Las Vegas’s Top Restaurants

Courtesy MGM Mirage

Q: I heard the economy has devastated Las Vegas restaurants. Which ones are surviving the storm?

It’s true that Las Vegas has taken a hit; since last year, the average nightly hotel room rate has dropped by about $40, and gaming revenue on the Strip is down almost 16 percent. But it’s hardly a culinary apocalypse. In fact, not only have many famous places kept their heads above water, but they’ve also managed to continue impressing. Two spots stand out above the rest, in my opinion. At L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in MGM Grand is the best haute hamburger (topped with seared foie gras). I also like the vegetable and buffalo mozzarella mille-feuille (below), and the glazed quail, filled with more foie gras and flanked by a buttery truffled purée of potatoes. The other is Paul Bartolotta’s eponymous seafood eatery at the Wynn, the only place in the States where you can try his prized langoustines, shipped here live from Italy; he does a Sicilian-style scampi with them. The whole-grilled Italian occhiata (sea bream) and salt-crusted dentice imperiale (snapper) are clean and light compared with the heavier—yet heavenly—shellfish-studded risotto or the spaghetti with rock lobster in a spicy white wine–and–tomato sauce.

My first choice for red meat is Carnevino, an Italian steak spot in the Palazzo from Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. They brought in Adam Perry Lang, a beef genius, to curate the meat selection—he literally goes to the farm and points to the steer, so you know you’re getting the best slab. Carnevino serves a classic Florentine porterhouse that I can’t turn down, and the mascarpone-and-guanciale mashed potatoes or broccoli rabe with house-smoked pork and currants are refreshing changes to the usual lineup of steakhouse sides.

For a bite at the bar, try the cheese plate and charcuterie assortment at Daniel Boulud at the Wynn or the snacks from Michael Mina’s Nobhill Tavern at MGM Grand. You could make a meal out of the lobster rolls, pulled pork sandwiches, or wood-roasted sausages—but then you might deprive yourself of the joy of the braised short ribs or chicken and dumplings.

The best Japanese is at Okada, also in the Wynn. Power breakfasts belong at Verandah in the Four Seasons, which is also where you’ll find the city’s greatest bartender, Tommy, at Charlie Palmer Steak. For the simple pleasure of good ice cream, stop by Bellagio’s Café Gelato. And this winter, look for French master chef Pierre Gagnaire making his American debut at the Mandarin Oriental.

Q: Every year some buddies and I stay at the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin, to play golf. The club’s restaurants are great, but what’s good off campus?

Lucky for you, chef Stefano Viglietti is only about three miles away, in Sheboygan. At his first restaurant, Trattoria Stefano, the osso buco, filet of beef with Gorgonzola, and fedelini pasta with seafood are musts. His pizza place across the street, Il Ritrovo, serves immaculate thin-crust, oven-fired Neapolitan pies; ask for the Bufalina Bianca. A friend with family near Kohler also recommends Charcoal Inn South for the classic Wisconsin burger, and the Weather Center Cafe for its Greek salad, tuna sandwiches, and giant muffins with gobs of icing. On her next trip, she plans to try two other places, the Duke of Devon, Viglietti’s latest venture, and Margaux, which have both drummed up quite a bit of buzz.

Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, dinner, $85; wynnlasvegas.com. Café Gelato, bellagio.com. Carnevino, dinner, $65; carnevino.com. Charlie Palmer Steak, dinner, $65; fourseasons.com. Daniel Boulud, dinner, $75; wynnlasvegas.com. L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, dinner, $95; mgmgrand.com. Nobhill Tavern, dinner, $50; mgmgrand.com. Okada, dinner, $75; wynnlasvegas.com. Verandah, dinner, $60; fourseasons.com. Charcoal Inn South $ 920-458-6988. Duke of Devon, dinner, $30; 920-458-7900. Il Ritrovo, dinner, $30; 920-803-7516. Margaux, dinner, $35; dinemargaux.com. Trattoria Stefano, dinner, $40; 920-452-8455. Weather Center Cafe $ 920-459-9283. U Kucharzy, dinner, $25; 48-22/826-7936. Please e-mail questions for the “Peripatetic Gourmet” to departures_email@aexp.com.