There’s always something exciting about walking through a restaurant that’s being renovated. It’s even more exciting when you know the space as it once was, and can witness it moving in a different direction. I had that experience recently on the top floor of the Delano. There, in the former footprint of Mix by Alain Ducasse, I sat down with the restaurant’s executive chef, Bruno Riou, to discuss the space’s new identity, Rivea.
“Basically, it’s a whole new chapter,” Riou says. “We’ve been working on this since the end of June.”
Several design elements will remain when Rivea and the adjacent lounge, Skyfall, open in fall. The cascading glass spheres, which have been imitated by more than a few local restaurants, aren’t going anywhere. The second-floor loft seating, which hasn’t been used in a while because it wasn’t handicap-accessible, will remain as a decorative addition to the room, although the stairs have been removed. But perhaps most importantly, a north-facing storage room with a 180-degree view of the Valley has been converted into Rivea +, a private dining room. A separate kitchen will serve just that room.
The chef is also determined to make Rivea a bit less stuffy than its predecessor. While Mix earned a Michelin star and was not the kind of place I ever would have entered without a jacket, I’m assured that my go-to uniform of jeans and a T-shirt will be a bit more acceptable here. “It’s going to be a little more casual,” Riou says. “But at the same time it’s still going to be a wonderful restaurant. There will always be a sophistication about it. So even if it’s casual, it will remain an Alain Ducasse restaurant. We keep our standards high.”
“The cuisine by which Alain Ducasse has always been inspired ranges from St. Tropez to Genoa,” Riou says. While it is far from finalized, the menu is expected to include “house-made pizzettes, pastas and premium grill offerings with Mediterranean accents that embody the nature of the Riviera,” Riou says.
That’s a perfect fit for Riou, who grew up with the Mediterranean influences of both France and Italy. “My grandmother was from Corsica,” he says. “That’s where I spent most of my holidays. And my granddad was in the garden, growing all kinds of vegetables: carrots, potatoes, beets. So that’s where I really started [cooking]. My granddad was doing the garden, and I was helping him and learning. And my grandma would cook what came from the garden every day.”
To reconnect his European roots, Riou and his team spent much of the summer traveling. They visited Ducasse’s existing Rivea restaurants in St. Tropez and London, and also traveled to Monaco. They returned in early July and have been working on recipes ever since. And the chef says that four years after arriving in Las Vegas, it’s far easier today to get the quality of ingredients his grandfather produced in his garden.
“When I first came here it was quite challenging,” he says. “But there’s now a trend of farm-to-table cuisine. People are a lot more educated about their food. We’re getting there. The vendors now know what we’re looking for.”
Riou clearly knows this town and how to take a beloved restaurant in a new direction. And when Rivea finally opens its doors in a few weeks, Ducasse will almost certainly make an appearance. Moreover, there is no doubt that Ducasse’s influence will be present in every plate. But when Ducasse moves on to another of his restaurants elsewhere in the world, Riou will be the guy making sure everything is up to his boss’ standards.