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Viva Las Vegas

By Andy Hayler

Las VegasThe bright lights of Las Vegas are reflected in the culinary stars that have set up outposts there.

Here you will find restaurants from celebrity chefs in America as well as some of the most famous cooks in Europe, all keen to cash in on the success of America’s sin city. Las Vegas is now the third busiest US destination for conferences, not bad for what was a quiet spot in the desert until the 1930s. However, with so much of the restaurant eating population being made up of visitors rather than residents, there is an inevitable temptation for restaurants to make a quick buck, safe in the knowledge that few diners will actually return, and knowing that many are claiming on business expenses.

So, how do you navigate away from the tourist traps? To begin with, there are a couple of interesting places well off “The Strip”, that cater more to locals and people really into their food or wine. One of these is Aburiya Raku, a Japanese restaurant specialising in grilled food, with plenty of skill in evidence in the cooking at its charcoal grill. Despite its off-beat location, this is a restaurant popular with Japanese residents and local chefs, so booking is essential.

If you enjoy wine then you will love the list at Lotus of Siam, a Thai restaurant that is in a distinctly down-market locale. The food itself is good rather than spectacular, but the 600 label wine list would shame many high-end restaurants, In particular there is a strikingly good selection of German Rieslings, page upon page of this currently unfashionable but superb (and great value) wine.

If you want to stick to the big names, then Joel Robuchon’s restaurant at the MGM Grand serves high quality food, albeit at a price to match Mr Robuchon’s stellar reputation. Some dishes here approach the level of the best restaurants in France, such as a luxurious dish of potato salad with white truffle and foie gras. The pastry section of the kitchen is capable of some very fine dishes, such as delicate macaroons and magnificent mignardises.

Another successful offshoot of France is that of Guy Savoy at Caesar’s Palace. Here the best ingredients from the US, and some from France itself, are airlifted in to provide the kitchens with the material to reproduce a top Parisian dining experience. Impressive trolleys groaning with bread and desserts are wheeled around the large dining room, the dishes featuring plenty of luxury ingredients. Fish such as red mullet and turbot is actually flown in fresh from France via New York.

If you prefer to sample the offerings of American rather than European chefs then a good example is Sage, an offshoot of Chicago restaurateur Shawn McClain.  This large restaurant, on the ground floor of the Aria hotel, is reasonably informal, with a large bar area as well as the main dining room. Its modern American dishes are carefully made, such as precisely seasoned wagyu beef tartare. Some ingredients are airlifted in, such as scallops that caught by fishing boats in Maine.

There is no shortage of restaurants with an eye on a fast profit rather than quality in Las Vegas, but if you choose carefully then you can enjoy the best of the famous chef venues. If you are prepared venture off The Strip then you can also find a few good value, interesting restaurants aimed more at the locals than tourists. There is no need to gamble when it comes to dining in Las Vegas.

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