The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
The Hard Rock has Nobu, and the Caesar's Palace complex has Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill as well as a forthcoming Nobu Hotel. But among the Las Vegas Strip's celebrated uber-resorts, the two-year-old Cosmopolitan, stocked with a spate of restaurants from a carefully curated collection of top chefs, is our choice for a gourmet escape from Sin City's gastronomic mediocrity. The chefs here aren't just celebrities; they are geniuses, if not mad, food scientists of the highest order. Take Jose Andres, the renowned Spanish chef, who has not only contributed an outpost of his Washington, D.C. tapas hit Jaleo, but has also opened his first Mexican-Chinese fusion restaurant called China Poblano. The latter place raises the bar for both cuisines, although some of us need powerful magnets to stay away from the dim sum counter, where cooks assemble perfect dumplings in front of you, sushi-bar style (make sure to order batches of the "When Pigs Fly" BBQ pork buns).
The hotel also includes the city's truly best sushi at Blue Ribbon, which was once only located in New York. Here, we also get chefs Bruce and Eric Bromberg's beloved non-sushi dishes from the original Blue Ribbon restaurant: fried chicken with wasabi honey, marrow bones, and miso lobster. The elite Greek seafood restaurant enjoyed by midtown Manhattan moguls Estiatorio Milos even appears in the hotel; it's like visiting a refined fish market, where you have your pick of any finned friend, grilled whole with herbs. No offense to sea bass, however. We go right to the raw bar before hitting the deliciously smoky octopus, which is served with Santorini chickpeas, Kritamo capers, and sea fennel, an unusually addictive herb native to the Greek islands' coastal cliffs.
There are also fine restaurants from the Food Network's 'Chopped' judge Scott Conant (well known to foodies well before making a Food Network show). These include his signature Italian success, Scarpetta, and David Myers's L.A. take on a French brasserie, Comme Ça, which is set with a great view over the strip, where we recommend a seat on the terrace with a bowl of mussels and chorizo, served with perfect pommes frites. Fear not, traditionalists, because there's also a fine steakhouse under the roof in the form of the highly regarded STK. And there's Pizzeria, a small pie shop with excellent New York standards hidden at the end of a long hall lined with framed vintage Italian records.
We're even more intrigued by the Wicked Spoon food hall, which is literally the hotel's revision of the Las Vegas Buffet, where you will find cheffy upgrades of staples like macaroni and cheese (here, spiked with serious spices) as well as short ribs (spun Korean-style) and an homage to Roscoe's chicken and waffles (although we go for the gnocchi, as opposed to "fettuccine alfredo," served in a covered skillet). In short: Don't expect to check into the Cosmopolitan and spend time wandering the strip for other places to eat. Unless, of course, you've had so much excellent food you need a reference point to remember what barely passes for "decent."