In 2009, the Center for Gaming Research at UNLV launched a fascinating online exhibit named 50 Years of Dining on the Las Vegas Strip.
Tracing the city’s food culture from the early years of dinner theaters, chuck wagons and coffee shops to “the gourmet bonanza of today,” the exhibit, rich with vintage menus, observes of Vegas that, “in recent years, it has also become a capital of culinary spectacle.”
Six years later, and the scene is more spectacular still, with new faces in town, new experiences and options for every palate and budget.
Eat What You Watch
Located at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Jaleo Las Vegas is celebrity chef Jose Andres’ homage to Spanish small plate cuisine.
Here, groups can gather around the centerpiece Paella Grill to watch the traditional preparation of this Spanish classic over an open fire, before enjoying the result (and other zesty fare) together.
“We are seeing a growing trend of live cooking demonstrations for groups,” notes Cheryl Smith, the LVCVA’s medical and wellness tourism manager.
Another great option is Tuscany Kitchen at Bellagio. Designed specifically for meeting and convention groups, the first exhibition kitchen of its kind in Las Vegas offers demonstrations featuring the resort’s award-winning chefs and master sommeliers, and is available for receptions, dinners, teambuilding and more.
For groups looking to watch what they eat, it’s “Viva Las Vegan” at Wynn Las Vegas and sister property Encore, where every restaurant offers a vegan and vegetarian menu alongside its signature items.
One of the city’s signature feasts is offered at the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace. An homage to the resort’s legendary gourmet Bacchanal Room established by Nat Hart—generally considered Vegas’ first celebrity chef—in 1966, this revival features more than 500 dishes prepared fresh daily in nine interactive kitchens.
With its own mini-casino, swank Bar Centro and two private rooms, Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres at the new SLS Las Vegas (formerly the legendary Sahara) is a giddy gastronomic adventure. From Philippe Starck’s untamed decor to Andres’ wild inventiveness on the plate, this carnivore’s palace, nominated for James Beard honors this year, is definitely not your father’s steakhouse.
Downtown, Carson Kitchen from beloved celebrity chef Kerry Simon is a superb small group option, serving delicious gourmet comfort food in an intimate open-kitchen setting. Buyouts are available, including the 40-seat outdoor bar-patio upstairs.
The French Connection
Underscoring its elite epicurean status, Vegas is notable for its concentration of French celebrity chefs. The Gallic wave has roots in the 1960s, when the Top O’ the Strip restaurant at Dunes (now Bellagio) went with a Parisian-themed menu, followed by the arrival in 1973 of Andre Rochat. The modern invasion began around 1992, when Austrian superstar Wolfgang Puck brought Spago to Caesars Palace. That move, considered risky at the time, compelled Joel Robuchon, then retired, to launch in Vegas.
Earning three James Beard nominations this year, including one for his eponymous Joel Robuchon at the MGM Grand, the French master, the world’s all-time Michelin champ, was followed by la creme de la creme of the French culinary corps.
All group capable, these include Restaurant Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace, featuring two Michelin stars and the nation’s only chef’s table from Champagne maker Krug. The table hosts groups of six.
Twist by Pierre Gagnaire is the sole U.S outpost from the French master, whose eponymous restaurant in Paris carries three Michelin stars. Located on the 32nd floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, this fine-dining establishment offers private dining for 16 people.
One of six celebrity chefs at the Venetian, Daniel Boulud’s db Brasserie includes two private dining rooms, as does Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Jean Georges Steakhouse at ARIA.
Alain Ducasse, meanwhile, is transforming his high-altitude miX restaurant at the Delano Las Vegas into a new Mediterranean concept, debuting later this year.