Visitors to Las Vegas no longer have to gamble on dinner nor rely on the hotels' famous $9.99 buffets. The top chefs have gathered to transform Las Vegas into one of the country's top restaurant cities. In the past year alone, a number of notable restaurants have opened, on and off The Strip.
Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, 3667 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-454-4555
Koi features Japanese cuisine with California influences. Signature cold dishes include crispy rice topped with spicy tuna, and yellowtail carpaccio with grapeseed oil, ponzu and wasabi tobiku. Notable dishes from the kitchen include miso bronzed black cod with seasonal vegetables and grilled skirt steak with crispy red onions and sesame sauce. Sushi chefs offer a variety of fresh seafood offerings including yellowtail, octopus and snow crab, along with signature rolls. A three-course dinner averages $50. The Fountain Lounge offers a dramatic view of the Dancing Fountains at Bellagio.
Treasure Island, 3300 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-894-7223
Social House serves up sushi and Pan-Asian cuisine in a stylish setting designed by the acclaimed New York-based design firm AvroKO. Visitors can enjoy dinner alfresco or inside the sleek, contemporary dining room. Chef Joseph Elevado's offerings include citrus peel miso marinated cod and Kobe beef with Kizame Wasabi crème fraiche. Diners can expect to spend $24-$50 for dinner entrees, $7-$32 for hot dishes and $6-$40 for cold dishes.
Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino, 3700 W. Flamingo Road; 702-777-7777
Looking for the best butt in town? RUB BBQ boasts of championship-level barbecue created by Paul Kirk, also known as the Kansas City baron of barbecue. Open since December, this is RUB's first dining establishment in Vegas; the first RUB opened in New York in 2005. Specialty items include burnt ends — beef brisket smoked twice until crispy and lightly sauced. Meat lovers should try a Taste of the Baron, a heavy platter that features a sampling of beef, pork, ham, pastrami, turkey, chicken and sausage, topped off with a quarter rack of ribs, for $49.75. RUB's stage attracts live bands on the weekends. The restaurant doesn't take reservations except for groups of 10 or more.
The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino, 3325 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; (702) 577-9600
With three locations in New York City, Dos Caminos opened its first outpost in Vegas early this year. Featuring modern Mexican cuisine, this establishment can seat 450 people in the main dining room and 185 in the lounge. Popular fare: the guacamole, roasted chicken enchiladas with mole poblano and salsa verde, Chilean sea bass Veracruzano, grilled marinated skirt steak with frijoles borrachos and roasted tomato salsa. Tequila connoisseurs should be able to find a brand they like — Dos Caminos offers 35 unique varieties of the spirit. Diners can expect to spend an average of $38 for dinner. Open until 3:30 a.m., the lounge caters to late-night diners, serving food until 2 a.m.
Palms Casino Resort, 4321 W. Flamingo Road; 702-951-7000
Acclaimed chef Andre Rochat wanted to be on top so he opened Alizé in 2001 on the top floor of the Palms Casino Resort. Lots of windows provide diners with spectacular views of The Strip. The signature entree is imported Dover sole for $67, but the most popular main dish is herb-crusted Colorado rack of lamb for $52. Alizé's dress code does not require men to wear jackets and ties, but the restaurant frowns on casual clothes like jeans and shorts.
Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-632-7200
Legendary chef Alan Ducasse made a mark on the city's dining scene in 2004 when he opened Mix on the 64th floor of THEhotel at Mandalay Bay. Living up to its name, the restaurant blends French cuisine with Asian and American influences. Lobster curry and steak Rossini are among the most popular entrees for dinner. The wine list includes hundreds of selections from around the world. A three-course dinner ranges from $75 to $125.
MORELS FRENCH STEAKHOUSE & BISTRO
Palazzo Resort Hotel & Casino, 3325 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-607-6333
Morels serves up wet and dry-aged steaks and traditional French fare with lots of wine and cheese on the side. More than 30 artisan and farmhouse cheeses are stored in a temperature-controlled case. The wine list offers more than 400 French and California boutique wines, including 70-plus wine-by-the-glass selections. Diners can choose from several shellfish specialties at an iced seafood bar. The tab for a three-course dinner runs from $60 to $100-plus. Visitors can enjoy appetizers, cocktails and glasses of wine, along with stunning views of The Strip, in the restaurant's lounge.
The Forum Shops at Caesars, 3500 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-369-6300 or 877-4-WOLFGANG
A Wolfgang Puck outpost, Spago opened in 1992, long before Vegas had transformed itself into a top restaurant destination. Featuring contemporary American cuisine with global touches, Spago offers a mix of seafood and red meat. Signature dishes include pan-roasted Alaskan halibut with cauliflower puree and pine nut caper brown butter, red-wine-braised beef short ribs with ricotta gnocchi and beef tenderloin with creamed spinach and bordelaise sauce. The average check for dinner with beverage in the cafe is $35 while dinner in the dining room averages $80. “Indoor” patio dining provides great people watching.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
LOUIS'S LAS VEGAS
Town Square Las Vegas, 6599 Las Vegas Blvd. S.;702-202-2400
Small by the standards of restaurants in Strip hotels and casinos, Louis's is in a new development on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. Open since November, Louis's features Southern-style, “lowcountry” fine dining by chef Louis Osteen, a James Beard award-winning chef from South Carolina. Signature dishes include Louis's crab and lobster cakes with grained mustard seed sauce ($19.50); timbale of stone-ground sausage grits with lowcountry shrimp gravy ($13); and grilled scallops with shrimp hash and mustard butter ($32). The extensive wine list includes a selection available in half bottles and magnums. The indoor dining room can accommodate 70 people, while the open-air patio has seating for 50.
LOUIS'S FISH CAMP
Town Square Las Vegas, 6605 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-463-3000
Southern-style seafood is the main attraction at this casual new restaurant, named for famed Southern chef Louis Osteen. The house favorites include Charleston she crab soup ($8) and shrimp and grits ($23.50). For those who don't care for meat, the menu offers two vegetable-based entrees, each for $14. Zelda's Bourbon bar offers a selection of rare and popular bourbons along with Southern specialty drinks such as mint juleps and flavored teas. There's also live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights.
8125 W. Sahara Ave.; 702-869-2251
Tired of all the noise on The Strip? Rosemary's, about 8 miles from The Strip, offers gourmet American fare. Chefs Michael and Wendy Jordan offer diners a three-course, prix-fixe dinner option for $55. Everything on the menu can be ordered a la carte as well. Popular entrees include the rack of lamb for $42, and filet of beef for $40. Seafood options are seared sea scallops and grilled salmon. The lounge caters to those who eschew large portions with a menu of “small plates,” featuring a variety of seafood, cheese and vegetable dishes, for $6-$17. The Las Vegas Review-Journal named Rosemary's “best gourmet restaurant” in 2007.
SN conducted online research and consulted the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the restaurants themselves for this report. These are only suggestions, not professional reviews. SN did not visit any of the restaurants.