Whether you’re a seasoned Vegas veteran who’s been to all the hot spots, or planning your first visit to the storied Strip, one thing is certain, you want your nights to be unforgettable. For a truly memorable evening, make fine dining a part of your plan. Over the past few years, all the new restaurants have focused on celebrity chef names (and make no mistake, you can still dine well here with Mario, Wolfgang, Emeril, and Gordon), but the latest trend is more than star sighting, it’s about presenting a total experience. These four new restaurants, while all attached to famous names, go beyond the obvious to envelop you in an evening of fine dining you will feel is worthy of the phrase “only in Vegas.”
When it was first announced that Chef Michael Mina was doing a classic French brasserie, there wasn’t really a great cry of excitement. After all, Vegas already had many French restaurants from some of the best chefs in the world: Robuchon, Savoy, Boulud, Keller, and more. But nothing quite prepares you for Bardot Brasserie, a dramatic reimagination of an 1890s Parisian haunt, down to the brass fixtures and imperfect window panes. Cocktails here are steam punk-sophisticated and the food cries opulence with every bite. Escargot Bardot, in puff pastry with hazelnuts, is virtually a must, then there’s onion soup enriched with oxtail and an egg, and a chicken roti cooked to crispy-juicy perfection as only the French attain. The roaming champagne cart will ensure your meal becomes a celebration.
Across the “street” from Bardot (okay, hallway) in the ARIA Resort, you’ll arrive in a Hollywood fantasy of a late 1940s-ish New York Italian restaurant—and not the red checkered tablecloth type of place found in Lady and the Tramp. This is a spot for the hoi palloi and reet petite as they used to call the classy types back in the day (the pasta is even called macaroni). Adapted from a smaller New York original, Carbone embodies two rooms, one seemingly more casual only because the next is so over-the-top lavish from its massive crystal chandelier to semi-circular show tables and “captains” in designer duds. Food here is essentially New York Italian, but with wide brushstrokes of originality and ingredient quality above what you’ve probably ever experienced: spaghetti tossed with uni, three kinds of baked clams, and a veal parmigiana that could feed a family of four. But beyond all that is the fawning service with a focus on tableside flamboyance, from carving hunks of cheese and tossing Caesar salad to filleting whole fish and offering a dessert cart. If there’s a big way to do anything, Carbone is doing it.
At ARIA’s sister resort Bellagio, you’ll find Lago, another restaurant serving Italian food from an entirely different perspective, but with equal attention to detail. With its design taking full advantage of the fountain views, you’ll find yourself facing outward in this bright, exceedingly modern spot screaming fashionista. Here, Chef Julian Serrano’s plates are small and varied although the fusillioro pasta with lamb ragu and whipped ricotta may still stop you in your tracks, among the many rich dishes from land and sea. This is a place where you’ll want to relax and enjoy yourself as the Romans do.
If view is your objective, it will be hard to improve on the one from Rivea and conjoined lounge Skyfall, atop the Delano tower that is part of Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. French legend Alain Ducasse updated his previous fine dining restaurant in this space in order to align it with a sister spot in St. Tropez (and another in London). This restaurant takes advantage of the outdoor balconies with wow-factor views straight up the Strip. The spirit here is again distinctly modern, but with a certain regard to service none the less. Combining influences of Southern France and Northern Italy, Rivea offers vegetable inspirations like eggplant caviar and Ducasse’s famed cookpot of farmer vegetables alongside striped bass carpaccio, roasted duck breast, and other unexpected flavors. Lemon dominates the desserts, refreshing like an ocean breeze, even at 60+ floors above the desert.