Vegas Seven

Best Restaurants 2011

  • Nam Kao Tod, at Lotus of Siam

    By Max Jacobson

    By now, even people in Tonopah know that Lotus is the most famous Thai restaurant in the United States. Saipin Chutima, the genius in the kitchen, is probably best known for her crispy rice salad, nam kao tod, arguably the best finger food dish on earth. It has bits of Thai sausage, roasted peanuts, lemon grass and amazingly crisp rice, plus a hint of hot chili. Kellogg’s couldn’t have imagined.

  • Pintade en Papillotte at Guy Savoy

    By Max Jacobson

    Pintade, Guinea fowl, is delicate, plump and flavorful—yet few chefs use it, let alone give it the royal treatment. Closer to a partridge than a chicken, it is native to North America, but demand for it is low, and the price prohibits it from most menus.

  • Jaleo

    By Xania V. Woodman

    If Spanish avant-garde cuisine is what’s on the tables at Jaleo, then Spanish avant-garde design is what’s everywhere else. Chef José Andrés collaborated with New York’s Rockwell Group, as well as with artist Mikel Urmeneta and designer Juli Capella, to create a space that reflects Andrés’ passion, personality and sense of humor.

  • Robert Smith

    By Max Jacobson

    Smith is the Susan Lucci of the wine world. He has been in Las Vegas since 1989 and at Picasso since it opened, has been a finalist for the Beard House’s Outstanding Wine Service an impressive four times, and four times has been passed over. If you feel like the Beard Awards are New York-centric, get in line. “I don’t mind actually,” Smith says, “but I think Vegas deserves more recognition.”

  • Milos

    By Max Jacobson

    You can get great seafood at many places in Las Vegas today, from Bartolotta on the Strip to King’s Fish House in the District at Green Valley Ranch. But Milos, the elegant Greek restaurant at the Cosmopolitan, is a game-changer on many levels.

  • Max Solano

    By Xania V. Woodman

    Rye, bourbon, scotch—Solano loves whiskey, and in all its multitude of formats. Indeed, the Delmonico mixologist/beverage manager is attempting to collect them all! The restaurant’s list has grown to 346 labels, and Solano expects to reach 420 by spring, when the fourth edition of his Book of Whiskey menu—and it’s a tome all right!—hits the bar. Later this year, Delmonico will even get some expanded storage just to accommodate his obsession.

  • The Wicked Spoon

    By Max Jacobson

    The design is stunning, and so is the lineup here: Guinness pancakes, pastrami hash and homemade pecan sticky buns for breakfast; assorted salumi, smoked salmon, Korean beef salad and boutique California cheeses for lunch; and a dinnertime carving station with whole legs of lamb and roasted bone marrow. Korean-style short ribs (kalbi) and the buffet’s dim sum selection alone put the competition to shame.

  • Carnevino

    By Max Jacobson

    It’s a cliché to say that the Strip has more great steak houses than anywhere else on earth per square mile, but it’s true. So it’s quite a distinction to be called the best in this town. But while the A300 beef from Australia at Jean-Georges may have been the top cut we tasted this year, Mario Batali’s place, with Zach Allen at the helm, wins for overall excellence.

  • Michael Mina

    By Max Jacobson

    At Michael Mina, general manager Jorge Pagani is both a father figure and a role model for his staff of international employees. Their affection for one another is quite real, evidenced by everyone’s relaxed demeanor at their nightly pre-shift staff meetings and their obvious willingness to work as a team. No one is too good to perform menial tasks here. If you need a water glass refilled, the captain will do it if the bus person is occupied.

  • Sambalatte

    By Max Jacobson

    Luiz Oliveira, a native of Brazil, grinds and brews coffee to order, using 100 percent Arabica beans from Rio Verde in Brazil, or those from exotic locales such as Guatemala, Sumatra and Ethiopia. Sit in the lounge here and you get to drink the results in a porcelain mug. Beans are roasted locally by Colorado River Coffee Roasters. The Flat White cappuccino with extra milk has a perfect swirl of foam and amazing balance.

  • What We’re Into / What We’re Over

    By Max Jacobson, Xania Woodman

    What We’re Into Sharing. Think of it as a pooling of resources: Tomahawk chops for two, tableside salads, tapas, small plates … Need we go on? Adultifying foods. It’s been another rough year, and more and more we’re finding comfort in childhood favorites of all kinds, whether it be mini hot dogs or fried PB&J. Next thing you know, chefs will be cutting off our crusts.

  • Ryland Worrell of Picasso

    By Max Jacobson

    Worrell is a North Carolinian with a slow, self-assured drawl. He’s 6-foot-3, always impeccably dressed, moves like a trained dancer and has been at Picasso since the very beginning—about 12 years. But what’s even more impressive is his memory. If you’ve dined here before, he’ll somehow remember your name, and maybe even greet you as an old friend.

  • Seven Questions

    Ruth Reichl

    By Max Jacobson

    Ruth Reichl would cringe if she heard herself referred to as the First Lady of American Food Journalism, but it wouldn’t be an exaggeration. A native New Yorker, she started her career as a restaurant critic at New West magazine before assuming the position of Los Angeles Times restaurant critic and, later, food editor.

  • Megan Romano

    By Grace Bascos

    When a meal at Aureole ends, it ends with a flourish. As the head of chef Charlie Palmer's pastry program, Romano is not only responsible for the sweet finishes at Aureole and Charlie Palmer Steak next door, but she is conscious of keeping them in line with Palmer's seasonality-driven philosophy while maintaining the sense of whimsy that dessert should express.

  • Bouchon

    By Max Jacobson

    Everyone, it seems, has his favorite little neighborhood breakfast joint. There’s been bragging around the office about the coffee cake at the Cracked Egg; another faction is partial to omelets at the Original Pancake House. But for overall quality, variety, imagination and efficiency, Bouchon at the Venetian, Thomas Keller’s bistro, is in a class by itself.