In Vegas, nothing is exempt from the "Go Big or Go Home" motto—especially not restaurants and bars. In the last decade or so, the Strip has gone from cheap steak central to one of the best places in the country for cuisine from the world's top chefs. Here's the scoop on the latest hot crop of places for dinner, brunch, and drinks.
New York City chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, along with partner Jeff Zalaznick, opened their first Stateside expansion at the Aria in October in a gorgeous space that pays playful homage to old-school Vegas. The Blue Room at the front of the restaurant has a swanky piano-bar vibe, featuring palazzo floors, a long vintage mahogany bar (the perfect place to drink a lime zest-topped classic daiquiri), and leather chairs. The Red Room in back is inspired by the Milan opera, with semicircle red velvet booths where every seats face the show on the dining-room floor. This includes not only elegantly dressed diners, but also plenty of tableside presentations: Zac Posen tuxedo-wearing captains toss Caesar salad before your eyes, bone dover picatta at the table, and flambée bananas to order.
In a stunning space with stunning views that opened October 1 on the tippy-top of the Delano, French chef Alain Ducasse offers a seafood-focused menu that mines the cuisines of the French and Italian rivieras. The many highlights include two chickpea-based snacks from the south of Italy and France, socca and panisse; an appealingly lemony marinated sea bream starter; bright-tasting Caprese salad; striped bass in a minestrone reduction; and limoncello baba for dessert, a spin on the traditional rum cake. While you eat, it's a toss-up whether to stare at the lights of the Strip below or at the beautiful interior, whose under-the-sea good looks include a wall of cascading glass pieces in various shades of blue and a spiral-shaped installation of hanging glass baubles.
Gastronomic excess needn't be limited to dinnertime—it's Vegas, baby! The best new boozy weekend brunch in town may be this bottomless rosé affair at San Francisco chef Michael Mina's first Vegas brasserie, which opened early this year. The decadence runs sweet and savory, from French toast piled high with mascarpone and almond-tasting orgeat syrup to the duck-confit-topped savory hunter's waffle. The sexy space includes classic brasserie details like dark wood walls, brass accents, and low lighting.
Head off the Strip to Chinatown for one of the best new drinking experiences in Vegas. The Golden Tiki not only slings excellent Polynesian-themed drinks, but it could serve as a museum to all things tiki: shrunken heads, headhunter knives made sharp by rows of human teeth, and velvet portraits of topless beauties. Classic quaffs like the Painkiller (served with a side of cult favorite dessert Dole pineapple whip) or the Don the Beachcomber invention Three Dots and a Dash are a good order. Even better are the house concoctions like the Banana Batida, a cachaca-laced milkshake meal in a glass. If you detect a subtle Pirates of the Caribbean vibe, you're not off-base: a few choice finds of owner Branden Powers include a warning sign from that swashbuckling Disney ride and a holographic ghost ship painting that once graced the Haunted Mansion's walls.
There's no better view of the light-and-water shows offered by the iconic Fountains of Bellagio than at Lago, an Italian small-plates spot from James Beard Award-winning chef Julian Serrano that opened this spring. If you're lucky enough to be able to snag a front-row patio table, the sounds of the fountain provide welcome entertainment—inside, windows are as large as possible to maximize views. When truffles are in season, go for one of the excellent pastas shaved with the edible gold. Regardless, you'll want to start with some fresh seafood crudo, like the tuna marinated in blood orange and caper before moving on to mains like the shareable one-pound rib eye garnished simply with sea salt. Don't miss ogling the interior, with its colorful retro theme that nods to vintage Milan style.