One thing is virtually guaranteed in Vegas: there will always be new restaurant openings. This is a city with diversity in cuisine and atmosphere—if you want it, you can find it in Vegas. However, the shelf life of a restaurant, particularly in a casino hotel, is short; both Bouchon and TAO in the Venetian hit a decade of service in 2014, putting them in the pantheon of “classic” Las Vegas restaurants. But while restaurants will always be shuttering and making themselves over in existing spaces, this year’s opening of SLS in the former Sahara gave the city some entirely new-to-Vegas experiences. Plus, a former flophouse turned collective in Downtown has one of the most exciting new restaurants; Chicago’s “mayor of Chinatown” moved into the Palms, and Vegas welcomed back Daniel Boulud after a four-year absence from Las Vegas. Here are some of the most exciting developments in the city this year.
Lao Sze Chuan
Chicago’s “Mayor of Chinatown,” Tony Hu oversees nearly 20 restaurants in Chicago, and although Vegas itself has a sizeable Chinatown along Spring Mountain Road, he felt there was a void to fill. The soaring ceilings and deep reds and golds of his much-awaited Lao Sze Chuan make it more opulent than Spring Mountain restaurants, and the deeply soulful food is certainly less expected than that of most Chinese restaurants on the Strip. Look for dishes like spicy Szechuan rabbit, tea-smoked duck, and Hu’s signature dry chili chicken.
Daniel Boulud’s new classic, upscale brasserie in the Venetian uses ingenious design moves to make the subterranean space (formerly the dark and dated Valentino restaurant) seem skylit. His cuisine bridges his more casual DBGB Kitchen + Bar and Restaurant Daniel. My favorites: the giant scallops on sweet corn fritter, with shiitake mushroom; a sparklingly light King crab timbale with summer melons, jicama, black garlic and yuzu; and his unctuous “Frenchie” burger: beef with Morbier cheese, confit pork belly, and onion compote.
Spanish superchef José Andrés is no stranger to the Strip, with Jaleo and the notoriously difficult-to-obtain table at é by José Andrés in the Cosmopolitan as well as delightful nearby China Poblano. But he’s a bottomless pit of delightfully creative ideas, and at his new place, Bazaar Meat in SLS he deconstructs the Vegas steakhouse slicers for Iberico and flaming grills front and central. Shareable plates are the way to start, like pork skin chicharrones with Greek yogurt and bison carpaccio tacos, as well as a stunning tableside beef tartare. If it’s the way of a whole suckling pig you’re going for, you’ll find that, too, as well as the weird-but-wonderful foie gras cotton candy.
The Light Group’s executive chef Brian Massie is known for his easy-to-love and accessible restaurants like Stack in the Mirage and Fix in Bellagio – serving adult comfort food. Hearthstone is his first off-Strip venture, all the way west in Red Rock Resort, and its seasonal dishes, wood burning oven, abundance of shared plates, and big outdoor patio with a great view of Red Rock (the mountains), speak more to the neighborhood’s sophistication as a dining destination all its own. Look for wood-roasted clams and beautiful salads (like a harvest quinoa salad, with chickpeas, apple, Gouda and pumpkin seeds), and wood-fired flatbreads, all of which play well with a well-sourced and accessible wine list. Take your plate of chorizo-stuffed dates outdoors to watch the sun set by the heat of the blazing fire pit.
Sit on the massive butcher-block bar that separates just a few lucky diners from the open kitchen in this cozy room and sample everything from addictively crispy fried chicken skins with smoked honey to truffled mac and cheese to smoky-sweet bacon jam. Kerry Simon, nicknamed the “Rock ‘n Roll Chef” by Rolling Stone years ago, could have opened another celeb-studded room, such as his ventures at the Palms and Hard Rock Hotel, but he chose to go small – in a 60-seat restaurant with a 40-foot rooftop patio in a recently renovated flophouse. No matter the location, the rock stars and celeb will come – the food is that good. Don’t miss the glazed donut bread pudding, made from day-old donuts from next door’s O Face Doughnuts, soaked in three-run caramel and vanilla-crème anglaise.