When Wynn Las Vegas opened its doors in 2005, its restaurant program was hailed as one of the most ambitious in Las Vegas. Standouts included award-winning Italian seafood restaurant Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare and high-end Chinese restaurant Wing Lei, which went on to win a Michelin star. But customers and critics can be fickle, and by 2013, few people were talking about either of these former powerhouse spots. So Steve Wynn and his crew recently decided to give them both makeovers.
The cosmetic changes are most apparent in Wing Lei, which, before the remodel, had a red-and-gold color scheme that was dark and regal but a bit on the stuffy side. Today, it’s a brighter, airier room. The red has been replaced by jade green, and the gold touches are blended with shades of beige. Plus, a cloud-motif carpet and a window behind the bar have created a much more inviting space.
The menu has also been made more approachable. In the old days, it was anchored by a pair of extravagant multicourse tasting menus, and even the à la carte menu offered more exotic choices such as jellyfish, squab, gobi, abalone and geoduck. When I dined there recently, it was exclusively à la carte, although I was told tasting menus will be added in February. For appetizers, you’ll find spring rolls, shrimp toast and spare ribs, while the soups include wonton, hot-and-sour and egg drop. And the entrées section has familiar choices, including General Tso’s chicken, sweet-and-sour pork and wok-tossed scallops.
But have no fear, adventurous eaters. Those exotic dishes and other Chinese delicacies are listed on a separate menu. While it’s only presented to certain customers (presumably Chinese high-rollers), it’s available to everyone, so don’t be afraid to ask for it. In the meantime, don’t underestimate that exquisitely executed shrimp toast, the beautifully subtle honey-glazed ribs, hand-tossed noodles or sea bass in “three-cup sauce.” This definitely isn’t Panda Express.
While Wing Lei has had a fairly serious facelift, Bartolotta has simply been touched up a bit. The sweeping staircase that has always served as the centerpiece of the main dining room is still stunning, and they thankfully haven’t touched the outdoor cabanas on the reflecting pool. The walls have been brightened up, and a new stone floor has been added. But the most noticeable change is a chandelier of gold-leaf fish hanging in the main atrium. The restaurant is as beautiful as I remember it being on my first visit—but not terribly different.
The food has changed even less. Chef Paul Bartolotta still prides himself on having the finest seafood shipped to him directly from the Mediterranean. Your server still approaches your table with a display case of that day’s catch. And the chef still relies on simple preparations that stay true to the fish.
Bartolotta insists the best way to enjoy his cooking is to try one of his tasting menus, and I agree, assuming you have $150-$180 a head to spend. Whole fish, priced by the gram, can also leave you with a hefty tab. But my wife and I recently shared a salad and two pasta appetizers at the bar, and were pretty well satisfied for just under $100.
If you go that route, be sure to try the scorpion fish risotto accented with sweet eggplant and basil. Also, while it isn’t a seafood dish, the ricotta ravioli with Marsala wine glaze is perfectly executed. And the salty capers and olives in the red mullet salad really make that dish pop. But unless you’re already a sea urchin fan, avoid the uni and scallop risotto, which might be a bit briny for the uninitiated.
More than eight years after opening, Wing Lei and Bartolotta are still very good restaurants. Hopefully their renovations will help people rediscover them.
In Wynn. 770-3463. Open nightly for dinner 5:30-10 p.m. Dinner for two $150-$250.
Bartolotta Ristorante Di Mare
In Wynn. 770-3305. Open nightly for dinner 5:30-10 p.m. Dinner for two $100-$400.
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