Anthony Bourdain and Vegas’ Under-the-Radar Restaurants

If Anthony Bourdain brought his TV show to Las Vegas, what would you want him (and the world) to see?

Chef, author and television travel host Bourdain did bring No Reservations, his recently concluded opus of food and cultural commentary, to Las Vegas in 2005. The episode aired October 17 of that year and included stops at Bouchon and the then-fledgling Fremont East Entertainment District.

Speaking as an unabashed fan of Bourdain (whose new show, Parts Unknown, debuted on CNN last month), I thought that foray into the Las Vegas scene didn’t present his usually balanced urban portrait. There are limitations to what one can do in 40-odd minutes of television, but as seems to happen when national media figures come to Las Vegas, he got wound up with the mythos of the city, and a too-long “Fear and Loathing”/”Cincinnati Kid” poker-game-in-a-cheap-motel sequence squeezed out airtime for some deserving spots.

Since it’s usually all about authenticity with Bourdain, I hoped—and still hope—for more from him. In a city of chain restaurants, chain clothing stores and gambling-financed replicas of famous spots, it’s easy to find the copies. If we get Round Two of Bourdain in Vegas, I’d like him to take on more of our originals.

My suggestions? Definitely Chinatown/AsiaTown. By now, he’s heard of (if not visited) established joints like Raku, Monta and Ichiza; I’d make sure he also found the under-the-radar Chada—which, with its substantial and well-selected wine list, reminds me of an Asian version of the old Jazzed Café—and Kabuto, an 18-seat sushi bar that’s blowing away just about everyone with its nigiri- and sashimi-only menu and paired saké.

I’d also try to get Bourdain to DW Bistro, Baguette Cafe and Eat. For those tasty, cheap eats he loves, it’s Tacos El Gordo and Viva Las Arepas. Fancy? Perhaps Hugo’s Cellar for old Vegas and CityCenter (Twist, perhaps) for new Vegas. And for booze? Since he drank his way through the Double Down Saloon last time, this time it would be the Hitchin’ Post, with a final round or three at Frankie’s Tiki Room to ensure he wakes up with his expected hangover. Perfect for a plate of eggs and a Bloody Mary at the Peppermill before he boards his flight home. Vegas, the right way!

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