There are many things to like about Crush Eat Drink Love, Michael and Jenna Morton’s new, modern yet rustic-looking shared-plate restaurant at the MGM Grand. But it’s easy to see what Michael cherishes the most: a wood-burning oven that glows brightly in the open kitchen. “I wanted one of these when I started La Cave,” he says, referring to his elevated wine bar at Wynn Las Vegas. “But it got turned down. Steve Wynn’s villa is right behind the restaurant and there was a concern that he’d be bothered by the scent of smoke.”
Using logs of wood to help churn out a pitch-perfect assortment of pizzas, Crush’s cooking crew puts the oven to good use. The varied menu—with standout dishes including octopus ceviche, gnocchi with braised short rib and pea purée, and California sea bass accompanied by kale and tomato—was inspired by the Mortons’ extensive travels around the world. For example, one entrée, littleneck clams in chili and coconut broth, stems from beach dining in Thailand, while the veal Bolognese owes its existence to a Roman holiday. “We love the concept of expressing our travel experiences through food,” says Michael, adding that nonedible inspirations have also made landfall in Vegas. He’s talking about a pair of large, Old World–looking doors adorned with the ancient poem The Epic of Gilgamesh, replicas of a portal muse in São Paulo. An artificially lit skylight running the length of the restaurant feels at least a little bit Mediterranean.
Just as traveling is best done with someone you love—or at least can relate to—the Mortons believe the same applies to dining. Hence the couple’s shared-plate concept. “There’s a coming together that happens when everybody shares the food,” says Michael. “It’s something to talk about, and a communal sense of enjoyment unfolds.” Plus, you don’t spend your meal longing for a taste of that luscious-looking tomahawk rib eye at the opposite end of the table. MGM Grand, 702-891-3222