This tip originally appeared in the Sept. 30, 2018, issue of Wine Spectator, "The New Las Vegas." For more on the Las Vegas dining scene and recommendations for 10 dinner hot spots, pick up your copy, on newsstands now!
Lunch was long a weak spot in Las Vegas dining, limited largely to buffets, coffee shops and pubs. But that is changing, and today the options for fine food at midday (and late night) are rapidly expanding. The restaurants on the following list do dinner as well, but their style makes them particularly adept at lunch, and several, open past 10 p.m., welcome nighthawks.
Venezuela-born chef Lorena Garcia, known to TV viewers for appearances on Top Chef Masters and on the Spanish-language network Telemundo, riffs on Latin American classics at this brand-new addition to the scene, a partnership with the Miami-based group 50 Eggs.
The drawing card is Meyer lemon rotisserie chicken, spinning slowly in the divider between the kitchen and dining room. Also impressive are ceviches, tacos, grilled corn and chicharrónes. A spacious cocktail bar and separate raw bar (shucking oysters and making ceviches) add interest to the scene.
The 170-selection wine list includes an array of options from Spain, Argentina and Chile. By the glass, Vaglio Malbec Mendoza Aggie 2015 ($14) lifted grilled octopus with aji amarillo sauce and blistered shishito peppers; tuna ceviche with apple-infused leche de tigre; chicken skins with a chile-lime crema; and tacos made from that rotisserie chicken and chimichurri sauce.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Telephone (702) 698-7930
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
A dramatic display of whole fish and brightly colored crustaceans gleams from a bed of ice in this outpost of the elegant Toronto- and New York-based Greek fish house. When it first opened in 2010, in the midst of the recession, Milos delighted diners with a three-course lunch that included a small whole grilled branzino for $20.11. The lunch now costs $29, but it's still one of Las Vegas' great dining bargains.
The first-course options include a platter of taramasalata, feta dip and tzatziki served with toasted pita and raw vegetables, and salmon tartare with Fresno chiles, shallot and cilantro. Among mains, the grilled fish, frequently sea bream these days, is reliably delicious, and don't miss the decadently creamy yogurt for dessert.
The 200 bottles on the Greece-centered list offer discoveries such as Ktima Gerovassiliou Epanomi White 2016 ($72), a blend of two indigenous grape varieties; silky, a bit fatter than Assyrtiko alone, it's also more floral, with tropical fruit notes against earthy tones.
Flock & Fowl
150 N. Las Vegas Blvd., 100
Telephone (702) 272-2222
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
A Las Vegas veteran, chef Sheridan Su worked on the opening team at Joël Robuchon (2006) and as executive chef at Comme Ça. He has impressed with several Chinese-inspired projects, including Flock & Fowl. This started as a tiny spot, mostly takeout, in a dreary strip mall. Last year, it blossomed into a bigger restaurant downtown that takes reservations.
Flock & Fowl focuses on Hainanese chicken rice. Finished with chicken fat instead of oil, the rice accompanies silky, juicy poached chicken along with an array of housemade condiments, including an intense bone broth. You'll also find creative dishes such as kaya toast: a brioche slice layered with Southeast Asian coconut, egg jam and housemade sweet soy sauce—an explosion of umami flavors. The wings have a nice kick too.
Su has not yet built up a deep wine list, but current choices include Don Olegario Albariño Rias Biaxas 2015 ($10 a glass), Finca Decero Cabernet Sauvignon Agrelo Remolinos Vineyard 2012 ($45 a bottle) and Cohn Red Blend California Smoke & Mirrors 2012 ($80), and the bar offers inventive, finely executed cocktails.
In 1993, Jaleo was chef José Andrés' first venture in Washington, D.C. It was also the first of his five Las Vegas restaurants when the Cosmopolitan opened in 2010. The aroma of paella cooking over open fire wafts past the restaurant's frontage into a common area, drawing diners past five other tempting restaurants arranged around the central space.
Jaleo, great at dinner, is also one of Las Vegas' best choices at midday—it's less crowded then, and the "Eat Lunch Like a Spaniard" menu offers a satisfying selection of mouthwatering tapas, including four to six options in three different categories. Highlights on a recent visit included endive leaves topped with goat cheese, orange sections and almonds; a sensational salad of apple slices, shaved fennel, toasted walnuts and Manchego cheese; croquetas de pollo (meatier than the creamy ones at Bazaar Meat); and a drool-worthy Iberico pork slider that also adds bacon from the breed.
Enjoy the showmanship of cooks tending the fire to make paella in manhole cover-sized pans while finishing your meal with a perfect flan, garnished with orange slices. We washed it all down with glasses of Bodegas Ontañon Rioja Reserva 2005 ($20).
Lago by Julian Serrano
Picasso, Julian Serrano's glorious French-Spanish Wine Spectator Grand Award winner, is an established star at Bellagio, having drawn acclaim since its opening in 1998. His Lago, opened in 2015, does Italian dining proud in an upstairs space overlooking the resort's famous dancing fountains.
The striking design evokes modern Italy—bright, with lots of blues in the decor that are carried over into the uniforms of the serving staff. The lagoon and fountains are reflected in mirrored arches in the windows, with an occasional duck paddling through the image.
A passion fruit mojito, with a little dried pineapple cone filled with passion fruit pearls as garnish, is a winning cocktail. Or opt for a glass or two of Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta NV ($24) or Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne NV ($28) to sip with shrimp mascarpone ravioli with fresh tomatoes or a small pizza with prosciutto and figs, both dishes from the mostly small-plates menu. The kitchen also produces a stellar branzino, roasted crisp, juicy and sweet, with olives, tomatoes, roasted asparagus and capers.
The 670-wine selection hits a wide range of Italian wines, including rarities such as Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 1979 and 1995 ($671 and $413, respectively) and classics such as older Gaja Barbaresco and Valdicana Brunello. Those who prefer Bordeaux and Burgundy can find fine older vintages. The California pages read like a who's who—just the thing for meat dishes such as short ribs or steak.
Momofuku Las Vegas
Chef David Chang treads lightly with Korean flavors in his restaurant group's first foray into Las Vegas. There's a touch of kimchi on an apple salad, while sensational rotisserie duck is served ssäm-style, with ginger scallion rice and Bibb lettuce leaves to fashion into wraps.
The dining room rambles over several thousand square feet, with high ceilings and picture windows framing a view over Las Vegas Boulevard South, a bright and casual setting for lunch. The pear and burrata salad features large cubes of the fruit over the cheese, spread on a plate, with grated black truffle and hazelnuts sprinkled over greens tossed with tangy dressing. At dinner, the rotisserie duck is part of a more extensive menu, enough to serve three or four, at prices north of $200. At lunch, the ssäm-style duck serves two people nicely for less than $50.
The wine list leans to trendy producers and regions. Le Petit Saint Vincent Saumur Les Clos Lyzières 2015, a jazzy Cab Franc, hit the spot with a range of dishes ($80). Top Bordeaux and Screaming Eagle are also on offer.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
This creative take on Southern cooking, from the same Miami-based 50 Eggs group as Chica (reviewed above), has injected a lively vibe into restaurant row off the Venetian's casino floor. Easy chairs and low tables create an inviting atmosphere in the bar, and several levels of seating add interest to the dining room.
The fried chicken, juicy inside, spicy and crunchy on the surface, is appealing by itself, but you can also get it atop a deep-pocketed waffle. The 155-selection wine list offers plenty of options. From the by-the-glass list, both Vietti Barbera d'Alba Tre Vigne 2014 ($14) and Qupé Chardonnay Y Block 2015 ($15) from Santa Maria Valley performed admirably with the chicken; a refreshing appetizer of warm farmer cheese cubes and watermelon cubes; an inventive salad of butter lettuce with grilled mango and smoked pecans; and crisp Brussels sprouts drizzled with spiced honey. Desserts are big enough to share three or four ways.