanish varietals. Save room for the crema catalona, a brulee with pineapple sorbet and Spanish creme or the churros with dark chocolate and paprika.
Julian Serrano at Aria at CityCenter, 1.877.230.2742 for reservations
James Beard Award-winning chef Shawn McClain takes his first step outside of Chicago to open Sage, an American restaurant with hints of the Mediterranean at Aria. The restaurant uses ingredients found in California and the Pacific coast to put together dishes like roasted scallops with braised oxtail and wild mushrooms, foie gras custard brule topped with crusted caramelized citrus and cocoa nibs and charred baby octopus caponata. The wine list features organic, biodynamic wines from small start-up vineyards in California, while a refreshing group of cocktails use natural ingredients and limited-production boutique liquors.
Sage at Aria at CityCenter, 1.877.230.2742 for reservations
RM Seafood Upstairs
Chef Rick Moonen came this close to winning a Best Chef Southwest award from the James Beard Foundation this year. The accolades came on the heels of the opening of RM Seafood Upstairs, Moonen’s new endeavor that features sustainable foods and adventuresome dishes. Try the spider crab with artichoke, sunchoke and ruby red grapefruit surrounded by Dungeness crab; Onion Soup 3000, a deconstructed version of the French classic made from Gruyère custard and onion velouté served atop a caramelized onion chip; and the chocolate car bomb, a creative combination of Guinness Beer ice cream topped with Baileys Original Irish Cream and beer suds. On the seafood side, try the Walu in cherry leaf with white soy emulsion, Shitake mushroom and Yuzu powder; baked Tasmanian ocean trout with king crab, yellow endive and orange carpaccio; and roasted turbot with saffron chorizo congee, mussels and rice cracker. Even the wine list is sustainable. The 630-bottle list offers choices that span the globe with options from up-and-coming American Viognier, some of France’s finest Côtes-Du-Rhône and a stellar selection of premium sake.
RM Seafood Upstairs at Mandalay Bay, 702.632.9300 for reservations
What list of exciting new restaurants in Las Vegas is complete without mentioning Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, located on the 23rd floor of Mandarin Oriental at CityCenter? It’s the only restaurant in the United States where you can experience the extraordinary cuisine of the three-star Michelin chef. This place is an exploration in fusion cuisine, matching flavors and textures in unexpected ways. Try the mushroom broth “zezette,” French for wacky. This variation of the chicken and vegetable soup combines vegetable gnocchi and slivers of chicken. Chicken chiffonade, vegetable gnocchi kombawa cod cake, a bloody Mary sorbet and ratatouille bavaroise are some of the other dishes to sample. But you must try the Langoustine Five Ways, a signature dish from Gagnaire. Look for a lobster mousseline perfumed with sherry manzanilla, grilled with TTB sauce and avocado, a tartar version, seared with Iberico ham and as a gelée with kombu seaweed. For dessert, you can go five ways again with dishes inspired by French traditional patissieries.
Twist by Pierre Gagnaire at Mandarin Oriental at CityCenter, 1.888.881.9367 for reservations