Luxury dining on the Las Vegas Strip
Words by leading travel and food writer Sally Meeson
It’s sunset in Las Vegas and I’m 45 stories above the famous Strip watching the Nevada mountains burning orange beyond. The occasional helicopter passes me at eye level as I prepare to dine on the balcony of Rivea restaurant on top of the luxury Delano hotel. Lights start to twinkle on Vegas landmarks below me as the sommelier pours me a glass of celebrated chef Alain Ducasse’s champagne. He points out that it’s so exclusive it’s only available in Ducasse’s restaurants, which include his residency in London’s The Dorchester and the Michelin starred Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower. And as I tuck into a delicious lobster risotto from his French and Italian Riviera inspired menu I realise Vegas is the place to come for a truly decadent dining experience.
The name Las Vegas conjures up many vivid images but until the last decade luxury dining might not have been one of them. However with the emergence of boutique hotels and a string of celebrity chef concept restaurants, Vegas is fast becoming the culinary capital of the US. Food and entertainment now make up 70 per cent of the city’s revenue, overtaking gambling for the first time. And as with everything else in this magical wonderland there are culinary experiences designed to surprise, amaze and even entertain.
Wander past the Strip’s famous dancing fountains and head for Harvest restaurant at the Bellagio Hotel. Its wood panelled walls, hand-blown light fixtures and transparent ‘exhibition kitchen’ give a feel of relaxed sophistication from the off. Resident chef Roy Ellamar offers a superb menu of ‘farm-to-table’ grass-fed meats and sustainable seafood. But for a more intimate experience he’ll even wheel his work station (lovingly described as ‘The Snack Wagon’) to your table and create it before your eyes, all while describing the ingredients and his process. And once a month a celebrity guest chef offers a similar service to give your dinner an extra sparkle in true Vegas style. Everyone visiting Vegas wants to be treated like a VIP which is why its chefs are constantly coming up with innovative ways to give their meals an exclusive twist.
For even greater access to Vegas’ stars, including Gordon Ramsay, Nobu Matsuhisa, Giada De Laurentiis and Guy Savoy, visit Vegas at the end of April for the spectacular food and wine festival ‘Uncork’d’. Organised by Bon Appétit food magazine, it’s a one of a kind opportunity to meet the chefs at their restaurants and sample some of their signature luxury dishes. From watching Nobu prepare black cod while enjoying premier sake to being served by Gordon and his latest Hell’s Kitchen team, the event combines top quality food with true Vegas extravagance. During my recent visit we were also given the opportunity to dine al fresco at a lavish ‘Picnic in the Park’ in a new eight-acre, outdoor entertainment space. On arrival we were greeted by dining tables and food stands adorned with exquisite floral displays along with sculptures, fountains and live jazz music. And after collecting a selection of foods from chefs including Charlie Palmer and Tom Colicchio it was off to the Veuve Clicquot enclosure to relax in the sunshine. With free flowing champagne, white chaise longues and even a croquet lawn it was a touch of elegance to top off a beautiful afternoon. Then as night fell we were whisked off to an evening of sweet treats at a lavish pool party at the Palazzo Hotel. After walking down a doughnut-lined red carpet we sampled beignets, bonbons and cocktails arranged by US TV personality and baker Buddy Valastro. And when we could eat no more it was time to dance the night away to the strings of classical pop band Simply Three who performed from a stage above the pool.
Choose a luxury hotel for your stay and you’ll find world famous eateries and amazing cocktail bars all under the same roof. With fourteen restaurants to choose from The Cosmopolitan is a great choice. Request a suite with a view of the Strip (it’s the only hotel in Vegas with outdoor balconies) then enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail overlooking the bright lights of the city and desert beyond. Then head to the popular Momofuku restaurant for its innovative range of steamed buns, noodles, meat and seafood. Their oysters broiled with kimchi, spinach and bacon are a great choice to start with. The hotel’s also recently opened a Zuma, the award winning Japanese restaurant regularly described as rivalling Nobu. Feel like a Hollywood superstar as you round off your night by walking down a huge spiral staircase lined with hanging crystals into the hotel’s impressive Chandelier Bar. My favourite cocktail here is ‘The Fire Breathing Dragon’. A mix of Bacardi Dragon Berry, raspberry puree, lemongrass and Thai chilli syrups, it arrives in an elegant Martini glass with a shot of frozen raspberries to the side. Sip your drink, down the fruit, then marvel as you actually begin to breathe puffs of smoke. Proof that even when you do Vegas in luxury, almost everything you encounter is about putting on a show!