As a national writer, my big Las Vegas stories this year have been about the fact that the city is growing again—the Cromwell, the Linq, the Delano, SLS. This is also evident in the dining scene, where, over the past several weeks, Café Martorano, Border Grill and Lola’s Louisiana Kitchen have all opened second locations.
Steve Martorano’s blend of Italian-American food, music and ambience has earned him a loyal following at the Rio, despite the complete lack of foot traffic past his restaurant’s second-floor corner location. Things are much less secluded at his new Paris locale, which opens up onto the main promenade that connects the casino floor to the Paris convention area and Bally’s. “The Rio is more geared toward locals,” Martorano says. “A lot of locals don’t want to come to the Strip, so that’s a perfect venue for them. This is more geared toward the people [already] on the Strip.”
The entertainment format will remain the same: Low-volume Rat Packers dominate the sound system during the early hours. Late night, however, it’s a louder blend of old-school R&B meant to appeal to an older party crowd unimpressed with the EDM of Vegas’ nightclubs.
The dinner menu at the new Café Martorano is nearly identical to the one at the original location. But there’s a new cocktail menu, including a line of Philly Water Ice drinks (a sort of sorbet-tini). And Martorano is preparing to offer his first Las Vegas lunch menu here.
Meanwhile, down the boulevard, Mandalay Bay’s Border Grill is arguably the city’s best high-end Mexican restaurant. But at its new location in the Forum Shops at Caesars, owners Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken are determined to offer something different.
The new restaurant includes a ceviche and oyster bar, offering oysters with assorted granitas, shooters, four ceviches and other raw seafood alongside fresh-pressed juices. It’s a first for any Border Grill location in California or Las Vegas, and one that fulfills a longstanding dream. “When we opened in Santa Monica, we tried to make the front a cold fish taco and ceviche station,” Feniger recalls. “But 30 years ago, people were just not there yet. They were barely used to soft corn tortillas.”
The pair have also significantly redesigned their dinner menu. As much as 40 percent of the food was created specifically for the new location, including lamb albondigas (meatballs), chile-lime shrimp and one of the most interesting presentations of a tamale I’ve ever seen: stuffed with chicken tinga, topped with pumpkin-seed puree, squash salsa and radish slices.
Finally, Downtown’s popular Creole/Cajun spot Lola’s has expanded into Summerlin. So far, the menu is basically the same. But the difference in décor is astounding. While the Arts District dining room is small, casual and simple, the new spot is sprawling and lavish.
The 285-seat space includes a beautiful bar area, which allows owner Lola Pokorny to offer cocktails for the first time. A piano sits in one corner, New Orleans-themed artwork hangs on the wall, and the chef cooks Lola’s signature oysters on a large open grill in the center of the room. There are also more formal dining areas, as well as patio seating. That outdoor area has plenty of room for Lola’s famed crawfish boils when the mudbugs are in season. And during football season, this may become the hottest spot in Summerlin for taking in a Saints game.
While all of the Arts District classics will remain on the new location’s menu indefinitely, Pokorny is planning to roll out a Summerlin-only menu after Mardi Gras, featuring such dishes as chicken-fried chicken, a charbroiled romaine Caesar and a Cajun cobb salad. In the meantime, there will be plenty of daily specials featuring the kale, beets, squash and herbs she’s growing in the restaurant’s front yard.
How’s that for farm-to-table?
Paris, 702-946-4656. Open for dinner 5-11 p.m. Sun-Thu, 5 p.m.-midnight Fri-Sat.
Forum Shops in Caesars, 702-854-6700. Open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun-Thu, 11 a.m.-midnight Fri-Sat.
Lola’s Louisiana Kitchen
1220 N. Town Center Dr., 702-871-5652. Open for lunch and dinner 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon-Thu, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri, noon-10 p.m. Sat.