It has been a tumultuous year in the world of Las Vegas restaurants. There were many closures (see sidebar on Page 35), but just as many openings. The upshot was a move toward casual and away from fine dining. Some chalk that up to the economy, but in my view, it’s more of a generational thing. We’re getting more American comfort-food spots such as Bread & Butter and the soon-to-open Honey Salt, while venerable neighborhood fine-dining restaurants are becoming extinct.
Las Vegas is turning Japanese, too. Recent openings include Nakamura-ya, the Tokyo-style Italian restaurant; Café de Japon, a coffee shop; I-naba, an L.A. import specializing in soba; and Ramen Sora, a rustic ramen house. Why now? Diners are becoming more eclectic in their tastes, and Japanese cuisine, which is light and exotic, is a perfect fit for their demands.
Some things never change, though. Beef is eternally what’s for dinner on the Strip, and four popular Strip steak houses surfaced in 2012: R Steaks at the Riviera, Center Cut at the Flamingo, Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas, and, last but not least, Old Homestead, a New York steak house dating from the late 19th century.
Old Homestead is in Caesars Palace, which has raised the stakes like no other property lately. Its new Central is our city’s first truly upscale 24/7 restaurant and is redefining that genre. The gigantic and incredible Bacchanal Buffet recently started serving, and just wait till the Nobu Tower opens in the spring. The Hard Rock Hotel is also trying to outdo itself, with the new Culinary Dropout, the Ainsworth and 35 Steaks + Martinis, which replaced the more staid Rare 120 awhile back.
More evidence that Las Vegas is constantly reinventing itself as a dining destination, one worth celebrating—as we’re doing now for the third consecutive year.