2012 was an eventful year for the Las Vegas food scene. An especially large number of new restaurants opened—some relentlessly hyped, others quietly so. In no particular order, here are seven of my favorites, which you should try to get to before the year is up. Assuming, of course, that we’re still here.
Bacchanal Buffet. This splashy, $17 million dollar food extravaganza at Caesars Palace has succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Dishes are prepared in several interactive kitchens. With an encyclopedic selection, highlights include barbecue, dim sum and incredible seafood. In Caesars Palace, 731-7110.
Chada Thai & Wine. Bank Atcharawan—an alum of our most famous Thai restaurant, Lotus of Siam—finally has his beer and wine license. That’s good news for lovers of small-plates Thai cuisine and German riesling, which is the ticket at this Chinatown-adjacent restaurant, a dark room filled with Thai objects d’art. 3400 S. Jones Blvd., 641-1345.
Eat. Downtown Las Vegas finally has a top-quality breakfast and lunch joint, thanks to chef Natalie Young (Nat to her many friends), materfamilias at this casual spot. Young does incredible pancakes, and an egg dish called huevos motuleños for breakfast. Lunch runs to homemade soups, and sandwiches come with the best potato salad in the world. 707 Carson St., 534-1515.
Gordon Ramsay Steak. We know this towheaded, foul-mouthed TV icon for his English accent and tough love, but he’s also a terrific technician, and his new steak house was the top Strip opening of 2012. I’d return just for his British ale and cheese soup or his astronomically priced fish and chips, but the steaks are first-rate. And then there’s that sticky toffee pudding … In Paris Las Vegas, 946-7000.
Honey Salt. Society chef Kim Canteenwalla jumped ship at Encore to open this Rampart Commons restaurant with his wife, restaurant consultant Elizabeth Blau, and so far, it has been packed. The eclectic menu features dishes such as New England Fry (a mix of Ipswich clams and calamari) and chicken cooked under a brick. 1031 S. Rampart Blvd., 445-6100.
Meat & Three. The idea is simple: one entrée and up to three sides at bargain prices. Chris Herrin’s best entrées include Salisbury steak and fried chicken, and there are more than a dozen side dishes from which to choose. In the Sunridge Heights Center, 10940 S. Eastern Ave., Henderson, 473-5577.
Tetsu in Bar Masa. Think of it as a sort of upscale Benihana of Tokyo, a teppanyaki place where you can get an entire lobster or Wagyu beef done without the histrionics. Bar Masa is the most expensive restaurant in Las Vegas, but it’s possible to dine at Tetsu without straining your wallet. In Aria, 877-230-2742.