The Best of CityCenter

Our critic narrows down the extensive list of great eats to five favorites

With 17 full-fledged restaurants and a sprinkling of other venues for noshing and nibbling (such as Jean Philippe Patisserie or Skybar for burgers and sandwiches), CityCenter positively breaks the mold for the Las Vegas dining scene.

Most casinos rely on a formula that includes a steak house, an Italian restaurant, a Chinese restaurant and a buffet, and then riff from there. CityCenter brings us central Asian, Thai, Spanish, an English carvery (at the complex’s newest restaurant, Todd English P.U.B. at Crystals) and several other groundbreaking concepts.

As if this multibillion-dollar make-or-break project weren’t enough of a gamble.

I’ve eaten at all but one of the 17 venues and most are very good. But since there isn’t space enough to describe all of them, I’ve selected my five favorites—each of which has a different style of cooking and offers a good bang for the buck.

Silk Road. The stunning design is from Karim Rashid, who did the sofas, the infinity sculpture and the gilded walls, in collaboration with the chef, Martin Heierling. A central-Asian-tinged menu is as exotic as the Strip can handle, but sparse traffic recently forced them to close for dinner. Turkish eggs star at breakfast, and the kataifi-wrapped shrimp and terrific kofte meatballs from the lunch menu dazzle even a jaded palate. In Vdara, 590-7111. Breakfast 7-11:30 a.m.; lunch 11:30-2 p.m.

MOzen Bistro. Food at the city’s most eclectic restaurant includes sushi made to order by master chef Shawn Armstrong, Chinese congee, Indian-style tandoori meats served on a grand platter, and more familiar fare, such as one of the best club sandwiches in the city and wonderful roast chicken. In between lunch and dinner, the restaurant stays open for light snacks. The coffee, free newspapers and good service make breakfast here a treat, too. In Mandarin Oriental, 590-8882. Breakfast 6:30-11 a.m.; lunch 11:45 a.m.-2 p.m.; light fare 2-6 p.m.; dinner 6-10:30 p.m.

Twist. Paris superstar chef Pierre Gagnaire’s 23rd-floor aerie resembles a quiet hotel dining room at an exclusive City of Light hotel—with food to match. His cooking here, at this exclusive City of Lights hotel, is relentlessly creative, with combinations few of us could ever imagine. Langoustine Five Ways is a signature dish. Prices are more than reasonable for such high-class cuisine. Whether ordering a la carte or one of the pricier tasting menus, all the bells and whistles are included, such as an array of glorious amuse bouches and wonderful petit fours for dessert. In Mandarin Oriental, 590-8882. Dinner 6-10 p.m. Tues.-Sat.

Julian Serrano. The French-trained chef is known here for his work at Picasso in Bellagio, but his first love is the cuisine of his native country, Spain. At his eponymous restaurant, by two of the hotel’s most exclusive restaurants (Sage and Bar Masa), you can eat tapas such as jamón Ibericó, the world’s most expensive ham, chicken croquetas and peppers with Manchego cheese. For a big splurge, have the city’s best paella, a rice dish cooked in an iron pan with meat or seafood. In Aria, 590-7111. Lunch 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; dinner 5-11 p.m.

Lemongrass. It’s billed as the Strip’s first Thai restaurant, and that’s being modest. Chef Krairit Krairavee (see page 98), an import from the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, prepares Malaysian-style satay, Vietnamese pho noodle soup and Chinese Three Cups Chicken to go with a core menu of Thai dishes. Try his grilled pork neck, yam nua yang (Thai beef salad) or any of the Thai-style curries. In Aria, 590-7111. Lunch and dinner, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.