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The best tastes of CityCenter in Las Vegas

March 11, 2010 |  6:16 am

How many high-end restaurants can Vegas support, particularly in this economy? Easily a dozen more just opened in the new $11-billion CityCenter complex on the Strip, and a number of them definitely have enough wow factor to pull in the hungry tourists.

Admittedly, the planning for CityCenter began long before the slump. Still, here comes Michelin three-star Paris chef Pierre Gagnaire joining his illustrious (and extravagantly starred) colleagues Joel Robuchon, Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy in a gambler's paradise. 

Ten years ago, the idea of such world-renowned chefs deigning to grace Vegas with their cooking seemed preposterous. Today, though, Gagnaire's debut at the Mandarin Oriental with his first American restaurant seems almost ho-hum.

Yet I can't help but think that this new group of restaurants from Masa Takayama (Masa in New York), Shawn McClain (Spring in Chicago) and Julian Serrano (Picasso in Vegas' Bellagio), among others, may be the last such extravagant wave of restaurants for quite a while. 

They're sophisticated and glam, reflecting the thrilling architecture of the complex designed by some of the world's most lauded architects. But what a disappointment inside the Aria casino: Instead of taking the opportunity to redefine the genre, MGM Mirage has gone with the same old, same old and scribbled over the space inside with busy ornamentation as if the beautiful plain spaces made the bosses nervous.

Here then, for your dining explorations, is my pick of the CityCenter crop.

-- S. Irene Virbila

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times