A number of
celebrity chefs are cooking in Vegas, awakening us to the opinion
that Vegas's rep for lackluster restaurants is no longer deserved.
Always feeling free to spend your money for you, we can safely say
that dropping a small fortune in either Picasso (tel. 702/693-7223),
located in Bellagio, or Renoir (tel. 702/791-7223),
located in The Mirage, where you can find the cuisine of heralded
chefs Julian Serrano and Alex Stratta, respectively, makes a fine
investment. But do not overlook Rosemary's Restaurant, a
20-minute drive off the Strip and worth twice as much effort, for
some Southern-influenced cooking that may well put the work of
those high-profile chefs to shame.
beautiful, fresh, monster submarine sandwiches at Capriotti's
(tel. 702/474-0229). They roast their own beef and turkey
on the premises and assemble it (or cold cuts, or even vegetables)
into delightful sandwiches, ranging in size from 9 to 20 inches,
and none of them over $10.
On the Strip, it's the Paris, Le Village Buffet (tel. 888/266-5687),
where the stations break from standard form by adhering to
regional French food specialties (from places such as Provence,
Alsace, and Burgundy) and the results are much better than
average. Though not cheap, this is a reasonable substitute for an
even more costly fancy meal. Mirage Buffet (tel. 702/791-7111)
is the best midrange choice. The salad bar comes loaded with
countless possibilities, including a variety of cold salads (when
was the last time you saw gefilte fish on a buffet?). And the
gigantic mountain of shrimp is the right sort of decadent touch
you want in a Vegas buffet. The Palms Festival Market Buffet
(tel. 702/942-7777) offers the best of the more
budget-oriented options, with an array of Middle Eastern goodies
and some eccentric additions to the ubiquitous carving stations.
Downtown, the Main Street Station Garden Court, 200 N. Main
St. (tel. 702/387-1896), has an incredible buffet: all
live-action stations (where the food is made in front of you,
sometimes to order), wood-fired brick-oven pizzas, fresh lovely
salsas and guacamole in the Mexican section, and
Head for Bally's, at Mid-Strip, where the lavish Sterling
Sunday Brunch (tel. 702/739-4111) features tables
dressed with linen and silver. The buffet itself has everything
from caviar and lobster to sushi and sashimi, plus fancy entrees
that include the likes of roast duckling with black-currant and
Budget Meal Deal:
Split a bowl of soup at the Grand Wok (tel. 702/891-7777)
in the MGM. This pan-Asian restaurant offers a variety of soups in
such generous portions that four people can make a decent meal out
of one serving.
Actually, we just invented this category to have a way to call Mon
Ami Gabi (tel. 702/944-4224), in the Paris hotel, to
your attention. Offering lovely, reasonably priced bistro fare
(steak and pommes frites, onion soup), it may be our new
favorite Vegas restaurant (at least of the non-celebrity-chef
The designers ran amok in the restaurants of Mandalay Bay.
At Aureole (tel. 702/632-7401), a four-story wine
tower requires that a pretty young thing be hauled up in a harness
a la Peter Pan to fetch your chosen vintage. The
post-Communist party decor at Red Square (tel. 702/632-7407)
is topped only by the fire and water walls at neighboring rumjungle
Best Spot for a
We don't go for cliché romantic elements. At Bellagio's Picasso,
you get to dine under the watchful gaze of a dozen or so works by
the Grand Old Man himself, while outside, fountains dance and play
in a fanciful, witty manner. Pretty inspiring ambience, if you ask
Best Spot for a
Let's face it, no one parties like the Red Party, so head to Red
Square (tel. 702/632-7407) in Mandalay Bay, where you
can have caviar and vodka in the ultimate capitalist revenge.
Best Free Show
At Treasure Island's Buccaneer Bay Club (tel. 702/894-7223),
everyone rushes to the window when the ship battle begins outside.
And then there is the vista offered by the restaurants in Bellagio
( Picasso, Le Cirque, Olives, and Circo), which are
grouped to take advantage of the view of the dancing water
Best Wine List:
It's a competitive market in Vegas for such a title, and with
sommeliers switching around, it's hard to guarantee any wine list
will retain its quality. Still, you can't go wrong at Mandalay
Bay's Aureole (tel. 702/632-7401),which has the
largest collection of Austrian wines outside of that country,
among other surprises.
Best Beer List:
offers "beer pairings" suggestions with most of its menu
options, and includes some curious and fun brands, including
fruity Belgian numbers.
See all of Vegas from the revolving Top of the World (tel. 702/380-7711),
at the Stratosphere Casino Hotel & Tower, North Strip, 106
The Asian-influenced dishes at Bellagio's Aqua (tel. 702/693-7223)
are the only fish dishes consistently worth eating in this desert
town--fresh, light, and beautifully and expertly flavored.
For a Mediterranean angle, head to Todd English's Onda
(tel. 702/791-7223), in The Mirage, which is quietly but
swiftly heading to the top of the "locals' favorite"
list. For Tuscan cuisine at slightly less dear prices, Circo
(tel. 702/693-8150), in Bellagio, is terrific.
The Stage Deli (tel. 702/893-4045), in Caesars, will
give no cause for complaints (your mouth will be too packed with
out-of-this-world pastrami to say much of anything).
Best New Orleans
Cuisine: Emeril's New Orleans Fish House
(tel. 702/891-7374), in the MGM Grand, and his Delmonico
Steakhouse (tel. 702/414-3737), in The Venetian, bring
the celebrity chef's "Bam!" cuisine to the other side of
the Mississippi, and we are glad.
We still dream about the huge portions of spicy, amusing food at
The Venetian's Star Canyon (tel. 702/414-3772). It's
the brainchild of Stephen Pyles, the chef most often credited with
inventing Southwestern cuisine.
Best Red Meat:
Lawry's The Prime Rib,
4043 Howard Hughes Pkwy. (tel. 702/893-2223), has such good
prime rib, it's hard to imagine ever having any better.