MGM Grand Hotel & Casino
3799 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/12/13
London-based Hakkasan first appeared strong on my radar when it opened in San Francisco late last year. I had heard great reviews but just couldn’t fit it in while I was up there during Christmas. That location was the tenth in the worldwide chain, known for its high-end Chinese cuisine; in fact, two of its locations (NYC and London) have garnered Michelin stars, a relative rarity for a Chinese restaurant. Hakkasan’s eleventh location marks its biggest splash of all, with a $100 million, 5-floor, 75,000 square-foot restaurant/nightclub. Literally and figuratively, it’s Las Vegas’ biggest opening this year.
The ground floor is the main dining room; above it, the private dining area overlooks the main room. The third floor is the exclusive Ling Ling lounge, followed by two additional floors for the nightclub. The dining room, dim and full of blue hues, is divided into many sections making the room appear to be full of smaller, more private dining areas. Although this location is more known for its huge club and all-star DJ lineup than its restaurant, the cuisine here is supposed to be just as serious as the rest of the chain.
The Strand House: Culinary Masters Series
117 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Dining date: 5/20/13
Considering he spent the past 12 years at The French Laundry (the last 3+ years as Chef de Cuisine), represented America in the Bocuse d’Or (placing sixth in 2009, the best American placement to date), and won the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef in 2010, there are few chefs as young as Timothy Hollingsworth with such a strong resume.
On the heels of Douglas Keane’s (Cyrus) dinner at The Strand House, Hollingsworth was the next guest of the monthly Culinary Masters Series. Having just recently moved to Los Angeles, Hollingsworth will act as a consulting chef on The Strand House and sister properties (The Zislis Group) while figuring out what his own concept will be.
Being a huge fan of The French Laundry, I was excited to be a part of Hollingsworth’s first post-TFL meal. I wasn’t the only one; the dinner sold out in just a few hours – we were lucky to be one of the first ones off the waiting list. The menu was five courses, inclusive of wine pairing by B Wise Vineyard, for $200. A brief look around the dining room clearly indicated that plenty of wine would be served this evening – a solid indicator of a good evening ahead.
SUGARFISH Beverly Hills
212 North Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 5/18/13
SUGARFISH, the streamlined sushi concept from Nozawa, has been rapidly expanding across LA since opening its first location in Marina Del Rey five years ago. This Beverly Hills location is the 6th in the chain (a 7th in Calabasas is already planned with rumors of a NYC project next year), though this one’s not quite like the others. This location is home to something called the Nozawa Bar, a reservation-only 10-seat sushi bar in the back of the restaurant serving an omakase-only menu of various sushi/sashimi. Whereas SUGARFISH focuses on more of the “typical” cuts of fish, the Nozawa Bar promises a more adventurous foray into sushi with its ~20 course meal. Another big difference is that the sushi is prepared right in front of the diner (like a typical sushi bar) rather than in the back (something all SUGARFISH locations share).
Lunch and dinner reservations are taken online only (here), at $130 and $150 per meal, respectively. Having never been to Nozawa I was excited to dine here, which seems like the closest thing still in existence (though, a completely different concept). This would also be my first true omakase sushi experience since returning from Japan late last year.
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/9/13
Jose Andres is probably known best for his whimsical, molecular gastronomy creations at The Bazaar (including Saam Room) and Minibar, but he does cook a lot of more traditional fare as well – Jaleo is his version of the Spanish tapas restaurant of his homeland.
There are four Jaleo restaurants across the country, though this Las Vegas branch is the only one not in the Washington D.C. area. Located in The Cosmopolitan Hotel, it sits on the same floor as Scarpetta, STK, Estiatorio Milos, Blue Ribbon Sushi, Comme Ca, and the “secret” pizza place.
The menu is vast, covering over 75 items across meat and cheese plates, land, sea, fried items and paella. Paella are made in a separate paella pit within the main dining room, allowing all diners to watch an impressive display while the paellas cook. Apparently the ventilation system alone cost $1 million, preventing all of the smoke from suffocating diners. Clearly, paella is serious business.
I’ve dined at restauarant-within-the-restaurant é by Jose Andres and left impressed. This would be my first visit to Jaleo proper.
Vegas Uncork’d Grand Tasting
Caesar’s Palace: Garden of the Gods
3570 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/10/13
Each year, Vegas Uncork’d is one of the largest food and wine events on the West Coast. Las Vegas is an ideal place for one of these festivals, given its high concentration of notable chefs with a presence in the city. Granted, Las Vegas is rarely the location of their flagship restaurant, but a large-scale event such as this one really seems to bring in these chefs from across the country (and some internationally).
Vegas Uncork’d, presented by Bon Appetit, spans almost 30 individual, unique events. Intimate dinners and cooking demonstrations make up the bulk of the events, but the one I’ve gone to the past couple of years is the Grand Tasting (and my extended family has been going for many years now). This year, the all-you-can-eat/drink event brought together 100 different restaurants/wineries/spirits for a $225 admission. It’s definitely not cheap, but the food is typically of high quality and the event provides the unique ability to see and interact with many of these chefs (many of whom are elusive, hopping around between restaurants so often). Some of the bigger-name chefs I spotted this year (I’m sure there are others I missed) were Joel Robuchon, Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Michael Mina, Guy Savoy, Michel Richard, Francois Payard, Masaharu Morimoto, Hubert Keller, Graham Elliott, and Charlie Palmer. Yep, a lot.
800 W Coast Hwy
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Dining date: 5/5/13
After running 13.1 miles in the OC half marathon, a number of options were debated in which to offset our caloric deficit. Oxtail pho and Brodard’s famous nem nuong spring rolls were leading contenders, as well as dumplings and other comforting Asian soup noodles. However, in the end, Newport Beach’s own location of one of LA’s favorite pizzerias was the choice.
Much has been written about Pizzeria Mozza and its original location on Melrose & Highland in LA continues to be very popular. Opened in 2011, it’s actually the third location of the mini-chain, with the second being in Singapore.
Decor and menu are both very similar to the original, with the latter featuring a bunch of antipasti, a handful of meat, salad and panini dishes, and about a dozen pizzas.