In the past decade, celebrity chefs have come to understand that you’re not worth your— ahem—salt unless you have a presence in Las Vegas. Vegas is a small town, with only a four-mile stretch along which most restaurants are clustered, so dining along the Strip almost inevitably means bumping into a star chef, either cooking or dining in a celeb crony’s restaurant (you can also spot them after hours, at haunts like Mitsuo Endo’s Aburiya Raku on Spring Mountain Road, which stays open until 3 a.m. to accommodate them). More and more are moving in, too: Chicago’s “Mayor of Chinatown” Tony Hu just opened the spectacular Lao Sze Chuan in the Palms; Mr. Chow is set to open in early 2015 in Caesars Palace; Giada DiLaurentiis wanders the floor nearly nightly at her place in the Cromwell besieged by fans/stalkers from Food Network; and it is absolutely true that there is a line that snakes through the Venetian every morning at least an hour before “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro’s Carlo’s Bakery opens. While a list of all celebrity chef venues in Las Vegas would be exhaustive, here are some of the best.
Bazaar Meat by José Andrés
Spanish superchef José Andrés is no stranger to the Strip; he runs Jaleo and the notoriously difficult-to-obtain table at é by José Andrés in the Cosmopolitan, as well as delightful nearby China Poblano. But since he’s a bottomless pit of creative culinary ideas, he recently opened a new place, Bazaar Meat in the SLS. Shareable plates here are the way to start; try the pork-skin chicharrones with Greek yogurt, bison carpaccio tacos, and a stunning beef tartare prepared tableside. If the whole suckling pig is more to your taste, you’ll find that, too—as well as the weird-but-wonderful foie-gras cotton candy.
When Daniel Boulud shuttered Daniel Boulud Brasserie at Wynn in 2010, it left a gaping hole in the Vegas dining scene. But the chef is back and better than ever, having revamped the former Valentino space at the Venetian on his own terms. It’s a classic, upscale brasserie, with smart design that makse the subterranean space seem skylit. His cuisine here is bridges his more casual DBGB Kitchen + Bar and more formal Restaurant Daniel. My favorites: the giant scallop served on a 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.
Joel Robüchon at the Mansion
There are diners who make solo pilgrimages to this temple of gastronomy at the Mansion at MGM Grand simply to indulge in the 16-course degustation menu. If this is your plan, a warning: do not schedule anything else for that night. (I once enjoyed this very dinner with a dining companion who so overindulged she fell asleep in the banquette opposite me.) And avoid snacking beforehand, because those courses are bookended by one of the world’s supreme bread carts and one of the its most delightful mignardise carts. Between them, you’ll enjoy perfectly executed dishes like truffle langoustine ravioli, Robüchon’s legendary mashed potatoes, green-pea cream with fresh mint and bacon, and a transcendent roasted duck with foie gras and cherries.
Yes, Guy Savoy attracts serious gourmands, but in 2012, the three-Michelin-starred chef created a more playful menu than his traditional, nine-course “Prestige,” loading the new 13-course “Innovation” with fanciful creations like spot prawns in a “sweet and sour fishnet” of mesh-cut daikon radishes. The classics, like his famous truffle-artichoke soup and guinea fowl—are still here, however. The best seat in the house is set in the exquisite restaurant kitchen for up to six guests. Little-known fact: You can actually book a cooking lesson with the executive chef (call the restaurant for details).
Thomas Keller, who for years was treated like a unicorn because it was so very impossible to get into his French Laundry in Yountville, became a little more accessible after he opened Per Se in New York City, and then Bouchon Bistro in the Venetian. This restaurant is scaled to Vegas proportions, but still captures the charm of a traditional bistro: antique sconces, a Paulin Paris mural, and a pewter bar with towers of fruits de mer. Want to get transported to Provence? Sit just outside the Palladian windows in the courtyard and forget you are in the desert southwest. Now a Vegas institution, Bouchon Bistro celebrated a decade in Vegas this year.