Las Vegas: Celebrity Chefs Turn Up the Heat

061115_JoelRobuchonVEGAS.jpgThe Las Vegas Strip, once a desert of $5.99 prime-rib buffets, has in recent years transformed itself into a culinary oasis as celebrity chefs have sought to grow their own fortunes by expanding here. Whether it’s a burger joint or a temple of haute cuisine, opening a Las Vegas eatery is practically a sure bet.

The city’s restaurant scene already boasts outposts from the likes of Guy Savoy, Tom Colicchio, Wolfgang Puck, and Bobby Flay, and there’s no end in sight to the high-caliber chefs lining up to play. This translates into a culinary jackpot for customers: Whether celebrating a big win or drowning your sorrows, Las Vegas’ latest crop of new restaurants offers something for everyone — and every budget.

Joël Robuchon at the Mansion

Chefs, journalists, and gastronomes from around the world are making pilgrimages to Joël Robuchon at the Mansion, which some argue is the best restaurant in the country. The restaurant is an elegant art-deco oasis off the casino floor, the perfect setting to indulge in Robuchon’s seasonal 16-course tasting menu. In Robuchon’s hands, even humble ingredients like potato and cauliflower attain an elevated status. Indeed, Robuchon is famous for his purée de pomme de terre, or mashed potatoes, and his crème de chou-fleur, or cauliflower crème with caviar. Joël Robuchon at the Mansion, MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South. 702/891-7925. Reservations essential. Dinner only. $$$$ (photo, top)

Rao’s

For 20 years, Manhattan restaurant Rao’s has operated with a selective reservations policy that made it one of the toughest tables to get in all of Gotham. But the wait will soon be over — or at least shorter — for would-be fans of the Pellegrino family’s famed Italian eatery. In mid-December Rao’s opens in Caesars Palace. Frank Pellegrino Jr. will be at the door dispensing old-school hospitality, while his wife, chef Carla Pellegrino, serves up family recipes like Uncle Vincent’s lemon chicken, pasta and meatballs, and New York Cheesecake. 061115_Social_House_Courtesy_AvroKO.jpgThey’ve designed the restaurant as a series of small connecting dining rooms to replicate the cozy feel of the 10-table original. The outdoor Bocce ball court is a Vegas addition. Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South. 702/731-7267. Reservations recommended. Dinner only. $$$$

Social House

New York City’s design firm-cum-restaurant group AvroKO has joined forces with the Las Vegas nightclub group PURE to open Social House in Treasure Island. Perched high atop the Tangerine Lounge, this pan-Asian play land features a sushi bar, dining room, and outdoor terrace. For late-night lounging, dining tables become lounge tables by way of an internal hydraulic system for height adjustment. The modern space is decked out in steel, stone, and wood, with Asian accents throughout. Late-night dining is available until 4 a.m. Treasure Island, 3300 South Las Vegas Boulevard. 712/894-7223. Dinner only. Late-night dining Tuesday-Saturday. $$$ (photo, right)

Tides Oyster Bar, Turf Grill

Ten minutes away from the insanity of the Strip is the Green Valley Ranch, which started a major renovation in October to make room for more gaming and restaurants. The first two to open are something of a surf and turf combo: Tides Oyster Bar and the Turf Grill. The former features New Orleans cuisine with favorites like étouffée and po’ boys, made with seafood flown in fresh three times a week. The latter is an all-American coffee shop with steak-and-eggs, hot dogs, and pie à la mode. Green Valley Ranch Resort, 2300 Paseo Verde Parkway, Henderson. 702/617-7777. Both open daily for lunch and dinner. $-$$

StripSteak

Chef Michael Mina, who earned his celebrity chef status cooking seafood at San Francisco’s Aqua, opened his first steak house, StripSteak, in October. 061115_StripSteakF.jpgAs luck would have it, Mina is well-acquainted with beef from a stint in a meat-packing plant as a youth. The restaurant serves only Certified Angus and American Kobe, slow poached and wood-fire grilled. While the wine list boasts more than 600 selections, cocktail connoisseurs will want to check out the list of single-malt scotches. StripSteak, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, 2950 Las Vegas Boulevard South. 702/632-7414. Reservations recommended. Dinner only. $$$$ (photo, right)

Jennifer Leuzzi

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