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David Ross

Vegas Uncork'd: A Bon Appetit Epicurean Experience

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I have a sense that some who are serious about dining may have doubts about the authenticity or substance behind the Las Vegas dining scene? Am I right? Whether you've been to Las Vegas or not, I'd like to hear your thoughts on how you perceive the Las Vegas dining scene? Do you view Las Vegas as a top dining destination in the same vein as New York or San Francisco? What are your thoughts? As you may know, I am one of the biggest fans and supporters of the Las Vegas dining community.

In support of my argument that Las Vegas deserves a spot in the upper realms of America's top dining destinations, I'm going to be travelling to Las Vegas in May to attend some special culinary events. I'll be reporting back to everyone as to what I find is the 'truth' behind the Las Vegas dining scene. A truth that I hope will bolster my position that Las Vegas deserves to be in the top echelon of America's great restaurant cities.

Bon Appetit is sponsoring "Vegas Uncork'd: A Bon Appetit Epicurean Experience" from May 8-11. I attended last year and will be going again this year. My fellow eGullet and Las Vegas dining aficianado, Russell Wong, will also be attending, as will another eGullet friend, John Curtas, the top restaurant and dining journalist in Las Vegas, (and one of the most recognized American food journalists).

You may want to check the schedule of events at their website:

http://www.bavegasuncorked.com/

I added the subtitle "Experience the 'truth' of Las Vegas dining" to this topic because I encourage serious diners to experience the true substance behind the rhinestone-studded curtains of the Las Vegas dining scene by attending this series of culinary events. I think you will find that there are a number of chefs like Alex Stratta at "Alex" at Wynn, who are passionately yet quietly working behind the scenes every night to elevate Las Vegas to the top levels of America's great dining destinations.

While there will be plenty of celebrity chef photo ops, you will also have time in private, intimate settings, to spend personal time with masters like Guy Savoy and Daniel Boulud and listen to them tell us why they have staked their reputations on the success of their Las Vegas restaurants.

I am especially excited to attend a private dinner on Thursday, May 8 at Bradley Ogden restaurant in Caesar's Palace-hosted by Alan Richman and Chefs Bradley and Bryan Ogden. Excited because I consider Bradley Ogden and his son Bryan to be two of the top American chefs today-without some of the baggage we often associate with 'celebrity chef' dining rooms.

Chef Bradley or his son Bryan are at the stoves in Las Vegas every single night and they have found a number of local producers to supply them with the fruits and vegetables that are an important part of the foundation of their 'market-fresh' cuisine. Now that is what I call the 'truth' behind the Las Vegas dining scene.

While there are some restaurants in Las Vegas that are all glitz and glamour yet without any depth of flavor behind the appearance of the food, there are a number of great Las Vegas restaurants that are crafting truthful food for their guests.

Do you think dining in Las Vegas is 'true' and worthy of standing in the same company with New York and San Francisco as a top dining destination?


Edited by David Ross (log)

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We went to Vegas for Christmas and New Year. I thought the standard was very high indeed.

Recommended - Rosemary's, Fleur de Lys, Emeril's, Picasso, and Lotus of Siam. Alex was excellent too.

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Absolutely ! Las Vegas has become one of our primary destinations over the past several years. And, yes, we've been to New York and San Francisco numerous times as well.

We're going again in a month or so and hope to hit the new places at The Palazzo. What's with their website? Down for months )-:

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Absolutely !  Las Vegas has become one of our primary destinations over the past several years.  And, yes, we've been to New York and San Francisco numerous times as well.

We're going again in a month or so and hope to hit the new places at The Palazzo.  What's with their website?  Down for months )-:

Try this link for The Palazzo. I am also anxious to try the restaurants at The Palazzo. We have a couple of open nights when we go for the Vegas Uncork'd events in May and one of my choices for dinner is Charlie Trotter's new place at The Palazzo:

http://www.palazzolasvegas.com/PINT.aspx?KNC-PAGOOGLESEARCH

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I know I can't make the event this year, but I would love to because my impression (and that's all it is - there is no basis for fact) is that Vegas restaurants bring in big name executive chefs who spend one week there and move on leaving the quality to vary. I would love to experience the restaurants first hand and see what's really going on.

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I know I can't make the event this year, but I would love to because my impression (and that's all it is - there is no basis for fact) is that Vegas restaurants bring in big name executive chefs who spend one week there and move on leaving the quality to vary.  I would love to experience the restaurants first hand and see what's really going on.

Your impression is somewhat correct-but I'd say that more often than not, the quality stays at a consistently high level at most of the better restaurants even if the namesake chef is not in town.

But you do have to choose your restaurants carefully. You'll find many of the chefs are in fact in the kitchen every night-including every restaurant at the Wynn with the exception of Daniel Boulud Brasserie. Chef Julian Serrano is in the kitchen every night at Picasso at Bellagio, and Chef Bryan Ogden is in the kitchens at his Father's restaurant, Bradley Ogden at Caesar's. The list goes on, so if you feel that the meal may be better if "Chef" is in the kitchen, let us know in the Las Vegas forum before you make your reservation. There are lots of eGullet members who are up to the moment in what is going on in Las Vegas and we'll direct you to a restaurant where the "big name" guy is always cooking.

An example of your question can be answered by looking at Guy Savoy restaurant in Caesar's Palace. Guy Savoy is obviously not in town that often. But he settles for no less than exceptionally high standards every single night whether he is in the kitchen or not, and he has the executive chefs, sous chefs and pastry chefs to carry through on that goal. His son Frank runs the front of the house and keeps watch to insure his Father's objectives are met.

But trust me, I understand your skepticism. There are restaurants in Las Vegas with a "big name" at the top of the menu that don't meet the customers objectives of what a "celebrity chef" restaurant should be. That tends to happen with the chefs whose empires of restaurants, sauces, rubs, cookware, cookbooks and aprons just stretch them so thin that they physically don't have the time to get to Las Vegas as often as they probably should. As a result, the details get lost in a muddle of commercialism and that can be a disastrous mix for any restaurant in the long run.

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I haven't been to New York in years and years, and really, even when I did visit, it was for very brief visits. And I was much younger. San Fran? I haven't done lots of "high end" dining there either, even if I ahve been there every year for the past four years.

So, it's kind of hard for me to compare Las Vegas to those two cities. Btu I'll say this.. I LOVE the dining scene in Las Vegas. It's one of the main reasons I like going back over and over. Lots and lots of great restaurants. All closely located to eachother. And all of them are very accessible. I'm sure it's FAR tougher to get a seat at the New York City L'Atelier de Joel Rubochon than it is at the Las Vegas one, for example. And I'm pretty sure the quality at the Vegas one matches the NYC one.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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Absolutely !  Las Vegas has become one of our primary destinations over the past several years.  And, yes, we've been to New York and San Francisco numerous times as well.

We're going again in a month or so and hope to hit the new places at The Palazzo.  What's with their website?  Down for months )-:

Try this link for The Palazzo. I am also anxious to try the restaurants at The Palazzo. We have a couple of open nights when we go for the Vegas Uncork'd events in May and one of my choices for dinner is Charlie Trotter's new place at The Palazzo:

http://www.palazzolasvegas.com/PINT.aspx?KNC-PAGOOGLESEARCH

***I did try and got the same "Internet Explorer is unable to open this web page". I don't think it's my computer as I've gotten the same response on other computers.

Oh yes, we're hoping to try Charlie Trotter's new place as well. We dined twice at his place when he had one in the MGM Grand several years ago. Amazing meals as I recall.

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Sorry you are having trouble getting to the site. The only other suggestion I have is to start with the Bon Appetit main site. On the left is a block called "Events." Click that and it opens a window on all their events. Click "BA Uncork'd" Las Vegas and hopefully it will open for you.

I have a couple of open nights when I am in Las Vegas and I am hoping Charlie Trotter's is open by then. Can't wait to try it.

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Try this link:

http://www.palazzolasvegas.com/dining.aspx

The questions I would have for some of these chefs are:

Why Las Vegas, but not Los Angeles? Is it more than just the money?

My guess is that Las Vegas has a much, much higher concentration of visitors with money to blow than L.A. For it to work in L.A., the places would have to be largely supported by locals. It's not really that way in Vegas. The dining there has become another attraction, along with the shows, the casinos, etc.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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Thanks for the suggestions to log onto the site. Nothing is working. I tried from a hotel computer last week..same thing. Another internet mystery...LOL

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Thanks for the suggestions to log onto the site.  Nothing is working.  I tried from a hotel computer last week..same thing.  Another internet mystery...LOL

I know it's frustrating. If you are interested in attending the events in Las Vegas, just give Bon Appetit a call. I know the operator at the main number can connect you to someone that will make reservations for you for the events-I know because that's how I made my reservations. I got to the website for BA Uncork'd, but then couldn't order tickets online so I just did it the old fashioned way and called.

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Thanks for the suggestions to log onto the site.  Nothing is working.  I tried from a hotel computer last week..same thing.  Another internet mystery...LOL

Very odd. I can get to the Palazzo site with no problems at all. On the first try.

If it makes you feel better, there's not much info on the dining page--just a brief overview of each of the restaurants. I wonder how long Jay-Z's place will last. Is a sports bar really necessary in Vegas?


Edited by prasantrin (log)

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Try this link:

http://www.palazzolasvegas.com/dining.aspx

The questions I would have for some of these chefs are:

Why Las Vegas, but not Los Angeles? Is it more than just the money?

My guess is that Las Vegas has a much, much higher concentration of visitors with money to blow than L.A. For it to work in L.A., the places would have to be largely supported by locals. It's not really that way in Vegas. The dining there has become another attraction, along with the shows, the casinos, etc.

I agree with both of you. I think it's a combination of both money and a steady stream of full dining rooms every night of the week that makes Las Vegas such an attractive city for some of the chefs to open outposts of their namesake restaurants.

In Las Vegas, the local diner makes up a very small percentage of the revenue that is brought into the restaurants on the strip. Those restaurants rely on the tourist and convention trade to pack them in every night. That's an advantage most other cities don't have.

Another aspect that I think attracts big-name chefs to Las Vegas is the fact that the large casino/resort companies can support these restaurants with a revenue source that other cities don't have-i.e., revenue from gaming. That revenue gives a chef a steady account for ordering foie gras and Wagyu beef. Again, I don't think many other cities have that advantage.

So just those two aspects alone I think are what may be factors that attract chefs to Las Vegas. And of course, there may be a bit of wicked, playfulness that influences their personal decision to open in Las Vegas.

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Thanks for the suggestions to log onto the site.  Nothing is working.  I tried from a hotel computer last week..same thing.  Another internet mystery...LOL

Very odd. I can get to the Palazzo site with no problems at all. On the first try.

If it makes you feel better, there's not much info on the dining page--just a brief overview of each of the restaurants. I wonder how long Jay-Z's place will last. Is a sports bar really necessary in Vegas?

Take a look at the April issue of Bon Appetit for more information on "Vegas Uncork'd." There is a four-page spread that lists all of the events and prices for each, along with a number to call for reservations. So if the pesky computer is acting up, you can still make reservations to join us in Las Vegas by calling in. I know that the city is excited to host the events and have those of us who are serious about food and dining come to visit. It's just loads of dining fun.

As for Jay-Z and his nightclub only time will tell. He apparently has had some public arguments with Cristal Champagne and their desire to be associated with other bars. I'm not the expert on the ins and out of that fight.

The Venetian is already home to TAO, which is one of the bigger and more popular clubs in Las Vegas right now, so I'm not so sure another club next door at The Palazzo will do well. I'm really not the expert on that because after a nice dinner at one of the better restaurants in town, I'm in bed long before most people enter those clubs-as in 1-2 a.m.

I believe Charlie Trotter's place is now open for business at The Palazzo.

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I think Vegas has a great dining scene, there's great chefs with great restaurants and all in walking distance. One thing Vegas has that other places just cannot compete with, imho, is the ambience. The eye candy atmosphere that's everywhere. You can go to a restaurant like Alinea and be 'transported' away with the ambience of the restaurant, but when you walk out the door, you're in a major metropolitan area. In Vegas, you can walk out the door after being wowed at dinner and see the Canals of Venice. Or the Fountains of Bellagio. Imho, it's one of the things that for me makes Vegas number one for food.

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I think Vegas has a great dining scene, there's great chefs with great restaurants and all in walking distance. One thing Vegas has that other places just cannot compete with, imho, is the ambience. The eye candy atmosphere that's everywhere. You can go to a restaurant like Alinea and be 'transported' away with the ambience of the restaurant, but when you walk out the door, you're in a major metropolitan area. In Vegas, you can walk out the door after being wowed at dinner and see the Canals of Venice. Or the Fountains of Bellagio. Imho, it's one of the things that for me makes Vegas number one for food.

The vibe of the strip certainly plays a part in creating an exciting atmosphere for people when they go out to dinner in Las Vegas.

But the chefs and their staffs have to absolutely back up what's on stage out front with what they produce behind the curtain-skilled craftsmanship in the kitchen delivering quality cuisine that meets the high expectations of their customers. (And the high prices they are paying).

I'm intrigued by this question of who is behind the truth of the great kitchens of Las Vegas. That's going to be the question I'll be exploring when I attend the events in May. My experiences so far have told me that their is a growing pool of talented people who are creating exciting cuisine in Las Vegas.

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Thanks for the suggestions to log onto the site.  Nothing is working.  I tried from a hotel computer last week..same thing.  Another internet mystery...LOL

Very odd. I can get to the Palazzo site with no problems at all. On the first try.

If it makes you feel better, there's not much info on the dining page--just a brief overview of each of the restaurants. I wonder how long Jay-Z's place will last. Is a sports bar really necessary in Vegas?

As for Jay-Z and his nightclub only time will tell. He apparently has had some public arguments with Cristal Champagne and their desire to be associated with other bars. I'm not the expert on the ins and out of that fight.

The Venetian is already home to TAO, which is one of the bigger and more popular clubs in Las Vegas right now, so I'm not so sure another club next door at The Palazzo will do well. I'm really not the expert on that because after a nice dinner at one of the better restaurants in town, I'm in bed long before most people enter those clubs-as in 1-2 a.m.

Nigh clubs can be a really, really fickle business. What is hot TODAY probably won't be for too long. Just look at how often they change over to something new.

Can 40-40 do well? I suppose. I mean, I'm sure it has a different feel/vibe to it than other clubs. Probably appeals to a slightly different demo. Personally, I actually want to check it out. It seems to be more than a typical Vegas night club. People love sports in Vegas (witness all the big sports books there)


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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This morning I checked the website for the events and the only dinner that is sold out so far is the "Masters' Series Dinner" hosted by Cat Cora at Mesa Grill on Thursday, May 8.

This year on Thursday I'm attending the Masters' Series Dinner at Bradley Ogden hosted by Alan Richman and Chefs Bradley and Bryan Ogden. I don't think we'll be disappointed-the menu is posted online and it sounds wonderful. The Fish Course is "Pan-Roasted Atlantic Halibut with Spring Garlic Ravioli, Sous Vide Porcini and Parsley Puree."

Last year I attended the Masters' Series dinner at Guy Savoy. It was quite the memorable evening and this year's dinner at Savoy will likely follow that precedent. The Fish Course at the Savoy dinner will be "Cote de Turbot, Asperge et Morilles."

February was the first month in a number of years where the major casino operators in Las Vegas saw a drop in gaming revenue. Following that news was a drop in the cost of hotel rooms to stimulate reservations. I recently booked a room at The Mirage for the incredibly low price of $135.00 a night, including Friday and Saturday nights. A year ago, the average traveller couldn't touch a room at The Mirage on a Saturday night for under $300.00.

So if you enjoy fine dining and the excitement of Las Vegas, you may want to check out the site for details-BAVEGASUNCORKED.COM

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We leave next Sunday for a short trip. First time to Vegas. If I am luck enough to get into a decent place I will add a post.

Cheers!


**************************************************

Ah, it's been way too long since I did a butt. - Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

--------------------

One summers evening drunk to hell, I sat there nearly lifeless…Warren

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We leave next Sunday for a short trip. First time to Vegas. If I am luck enough to get into a decent place I will add a post.

Cheers!

Good luck on your first trip to Las Vegas! Go ahead and post on the regular Dining in Las Vegas thread.

As for the Vegas Uncork'd conference in May, I'll be going to the Payard Patisserie on Thursday night. I wanted to check out the desserts, you know ...


Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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One week left before I leave on my trip to Vegas Uncork'd. I've put together what I think is an impressive list of dining experiences and I'm looking forward to sharing my reports with you:

-Tuesday, May 6, Dinner at Michael Mina at Bellagio. Chef Anthony Amoroso was in Seattle last week doing some press for Vegas Uncork'd. He prepared a delicious dish of Sous-vide Lobster with Curry on KONG-TV. I've put in my request to have his Lobster dish when I dine there, along with Chef Mina's signature "Caviar Parfait" appetizer.

-Wednesday, May 7, OPEN. No decisions yet, but I'm thinking about dinner at the counter at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the MGM.

-Thursday, May 8, Lunch at Louis's Southern style restaurant with friends.

-Thursday, May 9, "Master's Series" dinner at Bradlegy Ogden at Caesar's hosted by Chef Bradley Ogden and Alan Richman.

-Friday, May 9, "Editor's at Lunch" luncheon at Sensi at Bellagio hosted by Chef Martin Heirling and Alan Richman.

-Friday, May 9, the "Grand Tasting" event at the Forum Shops at Caesar's hosted by 52, yes over 50, of the finest restaurants and chefs in Las Vegas.

-Saturday, May 10, "Star Chef's Luncheon" at Daniel Boulud Brasserie at Wynn hosted by Chef Boulud and Bon Appetit Editor Barbara Fairchild.

-Saturday, May 11, dinner at the "A Tale of Five Chefs Gala" at Bellagio hosted by Julian Serrano, Todd English, Michael Mina, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Jean-Phillipe Maury.

-Sunday, May 12, dinner at CUT at The Palazzo with friends.

I'll be sharing lots of photos with you and speaking about the creative cooking going on in the kitchens in Las Vegas.

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I arrived in Las Vegas yesterday and will be doing full reports with photos after I get through the whirlwind of dining that will be taking place this week.

But just to tease you a bit, last night I had the pleasure of dining with John Curtas, KNPR-James Beard Society-KLAS, and Alexandra at "Michael Mina" at Bellagio.

Chef Anthony Amoroso crafted a menu of seven wonderful courses and appropriate wines just for our party.

Even though it was a Tuesday night, the dining room was full, partly because of the 100,000 attendees at the "Hardware Trade Show." Most tables were ordering Chef Mina's signature "Lobster Pot Pie" and "Caviar Parfait." Tried and true dishes to be sure, but being the adventurous souls we are, John and I challenged Anthony to show us his stuff-and did he ever.

Aside from being in Las Vegas this week for the Uncork'd Events, my intent in starting this topic was to answer the question of what the "truth" is behind the facade of dining in Las Vegas--and to hopefully uncover some of the unknown, talented chefs in the cities top kitchens. Last night Chef Amoroso favorably answered the question.

Tonight is dinner at L'Atelier at the MGM--life is good in Las Vegas this week.

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