Las Vegas’ racks up the James Beard noms, and Noe Alcala has his eye on the pies.

NO OXYMORON seems less appropriate at the moment than the two words “British cuisine.” I found myself in London last week, where I visited two restaurants with ties to Las Vegas: Wolfgang Puck’s Cut in the elegant Dorchester Collection and Sketch London from the imaginative chef Pierre Gagnaire of Twist in our Mandarin Oriental.

Cut is narrow, posh and during dinner, emits a soft amber glow. There is an international, multilingual staff, and the service is terrific, proper and British in one respect, but relaxed and American at the same time. This has to be the best place in the U.K. for a steak. After an incredibly delicious warm veal tongue, marinated artichoke and shell bean salad, I opted for a tasting of New York sirloins: Australian wagyu, Creekstone Farms American beef, and my fave, Casterbridge Angus from southwest U.K.

Sketch is wacky, fun and perfect for the under-35 set, a series of color-splashed, eccentrically designed rooms. The Lecture Room upstairs has one Michelin star. I ate downstairs at the Gallery, designed by award-winning British architect Martin Creed, for less than $50. Smoked fish served with a 53-degree Celsius egg (127.4 F) and some 48-hour lamb, done en crepinette, sent me home a happy camper.

The 2012 James Beard Award semifinalists have been announced, with the winners to be named in an awards ceremony in early May. Local professionals making the cut include Mitsuo Endo of Aburiya Raku for Best Chef-Southwest; Picasso for Outstanding Wine Program and Outstanding Restaurant; Joël Robuchon at the Mansion for Outstanding Service; and both Piero Selvaggio and the Brombergs of Blue Ribbon in the category of Outstanding Restaurateur. Initial thoughts: We’ve been slightly passed over in the Outstanding Restaurant category. Both Joël Robuchon and Guy Savoy should have been included there. But kudos to all, and good luck in May.

Speaking of James Beard, the Venetian will host a dinner to benefit the James Beard Foundation Scholarship Fund on March 19, a five-course affair prepared by such chefs as Table 10’s Sean Roe, Venetian/Palazzo executive chef Olivier Dubreuil and a former James Beard Award-winner for Best Chef-Southwest Luciano Pellegrini from Valentino. Tickets are $150 for general admission and $175 for VIP admission; call 414-9000.

Finally, those of you hankering for pizza in Mandalay Place take heart. There hasn’t been pizza there since Café Giorgio shuttered, but Slice of Vegas will open in late April, courtesy of Titan, the folks behind neighboring Hussong’s Cantina. The casual restaurant helmed by chef Noe Alcala will offer calzones and salads as well. Keep an eye on for updates.

Hungry, yet?

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I recently wrote a short history of the Las Vegas steak house for the April issue of Saveur magazine in which I included a quote from former Mayor Oscar Goodman, whose moniker is on a new steak house under the dome at downtown’s revamped Plaza Hotel & Casino.



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