Competition among restaurant kitchens may be natural, but that won’t stop Vegas’s top chefs from singing each other’s praises.
Chef Daniel Boulud, who says there’s a “real fraternal relationship” among Las Vegas’s chefs.
If reality TV teaches us anything, it’s that people love a good chef-versus-chef showdown. But is the rivalry genuine? When Daniel Boulud, of db Brasserie in Venetian, goes to dinner, is he checking out his competition? “No, we don’t think of that,” says Boulud emphatically. “Never.”
Then what do they think about as they peruse the menu? “We don’t even open the menu, because the chef wants to cook for you,” he explains. “It is a real fraternal relationship.” And as with actual siblings, sometimes you have a favorite. “While I love them all, there is one in particular I’m more attached to,” Boulud confesses. “Guy Savoy. He’s one of my closest friends and has one of the finest restaurants in Vegas.” The artichoke and black truffle soup at Caesars Palace’s Restaurant Guy Savoy is “something very special,” Boulud says. “It looks like a simple artichoke soup, but it takes so much to make it.”
For Savoy, there’s no rivalry at all. “Each restaurant has its own individual style and we all try to do our best,” he says. Savoy’s favorite is Mitsuo Endo’s Aburiya Raku. He describes its cuisine as product-driven and Japanese with a world view. “It is made for cooks,” Savoy says. “He’s open at night until 3 am, so we can go after service.” Mario Batali agrees: “I crave all of the robata grill dishes at Raku, as well as the Kobe beef liver sashimi and just about anything chef Mitsuo Endo makes.”
Paul Bartolotta’s Triglia alla Ponentina (red mullet with olives and capers).
On the Strip—where he has four restaurants in Venetian and Palazzo, including Carnevino—Batali favors the scampi crudi and the antipasto menu at Wynn’sBartolotta Ristorante di Mare. From the octopus salad to the bottarga salad, “Paul’s cooking is simple, clean, confident Italian magnificence at the top of the field internationally,” raves Batali.
For Paul Bartolotta, traditional Neapolitan pizza “is one of my soft spots.” Sometimes twice a week he’ll order sliced mortadella, a glass of wine, and a margherita pizza at Settebello. “It makes me smile.”
“There’s a little bit of a fraternity,” says Bartolotta about Vegas’s chefs. He goes down the list: “Ducasse is amazing. So is Thomas Keller. Daniel has done a beautiful bistro…. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a more precise and perfect restaurant than Joël Robuchon. Dish for dish, I’m proud of the food I make, but you have to acknowledge that he’s the man.”