Food & Drink

Gourmet Las Vegas

Joel Robuchon

Las Vegas hotel casinos were once known for luring customers with their all-you-can-eat 99-cent buffets. But, recently, the major casinos have invested millions in attracting the best chefs from around the world, and the gamble has paid off. Las Vegas is now one of the great food cities of the world, and I intend to take a bite.

Day 1: Joel Robuchon at the Mansion

Joel Robuchon

Cuisinistas were stunned when legendary Michelin three-star chef Joel Robuchon agreed to open not one but two restaurants in the MGM Grand. His chic L'Atelier is relatively casual, while Joel Robuchon at the Mansion is ultra-exclusive and intimate.

As I embark on the restaurant's signature 16-course dégustation menu, I leave wine choices in the capable hands of sommelier Alexandre Brard. He pairs a 1998 Château Rayas with an intensely flavored dish of Osetra caviar topped with a lobster gelée and cauliflower royale. As the whirl of courses continues, a Bordeaux is poured with a savory veal chop, and just when it appears that I can't manage one more bite, a granitée arrives. Its refreshing sweetness allows my appetite to rally just in time for an ethereal strawberry-caramel popcorn with Cachaça syrup. My meal, which has lasted nearly five hours, is still cheaper than, say, hiring a private jet… but just barely.

L'Atelier, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-891-7358

Joel Robuchon at The Mansion, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-891-7925

Day 2: PRIME Steakhouse

The Bellagio's PRIME Steakhouse may be the most luxurious steak house in America. The room is swathed in acres of plush, purple velvet, while ornate mirrors reflect the opulence. Adding to the festive air are two separate tables of newlyweds, still in their formal wear.

Beneath silver cloches come the massive steaks. The soft-spoken waiter suggests that "the béarnaise sauce would make an excellent accompaniment" and ladles a serving along with some tarragon mustard. For dessert, general manager George Martin suggests the molten chocolate cake might taste even better when enjoyed on the patio, with a view of the Bellagio's dancing fountains. And he's right.

3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 877-234-6358

Chef Hisham Johari

Day 3: Red 8 & Mix

Unlike other hotels in town, the chefs at Wynn Las Vegas are relatively unknown, Daniel Boulud notwithstanding. Red 8, for example, is the preserve of chef Hisham Johari. The restaurant's red and black decor is, like the menu, decidedly Asian inspired. Highlights of my lunch include tender pork and chicken satays with a spicy peanut sauce, a sweet and sticky barbecued duck and crisp, fiery calamari. An Oolong Soochow from Red 8's tea list pairs beautifully with the meal.


Alain Ducasse's restaurant, Mix, on the 64th floor of THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay is all white with futuristic pod booths anchored by a massive $500,000 chandelier. The most colorful thing in the rooms, besides the patrons, is my pork tenderloin served in its own roasting pan with chorizo and soft polenta.

Red 8, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 888-352-3463

Mix, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 877-632-7800

Day 4: Bouchon & Aureole


The Venetian's Bouchon is modeled on chef Thomas Keller's famous Napa Valley original. I'm here for breakfast in the tranquil courtyard. A plate of pastries and breads arrives, and they are as good as any I've ever had outside of France. The waffles are light and, mercifully, reasonable in size.

I'll skip lunch today because dinner is expected to be a knockout. Aureole, at Mandalay Bay, takes its wine seriously. To compile the 50,000-bottle wine list – housed in a four-storey glass tower in the centre of the room – would take a menu the size of a phone book, so the collection resides on an electronic tablet, which master sommelier William Sherer guides me through.


To begin: a chenin blanc from the Coteaux de la Loire and a tower of chilled seafood. Next, a luscious rack of Colorado lamb with a stuffed piquillo pepper. Then it's time for the "tasting of chocolate and pistachio" – fudge brownie, vanilla pistachio ice cream and a pistachio macaroon – and, yes, it's as decadent as it sounds.

It's time to leave, and as I'm checking out, the receptionist asks if I won anything at the tables. "I don't gamble," I tell her and explain that I was only here for the food. "Well, that may be the only sure thing in Vegas," she says.

Bouchon, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Suite 10101, 702-414-6200

Aureole, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 877-632-7800

(Chris Johns writes about food and travel for a variety of English, French and Spanish publications. He wrote about Canada's best new restaurants in the November issue of onAir.)

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July 2006