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47 of the best Las Vegas restaurants, on and off the Strip

The Las Vegas dining scene has a spicy relationship with stereotypes. It creates them, embraces them, defies them, reinvents them.

Which tropes we hold closest likely are generational. Some of us will recall the midcentury Before Times when dining in Vegas meant endless buffets, cheap steakhouses and the brown-sauced, Cognac-flamed zenith of Continental cuisine. Many more may always consider the city a satellite state for celebrity chefs.

As he did for Los Angeles in the 1980s, Wolfgang Puck shifted restaurant culture in Vegas forever by opening his second location of Spago in 1992. It took residents and visitors a few months to acclimate to the open-kitchen vibes and his sunny Cal-ltal cooking. But when the nightly receipts for goat cheese ravioli and smoked salmon pizza began to match his Beverly Hills earnings, other chefs from around the country who had become figures in the “New American” fine-dining boom tuned in. At the turn of the millennium, Vegas was for a moment the de facto destination for luxury dining in the United States.

A quarter-century later, the steady introduction of imported concepts — global chains, brand extensions for lifestyle gurus, restaurants with national name recognition — remains a fact of dining on the Strip. Fantasias and themes are baked into its amusement park nature, but with newer restaurants in recent years there are fewer attempts to “transport” diners to a corner bistro in Paris or a hidden den for Hong Kong dim sum, and that’s for the better. The world needs no more tired reinforcements of cultural clichés.

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Meanwhile, during those decades of transformation along Las Vegas Boulevard, another metamorphosis was happening less than two miles away.

In 1995 businessman James Chen and two of his partners, all of whom were high school classmates in Taiwan, opened Chinatown Plaza on Spring Mountain Road. They lined the complex’s roof with Taiwanese ceramic tiles and installed a paifang inspired by Tang Dynasty architecture as a gateway entrance. Their aim was explicit: Create the plaza to serve visiting Asians and Las Vegas’ growing Asian American population.

Their ambitions gave rise to the city’s Chinatown, and now nearly two dozen shopping centers dot the surrounding landscape. They house more than 200 restaurants serving, for starters, the cuisines of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. For Angelenos who know the glories of dining in the San Gabriel Valley, the stretches of strip malls are a familiar and promising sight.

All of which is to say: Dining in Las Vegas has never been more exciting, or more overwhelming. Which is why this guide composed of fresh on-the-ground intel will be useful.

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Jenn Harris, Betty Hallock and I each spent recent days racing across the city — including to the downtown Arts District, another culinary hotbed. We texted each other angles of the Sphere from various hotel rooms and compared notes on Peking ducks (a competitive field!). We didn’t love every meal, but we came away with nearly 50 dining options at every tier that we emphatically recommend. Among them are a taco stand worth lining up for, two new but very different chophouses, sushi and soup dumpling favorites and a 20-year-old jewel box worth a once-in-a-lifetime splurge.

And yes, Wolfgang Puck has another freshly minted restaurant, this one strictly Italian. It’s very, very good. — Bill Addison

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A large steak with two metal cups of sauces and french fries
(Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times)

Bavette's Steakhouse & Bar at Park MGM

Steakhouse $$$
Vegas is a steak town, where a bone-in rib-eye and a stiff stirred drink still signal “high roller” as much as any bromakase. The Golden Steer might be Las Vegas’ most iconic and longest-running steakhouse, but options here are proliferate (see also: Don’s Prime and Peter Luger). Bavette’s is the Strip edition of the Chicago original from Brendan Sodikoff, chef and entrepreneur behind a growing global empire of restaurants including Au Cheval (famous for its griddled cheeseburger). Many of them are speakeasy-like, and Bavette’s at Park MGM doesn’t veer too far from the 1920s and ’30s vibes, with mahogany leather sofas, velvet banquettes, Tiffany-esque lamps, all dark wood. Walk in and you feel as if you’re being absorbed into inky plushness.

The draw here is a straightforward menu with a wide range of steaks of various sizes, cuts and prices, all executed at the highest level — even if, as my server tells me, “We don’t do plusses” when I try to order “rare-plus.” So be it, I’m good with rare. A Duchess cut of filet mignon is 6 ounces and priced at $56.99, and the 16-ounce filet with the bone in costs $92.99. A 32-ounce, 42-day dry-aged Porterhouse is double that. The best deal might be a recent addition to the menu of steak frites for $49.99: a sliced 10-ounce rib-eye with hand-cut fries, served with tarragon-tinged béarnaise and aioli. Definitely order the soft, fluffy, extra-thick-sliced sourdough bread with butter.
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Kalbi with banchan at Best Friend.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Best Friend at Park MGM

Korean $$
Best Friend, Roy Choi’s Korean restaurant at the Park MGM, feels like a college house party you never want to end. Out front, there’s a bodega and bar where you can order a Henny and Cola slushie and buy some merch. Walk through a short red hallway into the dining room to find a DJ spinning, plants hanging from the ceiling and art that incorporates the downtown Los Angeles skyline, the Kogi trucks and Choi’s smiling face. The kalbi is on par with what you’ll find in Koreatown, with tender short ribs that are charred and caramelized in all the right places. The scallop aguachile is served on top of a big curling chicharrón over an electric-green sauce tart with tomatillo and sweet with kiwi. If you made a reservation because you’re a fan of Choi’s Kogi trucks, there’s a section of the menu devoted to “L.A. Sh*t,” with his signature Kogi short rib tacos. Servers feel more like trusted confidants who divulge elite menu hacks, such as saving one of the complimentary bread rolls (imagine a giant, soft King’s Hawaiian roll) to make a slider with my kalbi and cucumber banchan. This will be the move for all future visits.
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Noodles at Big Dan Shanxi Taste.
(Betty Hallock/Los Angeles Times)

Big Dan Shanxi Taste in Chinatown

Chinese $
A favorite off-Strip noodle shop, Big Dan Shanxi Taste is a tiny, hidden restaurant in the Pacific Asian Plaza shopping center at Spring Mountain Road and Decatur in Chinatown. It’s inside the SF (Shun Fat) Supermarket, just past the rice section to your left when you enter the grocery store. Here you’ll find the northwestern Chinese specialties of the Xin family: bowls of noodles, dumplings, soups and cumin-scented lamb, pork or beef stuffed into roujiamo (the Shanxi street snack is often listed on menus as a “Chinese hamburger” because the split flatbread filled with seasoned meat handles like a sandwich).

The most popular dish: biang biang mian hand-pulled noodles (No. 11 “special hot oil noodle”) — wide, ropy, supple and chewy, sauced with hot chile-flecked oil and topped with slick leaves of bok choy. You can add juicy tomato and eggs for a dollar. Wonton soup is fragrant with green herbs and dried seaweed. And the Shanxi pasta called mashi, handmade shell noodles, isn’t regularly found on Xi’an restaurant menus; here it’s served with braised lamb, homey and comforting.
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Porchetta sandwich at Lardo.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Block 16 Urban Food Hall at the Cosmopolitan

Asian American Hot chicken Sandwich Shop Sushi $$
Block 16 Urban Food Hall at the Cosmopolitan was the original food hall on the Strip. Launched in 2018, with outlets of coveted restaurants from around the country (Hattie B’s from Nashville, Tenn and Lardo in Portland, Ore.), it served as the blueprint for the multiple food halls that subsequently opened instead of food courts both on and off the Strip. If you’re in the mood for tongue-searing hot chicken, Hattie B’s is still frying. There’s a hand roll bar and doughnuts next door. It’s adjacent to the Marquee, with a near-constant crowd of people lining up for the club at all hours. The people-watching is some of the best on the Strip.

I’ve eaten my way through most of the menu at Lardo, with the porchetta and Bronx Bomber sandwiches emerging as the clear standouts. The slow-roasted porchetta is cut into thick rounds of porcine glory with crisp, bacon-like edges. It’s piled onto a ciabatta roll, my least favorite sandwich bread but appropriate in this setting. It’s dressed with both a caper mayonnaise and a gremolata with arugula and Parmesan. The Bronx Bomber is a colossal cheesesteak with ribbons of shaved steak, Provolone “whiz,” shredded lettuce, roasted and pickled peppers and vinegar mayonnaise. It’s a melty meat and cheese bomb on a soft roll with enough pickles and vinegar to keep things from getting too heavy.

Near the front of the hall is Bāng Bar by Momofuku, a location of David Chang’s New York City restaurant. Choose between a rice bowl, a fold-up (a variation on the taco) and a u-wrap filled or topped with your choice of protein. The u-wrap is a blistered, tortilla-like wrap folded in half to resemble the letter “u.” It’s the most portable of the options and my usual order. I like to fill it with the spicy pork, cooked like a heavily spiced shawarma on a rotating spit behind the counter. Order a side of the pickled shishito peppers and shove them into your wrap. You can never have enough pickles, or chili crunch. The restaurant sells jars of the Momofuku chili crunch if you’re in need of a jar to bring home.
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Morning pastries on a wooden board with two cups of sauce
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Bouchon at the Venetian Resort

French $$$
Longtime Angelenos might recall the Beverly Hills location of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, a combination bistro, bakery and bar that ran from 2009 to 2017. They followed the models of the original Bouchon bistro and bakery that operate in the Napa Valley within walking distance of the French Laundry in Yountville. The Vegas outpost preceded the one in Los Angeles by five years, opening in 2004 as part of the Venezia Tower expansion of the Venetian. Its semi-detached location has surely contributed to its longevity. The grand room — sumptuous tiling, three-story ceilings, rows of tables covered with crisp white tablecloths — is a calm haven far removed from the casino’s pings and flickers. Expect textbook bistro fare rendered with precision at dinner: shellfish towers, asparagus paired with properly emulsified Hollandaise that would find approval from Auguste Escoffier, exacting versions of salade Lyonnaise, truite amandine and profiteroles drenched in chocolate sauce. Breakfast and brunch, currently served Thursday through Sunday beginning at 8 a.m., is an ideal time to enjoy the restaurant’s outdoor space. Savor biscuits and gravy or crab Benedict (that Hollandaise again) and sip coffee while you feel the Nevada heat index slowly rising.
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A large square of lasagna topped with a fresh basil leaf
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Caramá by Wolfgang Puck at Mandalay Bay

Italian $$$
There is a hulking slice of lasagna on nearly every table at Wolfgang Puck’s new Caramá at Mandalay Bay. The Bolognese sauce permeating the sheets of fresh pasta tastes like it’s been cooking for days, bubbling away on the stove into a rich, long-developed ragù. The lasagna, like most of the menu, is meant to evoke the time Puck spent cooking Italian food with his mother, Maria, who served as the inspiration for the restaurant. Other dishes one might classify as grandma cooking make appearances, with a perfect vitello tonnato speckled with capers and the saltimbocca alla Romana doused in a white wine sauce with sage. If you’re looking for a quicker, less substantial bite, the square bar near the center of the dining room serves as a salumeria, where guests can sit and sip a Negroni and nibble on some bresaola di manzo or mortadella di Bologna.
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Bananas foster from Carbone in Las Vegas.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Carbone at Aria Resort & Casino

Italian $$$$
Even when the Major Restaurant Group opened Italian American wonderland Carbone in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village in 2013, in a space formerly occupied by another Italian restaurant, it was a tribute to red sauce utopia: decor straight out of a Mario Puzo screenplay, tuxedoed servers, enormous platters of pastas and meats, exceptionally stiff Gibsons. It was, in short, made to be replicated for Las Vegas. The Carbone at Aria has two distinct rooms: a front area with a glowing bar that feels suited for groups, and a dramatic circular back space, far more “Casino” than “Godfather,” with red velvet walls, a nearly floor-to-ceiling crystal chandelier tiered like an upside-down wedding cake, and high leather booths for maximum privacy. If you know this food, you could order without looking: paper-thin beef carpaccio, tableside Caesar punchy with anchovy dressing, spicy rigatoni vodka (a deserving signature), a walloping bone-in veal Parmesan with a side of broccoli rabe. As a finale the server will wheel over a trolley full of cakes, but I prefer my dessert set ablaze: bananas Foster, please.
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Two carnitas tacos with onion, carrot and other garnish in a black plastic to-go container
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Carnitas y Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara #2

Mexican $
Carnitas y Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara #2 is located on the stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard between the last big Strip hotels and downtown Las Vegas. If you’re in need of a wedding chapel post-tacos, you have options. It’s a small dining room with a few tables opposite a counter where you can watch your tacos and tortas being assembled. During a recent visit, a table with small children sat next to men in construction safety vests near two glitter- and sequin-clad women who make their living taking photos with tourists on the Strip. The mixto taco is a glistening jumble of carnitas, buche and cueritos on warm, soft corn tortillas. This is pork in a hyper-focused, primal form, the various pieces of shoulder, belly and skin creating a medley of textures in the taco. These tacos are on par with some of the best carnitas specialists in Los Angeles, the meat needing no adornment beyond its own fat and juice.
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A pressed Medianoche sandwich on a long roll from the Chef Truck
(Audrey Ma)

The Chef Truck at Park MGM

Cuban American $
I think about the medianoche from Roy Choi and Jon Favreau’s Chef Truck on my drive back to Los Angeles. I think about it when I get back home and peer into my empty refrigerator. In many ways, it is the perfect sandwich, crisp, juicy and indulgent. At its heart is a pork shoulder brined in orange juice, vinegar and spiced rum, then marinated in a mojo buzzing with garlic, fresh cilantro, mint and more citrus. It’s roasted, sliced and layered with ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and a torrent of salsa verde. The bread, a cross between a really good bolillo and a soft French roll, is smeared with yellow mustard on one side. The assembled sandwich is pressed and toasted in butter on the plancha until it’s shining and about a quarter of its original size. Choi, who served as culinary adviser for Favreau’s 2014 “颁丑别蹿,” says it’s the same sandwich you see in that movie, served from a replica of the truck from the film. After hosting multiple Cubano pop-ups together and starring in two seasons of a Netflix travel and food show called “The Chef Show,” the pair opened the truck at the Park MGM hotel in November. Along with the sandwich, there’s a short menu of other favorites inspired by the film, including ham and cheese croquettes and a vegetarian Cubano made with mojo tofu, portobello mushroom and eggplant. Order a sandwich for now. Order one for later.
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A restaurant server carves Peking duck in a room with red velvet banquettes and book-lined shelves.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Chyna Club at Fontainebleau

Chinese $$$$
In name-checking the culinary spectacles of Vegas, Peking duck has its place alongside tableside flambés and colossal tomahawk steaks. The newest avian entrant: Chyna Club in Fontainebleau, a collaboration between Alan Yau (founder of the casual Wagamama and fine-dining Hakkasan chains out of England) and Richard Chen, the veteran chef who previously ran lauded Wing Lei inside Wynn. Call at least a day ahead to reserve the duck, which costs $129 and feeds four as a dinner centerpiece. A server sidles up within eyesight to carve the lacquered bird in three stages: a first plate that highlights the glassy, crackly skin; a second course that combines skin and meat; and a third round solely comprised of tender, fragrantly spiced meat. It’s the marquee of a Cantonese menu that playfully — yet respectfully — veers in and out of tradition. Order tea-smoked pork ribs, garlicky snow pea leaves and a daily-changing selection of fish steamed in ginger and scallions with inventions like “Club Carbonara,” thin Inaniwa udon tossed with jammy egg, uni and dried pork. Among the restaurant’s many handsome nooks, ask to be seated in the cozy, elegant library room to the right of the entrance.
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Plate of pasta with mushrooms and tomato
(Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times)

Cipriani Las Vegas at Wynn

Italian $$
One especially challenging aspect of dining on the Strip is finding lunch — because fewer restaurants than you might expect (other than those at food halls) are open during the day. Even more elusive might be the lunch deal. Enter Cipriani, the Las Vegas outpost of the Luxembourg-based group of Italian restaurants whose history dates to the founding of Harry’s Bar in Venice in 1931 (where the Bellini and possibly beef carpaccio were born). The Las Vegas Cipriani (yacht-themed with accents of 1990s supermodel portraits, as are all the Cipriani restaurants) is nearly as bustling at midday as the Beverly Hills location, with waiters rushing around to squeeze in extra tables and chairs, and the suited-up convention crowd vying for seats at the bar.

The lunch special at Cipriani at the Wynn is $34 for three courses, which is reasonable for Vegas. Options (subject to change) include fennel soup, mortadella with cornichons, or cucumber salad; tagliardi with veal ragù, chicken spezzatino with rice pilaf, or pan-seared branzino filet; and sorbet or meringue. One caveat: Some of these come with a supplemental fee tacked on. Reservations are a must.
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Big bone soup at District One.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

District One Kitchen & Bar

Vietnamese $
After a few days in Vegas, I need to be alone with the big bone soup. It’s a specialty at District One, a Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown named for the central hub in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I come in between the lunch and dinner rush, almost guaranteeing I’ll have one of the larger booths to myself. When I order the soup, my server asks if anyone will be joining me. When I say no, she nods in approval. The bowl is more of a serving platter, with five hulking and knobby bones piled into the center. Scattered over the top are fresh cilantro, rounds of raw white onion and diced scallions. They sit in a shallow pool of a clear and concentrated oxtail broth. I give the bowl a slow turn, looking for the best point of entry, then settle in for a good 90 minutes of uninterrupted eating. I use my fork to dislodge bits of cartilage and meat stuck to the larger bones, interchanging bites with slurps of soup. With my knife I free the marrow from the bones and use it to buttress the remaining soup. The big bone soup is more of a calming ritual than lunch, restorative and deeply satisfying. There is plenty more to eat at District One, including excellent grilled pork skewers with a ginger-scallion sauce and a mound of oxtail fried rice. But sometimes, I just need to be alone with the big bone soup.
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Ham sandwich with brie and cornichons on a baguette
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Dominique Ansel at Caesars Palace

Bakery French American $
You can thank Dominique Ansel for whatever hybrid croissant situation is in the display case at your local bakery. His Cronut, the croissant-doughnut he created in 2013, was the catalyst for the seemingly never-ending onslaught of hybrid pastries that followed. Has anyone tried the crupcake, crossushi or tacro? The Cronut, available in abundance at Ansel’s Caesars Palace bakery, is still the best of them all. Deep-fried croissant dough will always be appealing. But the bakery’s other star is the laminated ficelle, a cross between a skinny French baguette and a croissant. The foot-long wonder bread is split open, spread with Dijon mustard and filled with ribbons of ham, sliced brie cheese and cornichons. It’s the ham-and-cheese sandwich of your dreams on a croissant baguette that shatters into a million buttery shards.
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Dons Prime steak.
(Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times)

Don's Prime at Fontainebleau

Steakhouse $$$
The opulence of Don’s Prime in the new Fontainebleau hotel doesn’t hit you until you’re well past the host’s stand at the entrance. But as soon as you sidle up to the circular bar with its scalloped counter of thick black marble, you’re stunned (much like when you see the menu prices). The illuminated bar rises like a shining tower of glittering whiskey and gin bottles. Everything here says lush old-school: The main dining room is filled with teal leather-tufted banquettes and brass accents; a whiskey cart rolls out cocktails such as tableside smoked Manhattans; and at a marble wine-decanting station, servers aerate your big Burgundies.

The menu features prime cuts from New York’s celebrity butcher Pat LaFrieda (the meat purveyor of choice for restaurants from Eleven Madison Park to Shake Shack) and grass-fed and grass-finished American Wagyu from Cross Creek Ranch in Colorado, as well as a few options from Japan. Many of these are displayed in a wall of refrigerated dry-aging cases. And if you’re going the surf ’n’ turf route, this is the place to do it, with plateaux of raw or roasted seafood.

Through the summer, Don’s Prime is offering a three-course menu from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday to Thursday for $85 per person, which includes your choice of shrimp cocktail, a classic Caesar salad or wedge; a 6-ounce filet mignon, roasted half chicken or seared King salmon; and cheesecake for dessert. In the world of Vegas steaks, this is one of the best deals around, especially considering a steak and salad might otherwise cost you a couple hundred dollars.
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The Margherita pizza from Double Zero Pie & Pub in Chinatown.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Double Zero Pie & Pub in Chinatown

Italian Pizza $
The pizzas at Michael Vakneen‘s Chinatown restaurant remind me of the excellent pies at Pizzeria Sei and Bar Monette in Los Angeles. The crusts all have that puffy, pillowy quality you’ll find at the best pizzerias in Tokyo. Vakneen’s crust is covered in big, crisp, charred bubbles. With as many as nine toppings on some of the pizzas, the dough manages to be both sturdy and weightless. If you’re open to salad and fruit on your pizza, the Speck pie is layered with white sauce, fior di latte and mozzarella, speck, saba, candied pecans, micro greens and fig jam. It has all the makings of a good cheese and charcuterie board on pizza crust. The best way to appreciate Vakneen’s dough may be the classic Margherita, with a simple straightforward lineup of red sauce, fior di latte, fresh basil, sea salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Everything tastes just the way it should.
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Town and Country bowl with crab salad and ahi poke on rice
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Eat Your Heart Out at Durango Resort and Casino

Hawaiian Italian Sushi Burgers Pizza $
Eat Your Heart Out at the new Durango resort and casino in Southwest Las Vegas is a food hall that boasts restaurants from some of the best-known chefs and chains in the country. There are outlets of Irv’s Burgers, Uncle Paulie’s Deli and Prince St. Pizza (the New York-originated pizza shop with multiple locations in Los Angeles). You’ll also find an outpost of Fiorella, Marc Vetri‘s Philadelphia pasta bar. There’s even a version of the 24-hour Oyster Bar at Palace Station casino. My current favorite vendor is Ai Pono Cafe, a branch of chef Gene Villiatora‘s Costa Mesa Hawaiian restaurant. His $16 Town and Country bowl brims with sizable scoops of crab salad, spicy ahi poke and shoyu-dressed ahi poke over warm steamed rice.

After poke, walk across the casino to the pastry case at Summer House, a Chicago-originated restaurant that promises Southern California vibes. The apple oatmeal cookie is a cross between apple pie and your favorite oatmeal cookie, full of buttery oats and studded with chunks of soft apples. If your sweet tooth leans more toward crispy rice treats or brownies, you’ll find those too.
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Esther's Kitchen

Italian $$
When James Trees opened Esther’s Kitchen in 2018, it became the face of dining revitalization in Las Vegas’ downtown Arts District, buoyed by a comforting, exactingly prepared menu of Italian pastas, pizzas and meats that changes with the seasons. It had always been hell to book dinner in the 68-seat room at a reasonable hour. In March, Trees relocated down the street to a space three times the size of the original — and snagging a reservation for 7:30 p.m. is still nearly impossible. Happily, the strength of the cooking translated instantly. Vie for a table for ramp-filled agnolotti garnished with lobster and pine nuts; thick-rimmed sourdough pies crowned with tried-and-true trios like sausage, sweet peppers and smoked mozzarella; and harbingers of spring like fava bean risotto and asparagus grilled over almond wood. A tip: Lunch with a pared-down menu of salads, pizzas and sandwiches is also a satisfying way to experience this hometown hero of a restaurant.
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Good Pie in Downtown Las Vegas

Pizza $$
Vincent Rotolo grew up in Manhattan and worked at his first pizzeria when he was 12. After years in the industry — including stints living in and out of Vegas, making pizzas but also cooking in fine-dining kitchens — Rotolo opened his own place in 2017 in the city’s Arts District. (Game-changing Esther’s Kitchen opened around the corner months later.) His menu bravely tackles most of the American schools of pizza: New York-style, thin with billowing edges and the varied thicknesses of grandma, Detroit and Sicilian genres, with even some stuffed crust and fried pizza variations thrown in. His depth of knowledge helps his team pull off this universalist approach. I gravitate to his square, pan-baked pies: the medium density of his supreme grandma pizza, which can support the array of pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and peppers; and the crackling height of his Detroiter, which frankly appeals with little more than extra cheese.
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A server pounds Wagyu carpaccio at HaSalon at the Venetian.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

HaSalon at the Venetian Resort

Israeli Mediterranean Middle Eastern $$$
Do not be alarmed if halfway through dinner, you hear a loud banging coming from the other end of the restaurant, or the table next to you. The Terrifying Hammer is an appetizer prepared tableside, with four ounces of Wagyu carpaccio pounded into a flat blob of meat about the breadth of a truck tire. Your server will ask if you’d like to take part in the pounding. It can be quite therapeutic.

Eyal Shani‘s restaurant at the Venetian Resort is designed to be a party every evening, with patrons dancing throughout the dining room, and sometimes on the actual tables. The overall atmosphere of revelry is meant to mimic the vibrant nightlife in Tel Aviv, where Shani opened the first HaSalon in 2008. There’s plenty to keep you occupied through dinner, but the most compelling part of HaSalon is still the food. The Terrifying Hammer is showered in lemon zest and drizzled with good olive oil. It’s served on the paper it was pounded on, with each diner taking turns scraping the meat off the table. The Moulin Rouge beet tortellini are tender pillows of pasta bulging with tender diced beets. Black and red onyx marble figs harvested from the Palazzo gardens are meticulously arranged on a plate so that they just overlap, accompanied by a wedge of Humboldt Fog and a slice of honeycomb. It’s food meant to be shared in the lulls between impromptu dance parties and pounding your Wagyu.
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A white bowl shaped like a sea urchin with uni, caviar and wasabi
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times )

Ito and Bar Ito at Fontainebleau

Sushi Japanese $$$$
If you’re looking to impress a date, celebrate a significant milestone or just treat yourself to something spectacular, there’s Ito, a 12-seat omakase restaurant on the 67th floor of the Fontainebleau Las Vegas. It’s the second location of the New York Ito, which opened in Manhattan in 2022. Make your way up a dedicated elevator to the top floor of the hotel, where you’re ushered through the exclusive Poodle Room members-only social club and an intimate whiskey bar and finally into the restaurant. It’s a wood-lined room that offers a view of the Las Vegas Strip and the Red Rock mountains beyond. There are just two seatings a night, five evenings a week. Fish is flown in daily from Japan, presented in a procession of flawless sashimi, nigiri and temaki. The course in the $500 omakase that elicited audible gasps from diners during a recent service was the uni ikura, a petite bowl brimming with marinated salmon roe, sea urchin from Hokkaido, golden Ossetra caviar and a smidgen of fresh wasabi. Pure decadence in a bowl. If you enjoy sake, I suggest a pairing. The standard offerings (you can also upgrade to the premium for an additional $200) were thoughtful and well paced throughout the meal. The best bite of the evening may have been the single piece of same karei (shark skin flounder) nigiri presented as an optional add-on at the end of the meal. The delicate, fatty fish seemed to melt on the tongue.

For those working with a tighter budget and time frame, the hand rolls at sister restaurant Bar Ito in the Promenade food hall area of the hotel are excellent. The $14 Tekka bowl is a mound of sushi rice with fresh bluefin tuna, otoro tartare, avocado and shiso splayed over the top. It’s probably the best, most extravagant meal you can buy for less than $20 on the Strip.

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Le Caviar Imperial from Joel Robuchon.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Jo?l Robuchon at MGM Grand

French $$$$
“And yet here I am, in the most unlikely place on the planet having one of the greatest French meals I’ve ever had in this country,” former Times critic S. Irena Virbila wrote in 2005 soon after the opening of Jo?l Robuchon in the Mansion at MGM Grand. The restaurant bears the name of one of the 20th century’s most accomplished chefs — a nonconformist who could be as impish as he was rigorous with haute cuisine, and who famously retired from his Paris restaurant at 51 (he would say he watched other chefs of his generation dying of stress-related heart attacks) before he partnered on a global brand of more casual “atelier” restaurants, one of which remains in residency in the MGM Grand.

Las Vegas is more than ever a playground for the wealthy, but nearly 20 years into its run, no restaurant has surpassed the sumptuousness and the expense of Jo?l Robuchon. Draped in regal purples, with a wall of living plants to freshen the air, the dining room exists in a world unto itself. The 12-course degustation menu — led by homegrown talent Eleazar Villanueva, who has worked at the restaurant since 2016 and learned from Robuchon before his death in 2018 — costs $525 per person, with truncated dinner options that cost between $235 and $335. There are plates of Ossetra caviar arranged over crab suspended in crustacean gelée and arranged with painstaking, sculptural dots of cauliflower purée. There are impeccable carts for incredible bread, for ripe cheeses, for selecting fresh herbs to be snipped and steeped for a stomach-settling tisane and, as the evening’s finale, for 30 varieties of mignardises (bite-size desserts). Wine pairings home in on mind-opening boutique vintners. I hadn’t dined at Jo?l Robuchon since 2006, and I was shocked to feel a growing déjà vu with my server: Most of the front-of-house staff has remained since the restaurant’s inception, and I’m pretty sure he also guided my meal all those years ago.

American dining, like so many aspects of our culture, has changed profoundly since then. But for an ultra-special occasion centered on supreme hospitality, Robuchon remains a timeless pleasure.

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Zensei plate from Kaiseki Yuzu in Las Vegas.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Kaiseki Yuzu in Chinatown

Japanese $$$$
The United States, let alone Las Vegas, has few restaurants that specialize in the tradition of Japanese kaiseki — the ritualized, multicourse meals, emphasizing micro-seasonal ingredients and a range of cooking techniques, that evolved out of simple foods served with a tea ceremony. At their snug Chinatown restaurant tucked into the back of a strip mall, chef Kaoru Azeuchi and his wife, Mayumi, oversee sushi counters and a small room where Azeuchi and two assistants prepare kaiseki five nights a week. It’s an omakase experience for diners who prefer classicism: Among small, pristine bites of steamed, fried, grilled and raw seafood, with a morsel of A5 Wagyu or two in the mix, the most Americanized dish is a mound of truffle mashed potatoes served with stewed and diced black pork. Meals typically range from $165 to $210 per person. For quiet extravagance and a sincere, disciplined expression of kaiseki, put this one on your off-Strip short list.
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Thai restaurant, Lamaii opened two years ago and features the Beef Tartare in Chinatown in Las Vegas, NV.
(Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times)

Lamaii in Chinatown

Thai $$
Bank Atcharawan earned his success through years of name recognition in the community: He was formerly a sommelier at Lotus of Siam. At Lamaii, his Chinatown restaurant open for lunch and dinner, gray leather booths line the dining room, and rows of lantern chandeliers cast coppery shadows. The menu charts dishes from the breadth of Thailand: Peppercorn-spiked kua kling with pork from the south can be ordered alongside a comforting bowl of khao soi from the north. As expected, Atcharawan’s wine list goes deep on compatible varietals, many of them priced reasonably by Vegas standards. I disappeared into a bottle of 1990 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Auslese paired with gaeng rawaeng, a chicken curry golden and earthy with turmeric, and crab curry with vermicelli. It was nearly dessert wine in its sweetness but ended up accentuating the layers of spice. There are many, many more possibilities.
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Lobster risotto with large chunks of lobster
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

LPM Restaurant & Bar at the Cosmopolitan

Italian $$$
The spectacle begins as soon as you take your seat at LPM at the Cosmopolitan (part of the global La Petite Maison restaurant group). There’s a tiny bench you can pull out from underneath your chair specifically for your handbag. The artwork hanging on the walls extends beyond the frames into what looks like hand-drawn characters in rainbow colors. On your table, there are whole tomatoes, whole lemon, a bottle of olive oil, salt, pepper and a sharp knife. You’re instructed to build your own first course to enjoy with some fresh bread. The Tomatini, a savory martini fashioned with vodka, white balsamic vinegar, muddled Campari tomatoes and sugar syrup, is garnished with fresh black pepper cracked from a pepper mill that’s tall enough to ride the Matterhorn at Disneyland. Escargot comes sizzling in shells overflowing with fresh herbs and melted butter. The beef carpaccio is presented as gossamer pieces of cured strip loin in a tangy pickle vinaigrette. The grains of rice in the lobster risotto are full and al dente, each one clinging to the creamy sauce in a bowl crowded with chunks of lobster. The food is still the draw. The theatrics are a welcome sideshow.
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Crispy prawns from Lotus of Siam
(Marco Hernando / One Seven Agency)

Lotus of Siam

Thai $$
I first fell in love with the garlic prawns at the original Lotus of Siam on Sahara Avenue, long before its roof collapsed in 2017. After the closure, I frequented the newer, flashier location on Flamingo Road. The restaurant is still run by the Chutima family, whose matriarch, Saipin, is behind the restaurant’s Northern Thai food. And after 25 years, it’s still the restaurant I recommend most in Vegas, coupled with a strong suggestion to order the garlic prawns. They’re dunked in a light batter and deep-fried, then thrown into a screaming hot wok with a mob of garlic that goes sticky and sweet in Chutima’s special sauce. The prawns are massive and intertwined with parts of the shells hanging off like tempting chips you can pluck off the plate. And yes, you can eat the shells. As at my favorite neighborhood Thai restaurant, I have my go-to dishes. The khao soi with crispy duck will always find a way onto my table. But on this last visit, I asked our server to add her favorite dish to my order. What arrived was a Lao-style papaya salad with whole, fried soft shell crabs. I tend to order bubbles with all the deep-fried seafood, but the full bar and considerable wine list ensure the proper libation accompanies whatever you order.

I’m looking forward to visiting the new, bigger location back on Sahara Avenue, which is scheduled to open later this year.
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Meat at Miznon.
(Betty Hallock/Los Angeles Times)

Miznon at the Venetian Resort

Mediterranean $$
Sit at the counter in front of the open kitchen at Eyal Shani’s pita sandwich shop Miznon and you’ll hear the sizzle of spiced ground lamb as it hits the hot griddle. It drowns out the beeps, jangles and chimes of the Venetian’s lobby casino and even Hall & Oates’ “Maneater” playing over the speakers. When your lamb kebab is ready, a cook slides it off the skewer and into a pillowy-soft pita along with thick slabs of crunchy pickled cucumbers, a charred half tomato and a small wedge of onion whose layers are still connected at the root end, all of it sluiced with tahini and zhoug.

The pita sandwich menu is divided into Vegetable Creatures, with options including cauliflower, falafel and wild mushrooms; Grass-Fed Cow, Lamb and Chicken, featuring chicken schnitzel, lamb kebab and seared brisket called “candy steak”; and a single choice under the title Ocean Creatures, “fish ’n’ chips” of branzino with potato. Plates include “the original world famous baby cauliflower,” which is probably a requisite side order: a whole head steamed and then roasted with olive oil and salt, so tender you can eat the whole thing with a spoon, including the stems and leaves. It isn’t all that easy to find a stand-alone spot for a casual, delicious meal inside a casino, so take advantage of the Miznon counter inside the Venetian, directly across from Shani’s new higher-end Mediterranean restaurant HaSalon.
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The roasted chicken at Mother Wolf in the Fontainbleau in Las Vegas, NV.
(Wonho Frank Lee / Mother Wolf)

Mother Wolf at Fontainebleau

Italian $$$$
Something about the theatrical Venetian grandeur of Evan Funke’s Mother Wolf in Hollywood — gilded Murano blown-glass chandeliers, smoky mirrors, brick-red leather, knotty hardwoods and etchings of pomegranates and lemons around the borders of the sky-high ceilings — always put me in a Las Vegas frame of mind. No surprise, then, that the tone of the restaurant fits organically among the more glittery fine-dining options in the new Fontainebleau. Angelenos familiar with the original will feel at home: same opulence and butter-poached lighting; same focus on Roman dishes, with nearly identical menus. When traveling, I rarely seek out the mirror image to a place where I can dine at home, but the Vegas Mother Wolf is persuasive. Fettuccine al burro, a Funke pasta I haven’t tried in Los Angeles, won me over with the simple rightness of its three-star ingredients (cultured butter, intense yet delicate Parmigiano Reggiano di Vacche Rosse, kerchiefs of prosciutto). Family-style roast chicken and wild mushrooms in a sauce of pan drippings conjured springtime with its scattering of fresh English peas. As always, Funke’s ace pastry chef Shannon Swindle conceived desserts, including cannoli dipped in crushed pistachios and chocolate and his signature strawberry-filled maritozzo, that ended the meal on sustained high notes.
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Applewood Roasted Peking Duck on a wood tray with various sauces next to pancakes in a steamer basket
(Mott 32)

Mott 32 at the Venetian Resort

Chinese Cantonese Sichuan Asian $$$$
Order the Peking duck a week or more before you plan to visit. It’s a dish tethered to the past in a way that feels inherently regal, due in part to its labored preparation and the pomp and circumstance that accompanies it. The duck at Mott 32 inside the Venetian resort is smoked with dried applewood and meticulously carved tableside. The skin is taut and brittle, with the fat fully rendered into the meat below the amber tiles. The gossamer chun bing are durable, with a satisfying chew. You can build wraps with julienned cucumber, scallions and sweet hoisin sauce. Or eat the pieces of crisp skin dipped in a little bit of granulated sugar. Beyond the duck, Mott 32 has a menu that spans Cantonese, Beijing and Sichuan cooking. There are nearly a dozen dim sum offerings, including siu mai and pork buns. And if you get lucky at the tables, you can splurge on a braised whole dried abalone. But my usual order is the Peking duck and a plate of braised string beans. They’re tossed in plenty of garlic and sauteed until wrinkly and perfect.
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The chicken parm sandwich from Parm in Las Vegas.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Parm at Aria Resort & Casino

Italian $$
The brand-new Italian American sandwich counter in Aria’s Proper Eats Food Hall is a spinoff of the fast-casual chain with four locations across New York and one in Boston, run by the Major Food Group. For an affordable, on-the-fly meal, zero in on two marquee classics: meatball parm and chicken cutlet parm, both stuffed into sesame-studded rolls with tomato sauce, dustings of Parmesan and lobes of slowly melting mozzarella. The Vegas mozzarella sticks pale in comparison to the original, though the chocolate-and-ricotta-filled cannoli recipe developed by chef Mario Carbone holds up in translation. Speaking of Carbone, his namesake restaurant is just down the hall from the food court. If you can’t get into Carbone — it’s one of the most notoriously difficult reservations in Vegas — a chicken sandwich or plate of rotini with spicy vodka sauce from Parm won’t approximate the experience, but it’ll at least assuage the red sauce cravings.
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A burger from Peter Luger in Las Vegas.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Peter Luger Steak House at Caesars Palace

Steakhouse $$$$
It would be impossible to flawlessly import the grit and swagger of the original Peter Luger in Brooklyn. The restaurant has operated since 1887 and helped codify the blueprint of the American chophouse. While the original’s patinaed atmosphere can never be duplicated, the satellite in Caesars Palace manages to echo some of the menu’s key elements. The steaks deliver forthright dry-aged funk. If those taut-fleshed, extra-beefy qualities don’t appeal in a Porterhouse, look to another Vegas cow palace to fulfill your carnivorous appetite. As in Williamsburg, though, the best dish on the menu is arguably the gargantuan burger, served only during lunch hours between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. It weighs in at just over a half pound, and grinding the meat seems to round out the flavors of the dry-aged beef. Adding American cheese; one thick, double-length slice of bacon that tastes pleasantly of ham; and a side order of wedge fries brings the total of the burger to the sky-high sum of $41.80. Would I recommend it to aficionados as the steakhouse burger to beat in Sin City? Absolutely.
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Kibbeh nayyeh from Pine Bistro in Las Vegas.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Pine Bistro in Southern Highlands

Lebanese $$
Pine Bistro, an airy Lebanese restaurant that opened last September in the Southern Highlands community, is a fresh entrant for when you need a retreat from the nearby Strip’s unending pandemonium. Executive chef Dany Chebat winningly executes a proven formula of mezze plus kebabs and seafood platters. Among well-made staples like hummus, fattoush, falafel and baba ghanoush, look for Chebat’s elegantly silky version of kibbeh nayyeh, the Lebanese answer to beef tartare. Scoop it, as with the dips, using the steady supply of hot, ballooned pita that arrives from the kitchen. He also makes excellent, generous- sized fatayer (spinach hand pies accented with pine nuts and pomegranate seeds). The strongest entrees lean family-style, including a mixed grill of meats and prawns or a whole sea bream cooked over fire and seasoned simply with lemon and chopped tomatoes. There’s a full bar, but if you want to truly channel the spirit of Lebanese dining, start by ordering a glass of ouzo-like arak to sip with mezze.
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Ping Pang Pong at Gold Coast Hotel & Casino

Chinese $$
When we speak of dim sum culture on the West Coast, we speak of L.A.’s San Gabriel Valley, San Francisco and the deep Cantonese riches of Richmond, British Columbia, near Vancouver. We should start including Las Vegas in the conversation; local dim sum greatness is reaching a peak on and off the Strip. Ground zero for discussion arguably leads to Ping Pang Pong at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino, a restaurant started by Kevin and Karrie Wu in 2001. The restaurant, which expanded to larger and sleeker digs in the same hotel in 2017, operates long hours daily from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. Its regular menu is a massive greatest-hits collection of regional Chinese and Chinese American favorites. At lunch, though, the crowds know to show up for staffers who steer old-school rolling trolleys through the dining room. They’re filled with steamer baskets full of dumplings and plates of custardy tarts, fried turnip cakes and shrimp-paste-stuffed peppers. From the moment you lift the first har gau cleanly from the paper liner and your teeth cut easily through its wrapper, reaching shrimp that still possesses snap, you know you’re in capable hands. These may be fighting words, but Ping Pang Pong’s baked barbecue buns are plusher and richer than any of the ones I’ve tried in the SGV (which is most of them).
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A hand uses chopsticks to hold up ramen from a large bowl
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Proper Eats Food Hall at Aria Resort & Casino

Italian Japanese Deli $$
I’m about to tell you to order ramen from a place called Laughing Buddha, and that the pizza from DJ Steve Aoki’s place is better than you’re imagining. Neither was a thing I sought out at the new Proper Eats Food Hall at Aria Resort and Casino, but here we are. Grab a seat at the sprawling food complex, where a handful of tables offer views of the resort pool just outside. There’s an outlet of Wexler’s Deli, the Los Angeles restaurant known for its stellar smoked fish on bagels and its deli sandwiches. There are fried chicken tenders from a place called Seoul Bird, and smashburgers at Lola’s Burgers. At Pizzaoki, Aoki’s pizza restaurant, the pepperoni pizza is called the Mic Drop and the “every day menu” is referred to as the EDM. If you can get past the names, it’s a solid New York-style slice with crisp, thin crust, good mozzarella and pepperoni with grease that pools in the cups. It may seem odd, absurd even, to slurp from a steaming bowl of ramen with the weather approaching 105 degrees and pool dwellers developing sunburns a few yards from your table, but you should really try the ramen from Laughing Buddha. The tonkotsu broth is balanced, full-bodied and milky. The noodles are pleasingly chewy and there are generous slabs of roast pork belly fanned across the surface.
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Chicken wings on a black-and-white checkerboard paper in a bowl
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Q Bistro in Chinatown

Korean Fried Chicken $
I once smuggled two plastic condiment cups full of magic sprinkles on a plane from Las Vegas to Burbank. I wrapped each of the powder-filled cups in its own plastic bag, stuffed them into a pair of socks, checked my bag and hoped for the best. Magic sprinkles is the cheese and onion seasoning Q Bistro restaurant in Chinatown uses on its fried chicken wings. It’s the sort of place you’d expect to find in Koreatown, with K-pop music playing in the background and a menu crowded with anju (food consumed with alcohol). The Chinatown restaurant serves its grilled meats on sizzling platters, and you can request a glob of melty corn cheese to use as a hot cheese dip for anything you order. The fried chicken wings are first-rate, with extra-crunchy coating doused or showered in a sauce or seasoning of your choosing. The magic sprinkles taste like white cheddar popcorn seasoning, sugar and onion powder in proportions designed specifically to spark obsession. After my first visit, I begged and pleaded with my server to sell me some of the magic sprinkles. I said I’d pay anything. He eventually relented and gave me the two small plastic containers I brought back home. I coveted the seasoning for days, sprinkling some on my air fryer chicken wings, vegetables and even my fingers.
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Zucchini fritters at RPM Italian.
(Lindsay Eberly / Eberly Film Lab)

RPM Italian at Caesars Palace

Italian $$$
There’s something magical about an entire meal composed of appetizers, a plate or two of pasta and cocktails. There’s no committing to a larger entree. Everyone can share. Regardless of when you sit down for dinner, the evening feels like it’s just getting started. RPM Italian, on the outskirts of the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, is the place for appetizers for dinner. It’s the Las Vegas outpost of the Chicago restaurant that’s known for its house-made pastas. Start with the prosciutto service, a platter filled with ribbons of San Daniele 600-day-aged prosciutto and long crisp grisini. The Caesar salad is topped with a Parmesan frico that nearly matches the diameter of the plate. Everyone can take a turn cracking it with a spoon. The arancini are gooey with smoked Scarmoza. The plate you’ll want to order multiples of is zucchini fritti with a creamy almond dip. The discs of zucchini are sliced impossibly thin and covered in a light coating that shatters, then melts in your mouth. And the Maine lobster fra diavolo always feels worthy of a celebration, with a plump lobster tail draped over a plate of spicy pomodoro spaghetti with plenty of Calabrian chile and fresh Genovese basil.
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The triple decker bacon and turkey sandwich from Sadelle's in Las Vegas.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Sadelle's at the Bellagio

American $$
During prime weekend brunch hours I have never not encountered a staggering queue of patient souls waiting for a meal at Sadelle’s. The tiered, 10,000-square-foot restaurant takes reservations, but when it’s booked people come to line up anyway, studying the seasonal floral themes in the Bellagio’s light-filled conservatory yards away to pass the time. Once inside, seated under an enormous ceiling painted a sky blue that broadly evokes Midcentury Modern glamour, the experience runs on a practiced rhythm of friendliness and efficiency. This is another Vegas venture by the New York-based Major Food Group, which also operates Carbone and Parm (included in this guide). The menu calls forth East Coast morning vibes: smoked or cured fish and bagels; diner-style, plate-size blueberry pancakes made with an unusually light touch; customizable omelets. For the gilded set, there are soft-scrambled eggs mounded with caviar. Breakfast foods consistently satisfy, but let me also point out the towering, lunch-appropriate sandwiches, a fixture at the original Sadelle’s in Manhattan. An impressively engineered triple decker layered with turkey, bacon and slaw would feed a crowd, and there would likely be leftovers for an afternoon snack. I can tell you from experience the flavors will meld and taste even better.
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Crab legs at Seafood Spectacular at the Wynn.
(Betty Hallock/Los Angeles Times)

Seafood Spectacular at the Buffet at Wynn

Seafood $$
The Las Vegas buffet — with a history that dates back to the 1940s — might one day be replaced entirely by food halls, devoid of camaraderie, mountains of crab legs and rotating gelato displays. If you’re a lover of meat carving stations, salad bars and chocolate fountains all in one setting, this would be a sad day. For now, the bonanza continues at a handful of Strip buffets. Many claim that Bacchanal at Caesars Palace is the best of them. I’ve been to both Seafood Spectacular and Bacchanal recently, and the former won me over for the freshness of its offerings, cleanliness and execution.

Aficionados know exactly where to start: the heaps of ice piled with cracked crab legs, poached jumbo shrimp and mussels. I watch two men in front of me fill their plates completely with crab legs and a few lemon wedges, and they advise me to do the same. I scan the prime rib station, dominated by a 60-pound “steamship” cut of Wagyu beef, fatty chunks of it mounded for the taking. The sushi bar goes on and on and on. Another pile of crab legs; these are warm and next to them is a giant tureen of drawn butter. Pizzas come in various styles, thin crust to deep dish. Dauphinoise potatoes? Check. Carnitas tamales? Check. Slices of watermelon? Yes. The dessert bar is fully stocked with mousses, cheesecakes, cream puffs, miniature tarts. Can this party go on forever? We all know how the AYCE shrimp worked out for Red Lobster. Let’s buffet while we still can.
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Shanghai Taste has a variety of xiao long bao's in house in Las Vegas, NV.
(Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times)

Shanghai Taste in Chinatown

Chinese $$
Shanghai Plaza in Chinatown opened in 2019: It covers a sprawling 57,000 square feet with a warren of two-story buildings adorned with red brick columns. Its dining centerpiece, Shanghai Taste, hides inconspicuously among rows of look-alike fa?ades; look for groups gathered outside, waiting for seats or to-go orders. Shanghainese chef Jimmy Li and business partner Joe Muscaglione opened noodle house Niu-Gu together in 2016, but they’ve found a far more adoring audience in this venture. Shanghai Taste’s xiao long bao are a worthy draw. Soup dumplings can suffer from all sorts of engineering issues, but Li mastered a replicable formula: thin yet sturdy wrappers, heavy with broth, and twisted tops that pop off for easy slurping. Wonderful Shanghai-style appetizers — kao fu (braised wheat gluten with a honeycomb texture, paired with wood-ear mushrooms), refreshing bean curd noodles served cold in scallion oil, sweet-and-sour pork ribs — round out the meal. Waits for a table can stretch to over an hour: Sign up for the Yelp wait list well ahead of time. A second location, eight miles south on South Rainbow Boulevard, is expected to open in early summer.
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Barbecue platter at Soulbelly featuring brisket, broccoli, coleslaw, mac and cheese and more
(Arts District)

Soulbelly BBQ in Arts District

Barbecue $$
Bruce Kalman made his name in the Los Angeles area last decade as the executive chef and co-owner of Italian stalwart Union in Pasadena. He left the restaurant in 2018, reappearing in 2021 with a barbecue restaurant housed between two breweries in the Las Vegas Arts District. Soulbelly is an easy good time. Picnic tables fill both the patio and the cavernous dining room, formerly a garage, that houses a stage for live music on the weekends. Among the smoked meats, lush, meltingly rendered brisket is the clear standout. Ask for cuts of both the lean and the fattier ends for comparison. A toss in Eastern Carolina-style sauce of vinegar and chile flakes brightens the mellow pulled pork. Classic mayo-slicked coleslaw, custardy mac and cheese and the merciful inclusion of roasted broccoli for some green vegetable action round out the sides. Skip the smoked burger, which comes off surprisingly subdued in flavor.
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Tacos at Tacos El Gordo.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Tacos El Gordo

Mexican Tacos $
It’s hard to believe that the Tacos El Gordo on the Strip has been around only since 2010. The bustling taco shop seems like it’s always been an integral part of late-night dining on the Las Vegas Strip, a place where you can get Tijuana-style tacos in the wee hours of the morning. Dining here always feels like I’m part of a club, one where everyone understands the importance of a simple, superior taco in the midst of all the noise and excess down the street. I’ve never been during daylight hours, and never when it was less than bustling. Have an idea of what you want before you step up to the counter or risk an impatient side-eye from the person taking your order. I toggle between the adobada and the asada but crave the adobada most. When it’s at its best, the shavings of pork are equal parts fat and meat with some pieces that are pure crunch. It’s dressed with diced onion, cilantro and a mysterious teal-green sauce that has provoked lengthy Reddit threads about its ingredients and the origins of its distinct color. Is it whole milk? Iceberg lettuce? Avocado or cucumber? There’s a lime and vinegar tang and a crema-like richness, but I couldn’t be sure. All I know is that I want it every time I’m in town.
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Almond tortellini from Vetri Cucina in Las Vegas.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Vetri Cucina in Palms Casino Resort

Italian $$$
My vote for the most underrated fine-dining restaurant in Las Vegas goes to Marc Vetri’s perch on the 56th floor of the Palms Casino Resort. The sedate, wood-lined room has a panoramic view that, come nightfall, frames the Strip and the twinkling city around it. For years Vetri has deservedly been known as one of the best chefs in Philadelphia and among the country’s most exacting practitioners of Italian cuisine. His pastas are spectacular. He delves into shapes like culurgiones, a Sardinian recipe of dough formed to resemble shafts of wheat and stuffed with potato and Pecorino; Vetri takes creative liberties by adding a pesto stinging with ramps. A twirl of ridged mafaldine Bolognese with a healthy dollop of whipped besciamella made me laugh with delight. On the palate the ingredients merge as perfect bites of lasagna straight from Emilia-Romagna. A six-course tasting menu is a tour of Vetri’s mind, via his local team led by executive chef Michael Rubinstein, but it’s hard not to order a la carte and gorge on all the pastas.
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Tuna tostada at Viva by Ray Garcia.
(Neon PR Studios )

?Viva! by Ray Garcia at Resorts World

Mexican $$
Ray Garcia’s ?Viva! at Resorts World Las Vegas is your favorite neighborhood taqueria and that flashy new restaurant billing itself as “modern Mexican” in one dining room. Take, for instance, the tuna tostada, a crisp, golden shell painted with cashew crema and salsa macha with slabs of bluefin tuna fanned out over the surface. Or the steak tacos, served as plump squares of perfectly cooked filet mignon tossed with chile poblano, sauteed onions and king trumpet mushrooms piled onto fresh corn tortillas with a dollop of guacamole. It’s one of a handful of restaurants on the Strip open for brunch and lunch, with many of the offerings hovering around $20. I couldn’t pass up a chance to eat Garcia’s tacos after missing his Los Angeles restaurants Broken Spanish and B.S. Taqueria, both shuttered. But I have my eye on the barbacoa melt for my next visit. It’s a formidable, meaty grilled cheese of sorts that marries short rib, smoked Gruyère, a chipotle Thousand Island dressing and escabeche.
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An arepa in a paper wrapper at Viva Las Arepas.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Viva Las Arepas

Venezuelan $
I can’t recall which friend recommended Viva Las Arepas, but I’m grateful, and I’m paying it forward. Owner Felix Arellano, who immigrated to the United States from Venezuela in the 1990s, started the business as a stand in the parking lot at the nearby Dino’s Lounge. Now, he serves arepas, pastelitos, cachapas and empanadas at a spacious, counter-service restaurant in a strip mall just north of the Stratosphere. Arellano’s arepas are exemplary versions of the Venezuelan cornmeal cakes, barely sweet and mottled with crispy patches. There are arepas filled with beef cooked over a mesquite grill, another with a sort of chicken and avocado salad, and one stuffed with sliced ham and cheese like a deli sandwich. The one I return to most is the shredded beef, a take on carne mechada with the strands of meat tangled between soft bell pepper, onion and tomato. It’s more like a bowl of hearty stew nestled into the arepa. Though sturdy enough, the soft corn cake is no match for the filling beyond 20 minutes. But it’s just as satisfying eaten in a broken mess on your plate with a fork.
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Sushi with caviar and edible flowers are part of the Omakase at Wakuda at the Venetian
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Wakuda at the Venetian Resort

Japanese $$$$
The eight-seat bar at the back of Wakuda is an omakase executed at the highest level, with all the theatrics one might want and expect from the Las Vegas Strip. At $500 a person, it’s also one of the most extravagant meals in the city. My generous slab of otoro was adorned with a dollop of caviar gilded with gold flecks. Each piece of nigiri was presented like a personalized gift, a one-bite wonder of kinmedai under a fast-melting yuzu foam that both balanced and enhanced the delicate fish. Or a slice of chutoro draped over rice molded and warmed by the chef’s hands not three seconds before it’s in your mouth. The pacing is thoughtful, never rushed or lagging. If you’re trying to make it to your show at the Sphere, the chefs are mindful. The final cooked course was a monstrous King crab leg lightly fried in a fragile tempura batter. Dessert involved enough dry ice to engulf the room in thick tendrils of white smoke. That was my two hours at the bar. With an experience that changes with each service, your time may be wildly different. But you can count on dinner and a show.

In the main dining room, Tetsuya Wakuda is serving an a la carte menu that incorporates robatayaki, tempura and katsu, sashimi and sushi. Most dishes are whimsical in presentation, with big rounds of seaweed fixed behind pieces of baked crab nigiri, or a dessert covered in gray chocolate to look like a stone. The food is as playful as the two enormous sumo wrestlers facing off in the middle of the dining room. Really, they’re there every night.
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Chopsticks lift a piece of Yuba prawn cheung fun at Washing Potato
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Washing Potato at Fontainebleau

Dim Sum $$$
Swiping har gau through chile oil while Kylie Minogue’s forever-earworm “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” blasts through speakers and strobe lights zoom overhead? Welcome to the latest dim sum sensation in Vegas. The slick club vibes gave me pause, but the cred behind the restaurant pulled me through the door. As with Chyna Club next door, the new Fontainebleau project is the brainstorm of Alan Yau, the Hong Kong-born British restaurateur who founded the noodle-focused Wagamama and high-end Hakkasan chains in London. He recruited Richard Chen, who previously ran Wing Lei inside Wynn, to oversee both kitchens. At Washing Potato, the team crafts artful, traditional-minded dim sum. Dumplings, including a scallop-wrapped version of shiu mai and Chiu Chow-style fun guo filled with precisely diced meats and vegetables, achieve a rare balance: They’re as delicate as they are structurally sound. Don’t overlook the silky-crisp cheung fun encasing prawns and fried tofu sheets. Direct your appetite first to the dim sum classics, and if you’re still hungry wade deeper into the menu for a very respectable beef noodle soup and whimsies like wasabi-crusted shrimp.
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slices of Peking duck on a plate with a gold rim.
(Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times)

Wing Lei at Wynn

Chinese Restaurant $$$
You know you’re at a Chinese restaurant at a hotel in Las Vegas when you’re sitting in a palatial gold-and-jade dining room inspired by an antique jewelry box, next to a courtyard of century-old pomegranate trees guarded by a golden dragon sculpture, and the server brings a purse stool that evokes a Qing Dynasty throne. This is just the start of dinner at Wing Lei, what might be the ersatz-meets-elegant crown jewel of restaurants at the Wynn. Wing Lei’s menu serves up favorites from Shanghai, Sichuan and Hong Kong, but the signature dish is most definitely Peking duck.

For many years, Wing Lei was the standard-bearer for Peking duck on the Vegas Strip, and it still might be, even among contenders such as Mott 32 at the Venetian and Chyna Club in Fontainebleau. It is hard to beat the deftness of its tableside service, overseen by two servers: One carves the crisp-skinned lacquered bird while the other uses three golden spoons (two in one hand act as tongs) to fill and wrap the steamed crepe-like pancakes. (You also have the option of buns instead of pancakes to accompany the duck.) Wing Lei chef Ming Yu prepares a hybrid roast duck that combines the styles of Beijing and Hong Kong. It’s stuffed with herbs and aromatics, marinated for 12 hours, basted with vinegar and honey, and air-dried for another 12 hours before it’s roasted until the skin is crisp and burnished. At any one time you might see carts criss-crossing the dining room to bring ducks to a dozen tables. One whole duck costs $131.88 and serves two to four.
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A birria taco
(Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times)

664 TJ Birrieria

Tacos $
The sprawl, scale and stimuli of Las Vegas at some point become overwhelming. There are only so many thousands of LED lights, 4-meter-high fire balls, Rod Stewart songs and overly creative craps bets (stick to the pass line!) that one L.A. tourist can process in a certain span. One antidote is a stroll toward the north end of the Strip to the mini “taco row” at the Gold Key Shops strip mall. Yes, this is the home of Tacos El Gordo, which is also on this list. Once you’ve had your fill of adobada tacos with El Gordo’s magic green sauce, the birria two doors down might beckon. Named after the Tijuana area code, the San Diego-based chain serves proper birria — juicy, smoky, tender, spicy stewed goat. It’s delicious enough that I order straight birria tacos on corn tortillas. But so many Angelenos’ taco snack of choice is the quesabirria that melds cheese with meat with tortilla, and you wouldn’t be wrong to order it here. Eat outside in the warm breeze of a Vegas night, say a prayer to the dice gods, and you will be fully restored and ready to parlay.
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