Restaurants that went above and beyond in 2021
It’s hard to not look back on 2021 with complicated emotions. We made progress in fending off the coronavirus pandemic, but new variants emerged and now we’re almost back to where we started. Along the way, Las Vegas restaurants continued to serve amazing food while braving difficult, inconsistent conditions made worse by employee shortages and a supply-chain crisis. So let’s tip our hats to the kitchens and service teams that served some of the very best meals of 2021.
After remaining closed for more than 19 months during the pandemic, Le Cirque finally reopened its doors in late October at the Bellagio. The dining room enjoyed a light revamp, but the restaurant thrives on familiarity and regulars were happy to see most of the service team and sommeliers return.
The most notable change was the addition of Executive Chef Dameon Evers, who spent months perfecting a series of multi-course menus that matched the restaurant’s legacy of upscale French cuisine with a fresh new lineup of dishes.
The creamy Hudson Valley foie gras and rich Kinmedai (Japanese Golden Eye Snapper) were highlights, but the 45-day dry-aged Mishima Ribeye is easily one of the best steaks you’ll try on the Strip. Think of it as the flavor of a Ribeye with the texture of a filet and you’re on the right track.
The long-awaited opening of Resorts World was one of the biggest stories of 2021 – and with a new hotel comes new restaurants. Viva, Fuhu and Wally’s quickly exceeded expectations, but Brezza edges them out as the property’s most experiential dining spot.
Chef Nicole Brisson (who once led the ambitious dry-aging program at Mario Batali’s Carnevino) has put together an incredible menu of Italian cuisine based on fresh regional ingredients. The pastas and salads shine with simple, seasonal recipes and Brisson is continuing to dry-age her own Creekstone Farms cuts, grilled over white oak, making Brezza the best place to grab a steak at Resorts World (at least until Carversteak finally opens on Dec. 30).
The Negroni lineup is exceptional, but the sommelier’s recommendations on European wines by the glass were an even better complement to the food.
EDO continues to quietly be one of the best pound-for-pound dining experiences in Las Vegas. Located on the edge of Chinatown, Chef Oscar Amador Edo’s cozy restaurant serves Spanish tapas with flawless execution; mixing authentic, traditional techniques with modern, innovative recipes.
Every element is in place: taste, presentation and expertly sourced imported ingredients – all washed down best with a cocktail from the gin and tonic cart. From the charcuterie and paella to a 30-day dry-aged striploin carpaccio, every bite was absolutely perfect. However, the escabeche of lobster, king crab and mushrooms mixed together was the most rewarding dish.
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Barry’s Downtown Prime
Circa debuted a year ago on New Year’s Eve weekend, bringing a modern Strip-style casino resort to the Fremont Street Experience. Barry’s Downtown Prime, the hotel’s basement-level steakhouse, has been a hot ticket ever since, serving Chef Barry Dakake’s food in a large, sprawling dining room that’s dark and moody, yet upbeat and social at the same time.
The lineup of wet-aged and dry-aged steaks is complemented by intriguing daily specials. However, it’s hard to refuse Barry’s signature cut: a tender ribeye cap, marinated in shallots, garlic and olive oil. The steak was enjoyed to the fullest in 2021 with a side of truffle gnocchi and an Old Fashioned sweetened with Chinese Five-Spice syrup.
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Michael Mina has always been a great destination for upscale, elegant seafood dinners near the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, but the restaurant was given some fresh energy in 2021 with the introduction of Raj Dixit as executive chef.
His expertise was felt in a perfectly balanced Kona Kampachi crudo with green apple, white soy and in-season California yuzu as well as an old-school Clams Casino with Rhode Island middleneck clams given a playful Creole twist with garlic stressuel and red peppers to complement the Iberico ham.
Yet the most rewarding dish was a San Francisco-style cioppino with fresh, flavorful chunks of Dungeness crab, scallops and mussels in a robust tomato stew.