Vegas has always specialized in appropriating ideas from elsewhere and making them more fabulous, and fall’s crop of new restaurants is no exception.
The Crispy Durian Pastry at Lao Sze Chuan.
What is it about Las Vegas that’s so transporting? The Strip is a carefully curated mosaic of experiences from someplace else, yet somehow they all come together to create something authentically ours—including the dining scene. But while the city has been the top destination for the world’s greatest chefs and restaurants for years now—you’re not a major player in the food and beverage biz unless you have a Vegas spot—the latest wave of transplants proves there’s still a voracious appetite here for the new and exotic. And you don’t have to be smack in the middle of the Strip to have a delicious impact.
Chicago chef Tony Hu has rejuvenated the Palms resort with his spicy, satisfying Lao Sze Chuan (702-990-8888). Known in the Windy City as the “mayor of Chinatown,” Hu oversees nearly 20 restaurants there, each recognized for offering bold, authentic flavors from different Chinese provinces. He says he wants to bring to Vegas a style of Chinese cuisine that was absent here, and he’s done just that. Dishes like spicy Szechuan rabbit, tea-smoked duck, lamb with cumin, and Hu’s signature dry chili chicken are far more refined and flavorful than the fare you’ll find at most Vegas Chinatown restaurants, yet they’re also more rustic and soulful than dishes at the Strip’s many upscale Chinese dining destinations—all in a dramatic, ceramics-filled modern room under a soaring ceiling.
Chef Danny Elmaleh in the kitchen at Cleo.
Also from Chicago comes Mercadito (702-979-3609), the acclaimed taco-centric eatery from Alfredo, Patricio, and Felipe Sandoval. Anchored by a wildly creative cocktail menu from Tippling Brothers, Mercadito at Red Rock Resort (a second location is coming soon to Green Valley Ranch Resort) offers fresh, carefully crafted Mexican cuisine in a vibrant environment, refreshing the west side’s burgeoning restaurant landscape. With choices like garlic shrimp with spicy mojo sauce and blackened swordfish with jalapeño slaw, good luck choosing a favorite taco at this hot spot.
Back to the Strip: One of the most distinctive restaurants to arrive on the Boulevard in years is at the hip new SLS resort, which took over the former site of the Sahara. Cleo (702-761-7000), a Mediterranean tapas spot created by Moroccan and Japanese chef Danny Elmaleh and built around a giant white wood-burning oven, is a friendly place perfect for sharing lamb tartare, zucchini keftedes, and eggplant flatbreads.
José’s Asian Tacos at Bazaar Meat.
Just steps away you’ll find the latest creation from superchef José Andrés, who’s never content to simply reproduce his stellar Spanish cuisine in a new locale. With Bazaar Meat, Andrés goes beyond redefining the Vegas steakhouse; he has deconstructed it completely. From shareable small plates like giant pork-skin chicharrón with Greek yogurt and bison carpaccio tacos to massive stunners such as whole suckling pig, Ibérico pork loin, and bluefin tuna belly steak, Bazaar’s cuisine refuses to be pigeonholed. This is one experience you can find only in Las Vegas.