Vegas Seven

Best Restaurants 2011

  • Steve Benjamin

    By Max Jacobson

    Despite having what appears to be an American name, this friendly Parisian is as French as a Camembert wrapped in a tricolor. When Benjamin first came to the MGM Grand six years ago, his accent was as thick as the crème Anglaise served on desserts in his restaurant. Today, he’s lost much of the accent and speaks fluent English. He’s made Las Vegas his permanent home.

  • Big Wong

    By Max Jacobson

    Is there such a thing as Brooklyn Chinese? There is, if you listen to Wei Lee, who serves freshly fried shrimp wonton, brisket noodle soup and Hainan chicken rice (dark meat on the bone with seasoned rice), a specialty of Malaysia, at his new restaurant. Most of the dishes are $5, and his mother’s own mushroom sausage rice is to die for.

  • R.I.P.

    Eateries that said goodbye

    By Max Jacobson

    Alex Alex Stratta won two Michelin stars at the Wynn, but apparently the margins weren’t sufficient to keep the star chef in business. Bradley Ogden After a great run, the seminal American chef will close his eponymous restaurant at Caesars early in the first quarter, to be replaced by Gordon Ramsay’s gastropub. Town Square fare

  • Pad Kee Mao at Thai House

    By Max Jacobson

    This unheralded restaurant in the far corner of a shopping mall off Silverado Ranch Boulevard would have a national fan base if it were near the Strip. Pad kee mao is a huge pile of rice noodles sautéed with your choice of meats—chicken, beef, pork or shrimp—plus egg, scallion, Thai chili and black soy sauce. The noodles get browned edges, and a wonderful condiment tray is brought as an accompaniment. Pay close attention to those deadly, cylindrical green chilies.

  • Mitsuo Endo of Raku

    By Max Jacobson

    What makes a chef great? Imagination, technique and dedication to craft. On that score, Endo-san, as he is known to his colleagues, has no peer as an off-Strip talent. Is there anyone else imaginative enough to do the Waterfall Tofu-tofu inside a wooden push-up contraption that is meant to be pushed out, in pasta-like strands, into a broth smoky with ikura, tiny salmon roe? (He makes the tofu in-house, too, and it’s better than any in Tokyo.)

  • Patisserie Manon

    By Max Jacobson

    Jean-Paul Layden and his wife, Rachel, operate this gorgeous bakery and epicerie on upper Charleston, and you have to look hard on the Strip (at places such as Payard) to find pastries of comparable quality. The prices here are much lower, of course. We’re talking croissants to rival any in town, macaroons, fruit tarts and Croque Monsieur, all made from natural ingredients and pretty enough for a Paris window display.

  • MOzen Bistro and Border Grill (tie)

    By Max Jacobson

    If you’re thinking bacon and eggs, think again. MOzen Bistro at the Mandarin Oriental caters to many Asian guests, and the restaurant has a team of chefs from India, China and Japan to complement chef Vivek Rawat. There is a distinctly Asian cast to this brunch, served noon-2:30 p.m. Sundays. You can make up a bento box composed of six dishes, order the restaurant’s terrific Indian-style chicken, have XO fried rice, and even top-grade sushi, all for one set price ($48).

  • Forte European Tapas Bar & Bistro

    By Max Jacobson

    Bulgarian tapas? Yes, at Nina Manchev’s funky, eccentric west-side restaurant, where mysterious elixirs such as the red-tinged Gypsy Juice sit behind the bar in huge glass jars. Everyone will be eating ajarski khachapuri, cheese bread from the Republic of Georgia with an egg in the middle, and the mixed Bulgarian sausage plate. But you can also have proper Spanish tapas such as shrimp sautéed in garlic. Whew!

  • Jaleo

    By Max Jacobson

    Once, chef José Andrés insisted he would never open a restaurant here. Suddenly, he has three: China Poblano, E Bar and this one, his flagship. Jaleo, which means “revelry” in Spanish, is as versatile a restaurant as there is in this city. It’s possible to eat quickly, snacking on small plates (tapas), but you can also spend hours here nibbling on course after course, crowned by a smoky paella from the olive-wood fire pit in the rear of the dining room.

  • Salted Caramel Budino at D.O.C.G.

    By Max Jacobson

    We mourned when the gloriously talented Vita Shanley took treats such as baci di dama-little chocolate filled hazelnut confections-off her cookie plate. She has atoned for it with this creation: silken vanilla cream topped with a thick layer of buttery caramel, expertly balanced by a sprinkle of sea salt to tease even the most jaded palate.

  • Joël Robuchon at the Mansion

    By Max Jacobson

    One of our many memorable meals at this palace of gastronomy included an appetizer as part of a 15-course degustation, or tasting menu. It was composed of a micro-thin, perfectly round pastry wafer, a thin layer of crème fraiche, and a blanket of round, thin shavings of black truffle. It was one of those creations one hesitates to eat, so as not to destroy it. The maitre d’ here said the dish took, incredibly, 18 minutes to plate. It’s that type of meticulousness that separates Robuchon from the rest.

  • 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.”

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