Even after five visits to SLS Las Vegas during its first 10 days of operation, I still can’t decide how I feel about the place overall. But as I reserve judgment on the resort as a whole, there’s one thing I’m certain of: I love Bazaar Meat! Leave it to José Andrés to take on the steakhouse—the most boring dining concept—and completely turn it on its head.
Andrés is one of the pioneers of Spanish avant-garde cooking. He’s also widely credited with helping to popularize tapas in the U.S. He has restaurants nationwide, including several in Las Vegas, such as China Poblano, Jaleo and the intimate é by José Andrés in the Cosmopolitan.
Given the chef’s creativity and diverse background, it’s no surprise Bazaar Meat is more than just a steakhouse. Sure, its heart and soul is the fire pit: a collection of grills and ovens where cooks fire up meats carefully sourced from boutique purveyors, complete with proffered Kobe certificates. And the steak I’ve sampled from that station has been great. But in a town with so many great steakhouses, that’s not what excites me.
The rest of the menu is an amalgamation. There’s a raw bar—a station dedicated solely to tartares and carpaccios—and a collection of cured meats. Examples of the scientific cooking methods that made the chef famous, and some favorites from his other restaurants, are scattered throughout the menu. Less traditional meat choices, such as lamb neck with fried oysters and blood sausage with sea urchin, abound. And then there are the suckling pigs, cooked in the fire pit and offered whole or by the quarter.
In keeping with Andrés’ tapas traditions, most of the menu consists of small plates. Even the massive steaks arrive sliced, so they can easily be shared at the table.
The real beauty of Bazaar Meat is the way in which the chef and his team perfectly blend the traditional and the bizarre (yes, pun intended). The steaks are simply seasoned and perfectly grilled. The miniature sloppy Joes are all-American classics. Even the Asian “tacos” (Ibérico ham and flying fish roe on a sheet of nori) are a simple homage to the highest quality ingredients. But then you get to cotton-candy foie gras. Their sweet, airy wrapping is a beautiful counterbalance to the buttery meatiness of the fatty duck liver within. The same goes for the addition of a delicate, sweet lemon foam to a briny sea urchin beautifully presented in its shell. And don’t miss the tiny “Foiffle,” a light-as-air, hollow waffle stuffed and topped with foie gras foam, peanut butter and honey. (It’s listed as a sandwich, but save this one for dessert.)
The main dining room at Bazaar Meat is massive and cavernous, with hunting-lodge décor. Most of the cooking stations are within view of the public. And there are several communal tables, including a sushi-style bar in front of the raw station. Unfortunately the view of the chefs working here is mostly obscured by large cuts of beef. (The traditional tartare is prepared tableside, however.)
While the main dining room can feel busy and rushed, the adjoining Bazaar casino has a more laid-back lounge-like vibe, at least during off hours. There, a limited menu is served at a group of tables surrounding the small casino pit.
Much of the locally sourced wait staff still seems to be training under members of Andrés’ national team. But I recognized several of them from other top local restaurants, and it’s clearly a quality crew in both the restaurant and casino.
The success of Bazaar Meat may ultimately depend on whether SLS’ “budget chic” vibe appeals more to big-city hipsters who can understand its cuisine and high prices. It’s also possible that budget tourists will turn up their noses at both. Or perhaps savvy foodies of all stripes will recognize its greatness and make Bazaar Meat a destination restaurant independent of its host resort.
Al’s Menu Picks
- cotton candy foie gras ($8)
- Jose’s Asian tacos ($25)
- “Beefsteak” tomato tartare ($18)
- steaks ($38-$100)
- Foieffle ($12)
In SLS Las Vegas, 702-761-7610. Open for dinner 5:30 p.m.–10:30 p.m. Sun–Thu, 5:30 p.m.–midnight Sat–Sun. Dinner for two $150–$400.