Vegas, baby: The quickie guide to CityCenter restaurants at Aria, Vdara, the Mandarin Oriental and Crystals
Just how big is Las Vegas' $8.5-billion CityCenter? It's 18 million square feet of hotel rooms, residences, casino (singular -- there's just one), stores, cafes, bars, restaurants and ice sculptures on 67 acres. Sound crazy? Well, it sort of is. To figure out what to eat where, here's a brief guide, broken down by resort -- Vdara, Aria and the Mandarin Oriental -- plus the retail complex Crystals.
The Vdara resort is easy to navigate. You have basically two options: one for eating, Silk Road, and one for drinking, Bar Vdara, both located in the main lobby. For drinks, Bar Vdara has plenty of plush couches and is open even in the morning -- you know, for espresso. The nearby restaurant Silk Road is where chef Martin Heierling's menu cuts a wide swath across the eastern Mediterranean to points east. Think kofte and sashimi. The vibe is Jetsons-go-to-Asia. (The design-minded might want to hop on the CityCenter tram that connects Vdara with the Bellagio and check out Heierling's sister restaurant Sensi, designed by Japan's Super Potato. Not new but love it.)
The César Pelli-designed casino and hotel is the CityCenter's centerpiece, opened just last week; restaurants are located on the casino level (ground floor) and the promenade level (second floor). Let's start with the casino level. Newcomers-to-Vegas Masa Takayama (of Masa in New York) and Shawn McClain (of Spring, Green Zebra and Custom House in Chicago) have opened Bar Masa and Sage, respectively, right next to each other off the main lobby. (Takayama also is expected to open Shaboo this week, the $500-a-person shabu-shabu restaurant located inside Bar Masa.) Julian Serrano's namesake tapas restaurant is a croqueta's throw from both.
Wading deeper into the casino: Union Restaurant & Lounge is what's billed as "an edgy American dim sum style concept"; you take it from there. Next to the baccarat tables, you'll find Chinese restaurant Blossom and Thai restaurant Lemongrass. Skybox Sports Bar & Grill is, of course, next to the Sports & Race Book. Luckily for me, Jean Philippe Patisserie, serving pastries and gelato, is right next to the craps tables (a raspberry macaron can do a lot to assuage the effects of a bad shooter). The only 24-hour restaurant I could find was Cafe Vettro, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering a view of Vdara's valet.
Wait, there's more:
Upstairs on the promenade, near the Gold Lounge club, are Michael Mina's American Fish (seafood), Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Jean Georges Steakhouse (steak) and the Maccioni family's Sirio Ristorante (Italian). You'll also find the buffet, called simply the Buffet, 25,000 square feet devoted to all-you-can-eat.
Michelin three-star French chef Pierre Gagnaire's restaurant Twist opened this month, located in the 23rd-floor sky lobby (the Mandarin Oriental, classy operation that it is, sometimes puts its lobbies way up high to keep out the riffraff). Each night, chef de cuisine Pascal Sanchez comes out and greets each of the guests personally (it's true, I witnessed it!). Also on the 23rd floor is Mandarin Bar, serving Champagne cocktails with a magnificent view of the Strip. In the Tea Lounge next to the concierge, high tea is offered in the afternoons. On the third floor, MOzen Bistro is open for breakfast (soul-soothing congee, for example), lunch and dinner. On the ground floor (located outside the hotel on the street and next to CVS) is Amore Patisserie, home of the $24 cup of coffee, topped with Baileys whipped cream and sheaves of gold leaf-covered chocolate and into which you drop a liqueur-centered truffle or two. You might want to stick with the gelato, presented in a revolving display case that recalls a roulette wheel. Ten dollars on Sicilian pistachio, please.
At Crystals, where retail meets a modern version of the deck of the starship Enterprise, the Las Vegas outpost of Beso, Eva Longoria Parker's collaboration with chef Todd English, is now open. It's where she stops by once in a while to make her famous guacamole. Right. Currently under construction are Mastro's Ocean Club and Wolfgang Puck's Brasserie Puck and the Pods -- not a warp-speed spacecraft you use to escape a Borg-occupied ship -- it's Puck's coffee bar/cafe/bar.
That concludes our tour. Good luck, high rollers!
-- Betty Hallock
Photo: Fireworks at the grand opening of Aria at CityCenter. Credit: Ethan Miller / PRNewsFoto