Anthony Bourdain sightings went up by 100 percent in Las Vegas this week as the chef/author/TV star was in town since November 6 filming an episode for next season of his show, CNN’s Parts Unknown. Vegas Seven columnist James P. Reza supplied Bourdain with a hit list that included Eat, Lotus of Siam, Frankie’s Tiki Room, Velveteen Rabbit, Sage, Herbs & Rye and Chada Thai. We’ll find out where he actually visited when the next season airs in spring 2014.
Bourdain also filmed Last Bite, a live Season 2 finale, Downtown at Atomic Liquors on November 10. Hundreds turned out for the event, which included a party in the parking lot, food and beer trucks and screens showing the live CNN feed. Inside the bar, Bourdain and his guests—chefs Marcus Samuelsson and Roy Choi, comedienne Bonnie McFarlane, actor Wendell Pierce and CNN anchor Don Lemon—sat in a roundtable fashion, discussing local and sustainable cuisine, guns, Paula Deen and who’s kinkier: Koreans or the Japanese.
Before filming got underway, we got some face time with Bourdain on the Atomic Liquors patio.
Get out to Vegas a lot?
A lot. Most of the time I come for a UFC fight, otherwise known as “date night” in my family. Any excuse.
How do you and Ottavia like to “do” Vegas?
You know my wife is a martial artist, and I’m a huge, huge MMA fan and a practitioner. So we’ll see a fight and then go out for a nice low-key meal. Old School.
Generally speaking, we’ll go to Heritage Steak or one of Tom Colicchio’s steakhouses; Carnevino is also excellent. Left to my own devices, I haven’t been to Raku yet, but that’s exactly the sort of places we love: izakaya. I just discovered Lotus of Siam way too late, but that’s delicious.
What’s been your favorite highbrow dining experience in Las Vegas?
For me, a multicourse tasting menu in a fine dining situation is sort of a punishment, because a lot of that comes my way. I’m looking to relax, to do something low impact. Carnevino is about as high impact, about as high-end as I want to go. And it’s pretty comfortable and casual there.
And the other end of the spectrum…?
On the low end: In N Out Burger. You have In N Out Burger, and that’s completely awesome.
Why doesn’t Las Vegas get a lot of respect?
That’s something that I think about a lot. I’ve been talking to locals about the effect of how this is a town that’s in the business of catering to—and, necessarily, having to watch—the very worst in human behavior: lust, greed, gluttony, day in, day out, day in, day out. That has an effect on people. I think people who live here, the ones I’m talking to, have a dim worldview of their own species. Maybe that has something to do with it.
So, what is Las Vegas doing right?
They do capitalism right, don’t they? They do size well. It’s truly incredible that any place could be as big as Caesars Palace and work and operate and not just be utter chaos. The sheer scale is extraordinary, and it works.
If you could whisper a couple words of wisdom into Las Vegas’ ear to take us into the next year, five years, 10 years, what would it be?
Don’t change anything. I mean for me—maybe I’m just being selfish. I love Downtown, and I don’t want to see it change.
But changing it is. What do you think of the Downtown development?
I’ve seen a little bit of it. I hear the word “development” and I cringe. We just went to see the Huntridge Tavern—that to me is the perfect Vegas establishment. So, is development good for places like that? I worry. If “development” means artisanal baristas and cupcake shops, that’s worrisome to me.