If you’ve been around Las Vegas for a minute, you’ve heard the rose-colored longing for the “old days” when you didn’t have to pay for parking, dealers knew your name and, well, pretty much everything De Niro rants about at the end of Casino.
Times have changed, sure, but Vegas hospitality didn’t evaporate in the desert sun.
Need proof? Yassine Lyoubi is back at the Palms.
“Something in Las Vegas always pulls you back,” the Moroccan-born, UNLV-educated hospitality executive says while sitting in the Palms offices above the casino floor and the now open Scotch 80 Prime restaurant.
First Impressions Are Everything
The first thing I notice about Lyoubi is his style: classic and clean, with a perfectly tailored suit despite spending his afternoon in an office and working—as he describes—“18 hours a day, six days a week” as a $620 million makeover continues at the Palms.
Lyoubi, who broke through as general manager of the old N9NE Steakhouse, is now the resort’s director of fine dining.
Since his last stint at Palms, Lyoubi has spent time polishing his résumé alongside Chef José Andrés as general manager of Bazaar Meat, while also taking some time to return home to Morocco, where he got his start at 12 years old working inside his father’s restaurant and developing a knack for taking care of guests.
“I was always the one in my household that, when guests came to visit, would always preset the dining table and the [guest] bedrooms with the items that they liked,” he says. “For example, if I knew that they liked a certain scent, I would always go above and beyond to make the experience awesome at the house. So, it just comes naturally to me.”
An Offer He Couldn’t Refuse
The allure of the “new Palms” was too much for Lyoubi to resist when old friends and ex-colleagues reached out about a new opportunity. He says knowing that he could come back armed with a cache of knowledge and experience gained from his culinary mentor made the decision much easier.
“From the creative side, whether it be molecular gastronomy or whether it be unique service tweaks or table-side presentations, just applying different cultures to the beverage program and to the food program are all things I learned with José,” Lyoubi explains.
Among the first priorities on his plate: putting Scotch 80 Prime on the map. Named for the historic, hip neighborhood on the city’s west side, Chef Barry Dakake’s concept is earning advanced buzz for a menu that reportedly includes Japanese Kobe beef and what’s said to be one of the world’s rarest and most expensive Scotch programs.
On this day, Lyoubi can’t divulge too many specifics about Scotch 80 Prime; instead, he touches on his process, explaining that every little nuance—from the music to the lighting—has been scrutinized via a 20-page narrative that he helped conceive for the restaurant.
“It’s a steakhouse, but that doesn’t mean that we have to play by the rules and stick to the staples. We can be a little more creative with it,” he says, adding that he’s not trying to reinvent the wheel but would like to create an experience beyond what guests see on their plates.
“If you have the right people in there, they’re treating that restaurant like it’s their business and building relationships,” Lyoubi says. “It’s really good old-fashioned, honest and true hospitality.”
“I Would Do It 24 Hours a Day”
Twelve days following our interview, I spot Lyoubi at a food and wine event in which Scotch 80 Prime is serving mesquite-grilled surf-and-turf and house-made chocolates.
Despite the 70 degree-plus heat of the early evening, he’s back in his suit and tie, grinning ear-to-ear as he greets guests and talks to his team.
Lyoubi sees me, remembers my name—of course—and stops what he’s doing to chat before offering a plate.
That’s Vegas hospitality, and Lyoubi is right back where he belongs.
“Hearing plates, hearing chefs in the kitchen and talking to people,” he says. “If I physically could, I would do it 24 hours a day.”