They'd better hurry, because the Cosmopolitan, scheduled to open Dec. 15, will be the dining story of the next year. Diners around town are already buzzing about the resort's impressive lineup of eateries - and not just because of the talent in the kitchen. Unlike the town's last few dining blitzkriegs, this one relies almost entirely on chefs who are new to Las Vegas.
Small plates and speakeasies
José Andrés, who trained at Spain's infamous El Bulli under Ferran Adria and runs numerous restaurants in the Washington D.C. area as well as L.A.'s Bazaar, is widely credited with popularizing the concept of small plates in the U.S. At The Cosmopolitan, he'll be at the helm of two restaurants. Jaleo will be the fourth incarnation of his tapas restaurants in Washington D.C., Bethesda, Md. and Arlington, Va. And at China Poblano, he'll be introducing something totally new, mixing noodles and tacos in a fusion of Chinese and Mexican cuisines.
Another chef with L.A. experience making his first Vegas venture is David Myers, who operates Sona, Comme Ca and Pizzeria Ortica in the City of Angels. For Vegas, he's opted to replicate Comme Ca, a French brasserie that will offer classic casual bistro food as well as a unique speakeasy-style bar program inspired by the chef's travels in London, Tokyo and New York. In keeping with the French theme, the Adam Tihany-designed dining room will feature a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Las Vegas. Myers believes the concept is a perfect fit for the unpredictable Las Vegas economy because "it's affordable, it's accessible [and] it's a restaurant that is warm and welcoming that people will want to come back to, whether it's for a drink or whether it's for a burger or whether it's for a bouillabaisse."
It came from New York
The Big Apple will be well-represented in the Cosmopolitan's restaurant repertoire. Eric and Bruce Bromberg, who run New York's infamous chain of Blue Ribbon restaurants and bars as well as a bakery and market, will be taking their first plunge into our local market. They're recreating their Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill in the new resort, where they'll offer more than 100 hot and cold dishes, from sushi and sashimi to chops and filets. And Bruce promises fans from New York they'll be getting exactly what they've come to love about the original restaurant in midtown Manhattan.
"People, when they spoke to us about Las Vegas previously, said, 'We love what you do, but we want you to understand you're coming to a place [where] you need to be something different.'" But he says at The Cosmopolitan, "We were just asked to be exactly who we are."
Another New Yorker bringing his successful concept to the Cosmo is Scott Conant. His Italian eatery Scarpetta, which lends a sophisticated touch to rustic Italian comfort food, already operates in Manhattan (where The New York Times and New York magazine named it one of the top 10 new restaurants of 2008), in Miami's Fontainebleau resort (where Travel and Leisure named it one of the 50 best new restaurants of 2009) and in Toronto. In order to retain the same intimate space Scarpetta customers are used to, he's carved off a piece of his large chunk of Vegas real estate and dedicated it to a separate concept - a wine bar called D.O.C.G.
Perhaps the most exciting news for a city with far too few good Greek restaurants is the Cosmopolitan's importation of Estiatorios Milos. Currently operating in Montreal, New York and Athens, chef Costas Spiliadis' cuisine is generally considered among the most authentic Hellenic cooking in North America. That's due in part to his insistence on using the finest ingredients, including Greek red mullet, Tunisian octopus and Agadir anchovies he flies in from the Mediterranean. But Spiliadis says operating in Las Vegas will also allow him easier access to the high-quality products California has to offer.
The meat-and-potatoes crowd won't feel left out, either. For steaks, the New York, Miami and L.A. chain STK promises "a flirty, feminine take on the classic American steakhouse," featuring a busy center bar and a live D.J. And the only Las Vegas veterans on the roster, Billy Richardson, Kyle Madden and Chef Anthony Meidenbauer, will be supplying the gourmet hamburger restaurant that seems to have become mandatory in most Strip casinos. Despite the ever-increasing competition in the burger market, Meidenbauer promises their new place, Holstein's, will separate itself from the crowd with "a huge menu of burgers and street food snacks" from around the world, including a line of house-made sausages.
With such a massive influx of new blood into a town already considered one of the world's dining capitals, The Cosmopolitan has understandably been drawing the attention of food lovers across the country. But all of the chefs and restaurateurs involved acknowledge that in the current economy, they can't simply rely on tourist business. Each believes the support of locals will be vital to their survival.
Eric Bromberg, whose brother will be moving to Las Vegas to oversee their restaurant, says, "One of the things that attracted us to the Cosmo project was that kind of different sensibility in the culinary world out here, where there was this direction and desire to be part of the local scene."
Spiliadis echoes his sentiment, saying he has always based his business model on some words of wisdom from his father: "Take care of your neighborhood first, and then things are going to unfold."
And Conant insists, "For me it's about the long dollar, not the short dollar. I always say I'm in the relationship business. So I really want to create a relationship with a lot of the locals."
It's that attitude, as much as the Cosmopolitan's food, that may be the secret to the resort's success in a tough tourist market - and a locals market that's already been spoiled with culinary riches.
Around the worldSignature dishes from Cosmo's upcoming restaurants
1. Lil Big Macs at STK
These slider-sized burgers are made with wagyu beef and the restaurant's special sauce and served on a black sesame bun. Guests can also add gourmet toppings such as truffles or foie gras. Or, if you're in the mood for seafood, try the Shrimp Rice Krispies. The tiger prawns are served tableside in a shrimp bisque, and garnished with cilantro.
2. Spaghetti with tomato and basil at Scarpetta
Scott Conant calls it "a very simple, straightforward dish." But that's just humility talking. The Food Network's Alton Brown has named it one of the top 10 comfort foods in the country, and New York Times food critic Frank Bruni singled it out in his review. "My daughter is going to go to college because of that spaghetti," says Conant.
3. The Milos Special at Estiatorios Milos
The Milos Special appetizer is fried zucchini and eggplant with tzatziki and fried saganaki. Introduced in Montreal in 1979, it was a reaction to the fried zucchini and eggplant Costas Spiliadis was encountering in North America, which he found too oily. So he called his mother and "spent endless hours" having her talk him through her recipe, which produced crispy, ungreasy results. "The standard is that any customer, whether it's in Athens, in New York or Montreal, will start their dinner with [The Milos Special]," he says.
Comme Ca Burger at Comme CaThe thick, high-fat, medium-rare patty with Vermont cheddar cheese, lettuce, onion, aoli and special seasoning on a brioche-like bun pairs perfectly with a rich Alsatian beer or a good French wine. David Myers says, "It's a burger that my mother used to make for me as a kid, and it really bridges the gap between me as an American chef and the brasserie culture." No wonder Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic Jonathan Gold of the L.A. Weekly wrote in 2007 that it was the best burger he ever tasted, with its "thick, dripping, loosely packed puck of bloody-rare beef."
Gold Standard Burger at Holstein's Made with ground, dry-aged beef, it's topped with bacon, aged goat cheddar cheese, tomato confit, baby greens and a house-made aioli. Other dishes expected to be big sellers include lobster rolls, and steamed pork buns made with braised pork bellies.