Miami Meets Vegas—Finding Local Culinary Connections in Florida

yardbird-frontOne thing I love about traveling is seeing how the restaurants in a city I’m visiting intersect with the Las Vegas dining scene. So when I spent a few days eating my way through Miami over the holidays, I couldn’t resist looking into what current, former and (possibly) future Las Vegas chefs and restaurateurs are doing in Florida’s party town.

With the opening of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in the Venetian upon us, I had to pay a visit to the Miami original. It was a packed house for Sunday brunch, and I sampled a lot of the cuisine you’ll be reading about in my upcoming review of the local spot. But the restaurant group that owns Yardbird, 50 Eggs, also owns three other Miami spots. And when they learned I was in town, they insisted I visit Khong River House, a casual little Thai restaurant run by Top Chef Masters alum Patricia Yeo. She put together an amazing feast for me and my wife that left me hoping—no, praying!—that Yardbird Las Vegas will be successful enough to convince 50 Eggs to export this spot to the Strip as well.

Another huge Las Vegas operator with a Miami presence is Michael Mina, who is preparing to open Bardot Brasserie in Aria. He has three Miami operations, and I decided to grab a quick bite at the bar at Michael Mina 74 in the Fontainebleau. I was pleasantly surprised to find chef Thomas Griese (formerly of Las Vegas spots Le Cirque, Bouchon and Alizé ) running the kitchen. He sent me some delicious lamb, beef, raw seafood and vegetable dishes, then gave me a tour of the room where they dry-age their steaks. As far as I know, none of the dishes I had will be on Bardot’s menu. But the overall quality of the place has reinforced my confidence that Mina will be bringing something great to Aria when Bardot opens later this month.

Finally, will a great authentic Cuban sandwich soon be available on the Strip? If the Miami rumor mill is accurate, it just might be. I sampled a few Cubanos during my travels (including the one offered at the legendary Little Havana diner, Versailles). And the one I tried at Havana 1957 on Española Way was top of the line. So I was intrigued when my bartender told me the chain, which operates four locations in the Miami area, is coming to Caesars Palace. A Caesars rep tells me she doesn’t know anything about such a deal, but I’m crossing my fingers there’s some truth to the story.


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