There’s so much high-profile chefery going on in Vegas, increasingly by celebrity chefs who actually live here—at least most of the time—well, it only stands to reason that they have to eat out themselves sometimes, right? As in any food-centric city with a lot of great restaurants in close proximity to each other, Vegas chefs have their own post-service food crawls and day-off comfort food rituals. But often, when they go to eat out at a colleague’s restaurant, Daniel Boulud confided once, they don’t even open the menu. “It is a real fraternal relationship,” he has said. “Every chef wants to cook for you.” As well as frequenting their high-profile friends’ eateries, chefs here are known to indulge at some unusual, out-of-the-way spots, too (don’t be frightened—if chefs flock to a certain little hole in the wall, it must be good). Some of their favorite haunts are on this list.
Chef Mitsuo Endo’s Raku—a Japanese-style grill specializing in robata and oden cooking (and nominated for a number of James Beard awards)—is the nearly universal chef favorite for after-service dining. Guy Savoy describes it as Japanese with a “world view,” and loves the fact that it’s open until 3 a.m. Batali loves all the robata dishes there, as well as the Kobe beef-liver sashimi. Get the full Raku experience by calling ahead three days to reserve Chef Endo’s 10- or 15-course kaiseki tasting menu. Otherwise,opt for incredibly fresh sashimi, or the crab and foie-gras egg custard, cooked and served inside the egg.
Kerry Simon has been known as “The Rock ‘n Roll Chef” ever since Rolling Stone first made the pronouncement years ago, and his new Carson Kitchen in Downtown is bringing in everyone, from his rock-star buddies to other curious chefs. You’ll wait for a seat (reservations are taken only for parties of six or more in the cozy, 60-seat room), but it’s well worth standing on line for Simon’s serious comfort food—like crispy fried chicken skins with smoked honey; veal meatballs in silky foie-gras sherry cream; and a rabbit ragu over peppery spaghetti squash (nothing costs more than $20).
Chef Scott Conant somehow finds time to run his flagship Scarpetta restaurant in New York, plus in multiple venues in other North American cities (including his Vegas outpost of Scarpetta) in between hosting episodes of Chopped and writing best-selling cookbooks. Because he’s an avowed fan of Tokyo-style sushi, he can also be found—in his few free moments—at Kabuto, a tiny place improbably set in the Spring Mountain Road strip mall (a spot that also houses Aburiya Raku, Monta Ramen, Big Wong and Trattoria Nakamura-Ya—all of which have chef followings, too). Chef Gen Mizoguchi wants to be very clear that his Edomae-style sushi (or sushi that’s prepared right in front of you) does not include maki or pressed sushi. Here, it’s all about the fish—and both Mizoguchi and Conant are purists.
Restaurant Guy Savoy is a hushed jewel box of a room filled with very serious gourmands—and Daniel Boulud will confide that though it’s hard choosing favorites, he’s especially attached to his close friend’s cuisine, particularly the iconic artichoke-and-black-truffle soup. The best seats in the house are the six at the chef’s table in the kitchen (we guess this is where Boulud sits when he visits). The 14-course tasting menu uniquely created by the executive chef depends on the freshest offerings from the day’s market deliveries.
Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare
In a single week at the Wynn Las Vegas’s Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, chef Paul Bartolotta receives more than a ton of superbly fresh Mediterranean seafood—including langoustines, cuttlefish, and prehistoric-looking slipper lobster. The theatrical dining room, with its flying fish chandelier, is maximalist, but the best dishes are the minimalist ones, like fish simply grilled with olive oil, lemon, and parsley. Chef Mario Batali, who has four restaurants in the Venetian and Palazzo, craves the scampi crudi and the entire antipasti menu, and loves that “Paul’s cooking is simple, clean, confident Italian magnificence at the top of the field internationally.”