It’s a fact: There are some truly great restaurants in Las Vegas. But did you know that there are also some great restaurants tucked inside those restaurants?
For starters, there’s Pho, a no-frills Vietnamese noodle spot inside the coffee shop at Treasure Island. Off the Strip, Wicked Pizza serves pies made from dough flown in from Boston through a window inside the Underworld Bar & Grill. And, sure, Diners Drive-Ins and Dives had nothing but love for Naked City Pizza inside Moon Doggies Bar & Grill. But that place leans a little too heavy on the “dive.” You can do better. Here are three restaurants nestled inside other restaurants that deserve your attention as well as your attendance.
Reservations are absolutely required at é, and may be booked up to 90 days in advance, by e-mail only. And with good reason: There are just eight seats and two seatings nightly (5:30 and 8:30 p.m.; $195 per person, not including beverage pairings, which cost an additional $130 or $300) for the 20-course avant-garde Spanish dance that is dinner in this tiny restaurant hidden behind a door at Jaleo in Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The former-storage-room-turned-restaurant is tricked out with card catalog drawers, some open to reveal every manner of bric-a-brac, from teapots and dolls to apothecary bottles and fruit, meant to represent Forbes Travel Guide Tastemaker chef José Andrés’ brain and the memories stored within that mind of a genius.
Here, amid the catalogued chaos, a team of highly trained chefs, a sommelier and an obliging waitstaff (nearly a 1:1 ratio) guide you and your lucky fellow diners through a gauntlet of reinterpretations of classic Spanish dishes (secreto of Iberico pork with squid was a recent highlight). And since “Spanish avant-garde cuisine” is another way of saying molecular gastronomy, you can expect oh-so-many espumas (foams), spheres and dehydrated merengue cylinders. Kicking the affair off, “Snacks” are a series of perfect one-bite morsels served on a plaster mold of Andrés’ right hand, and it just gets more whimsical, playful and wild from there. Arrive 30 minutes early to enjoy a cocktail at Jaleo’s bar (try the Gasparilla or a pitch-perfect gin and tonic) and meet your dinner companions. This is likely the last time you’ll have to bond once the avalanche of dishes begins.
When you’re inside Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star ARIA Resort & Casino, it’s easy to be distracted by the jaw-dropping design of barMASA, chef Masa Takayama’s soaring temple to modern, internationally-inspired Japanese cuisine that looks more like an airport hangar than it does a restaurant. But you’ll take a right at the door and follow your hostess into Tetsu, a far smaller, yet equally Spartan room dominated by six flat-top cooking stations with steel hoods. Tetsu (Japanese for “iron”) replaced Shaboo, the intimate 54-seat room where guests dined communally on shabu-shabu, cooked in a bubbling hot pot. With four blackjack-style tables and two communal teppan grill tables seating five and 10, respectively, it’s also possible to dine solo at Tetsu, losing oneself in the seasonal culinary experience that at no point includes flashy Benihana-esque spatula flair.
The barMASA sushi and full menus are available, but for the most exciting experience, engage with your Tetsu chef as much as possible. Start with appetizers such as spicy octopus, the most unexpected entrant in the running for the best octopus dish in the city. Share an entrée or two — the Santa Barbara prawn with salsa roja sells out fast — but save time and room to let your chef get creative with the teppan vegetables, which also represent the greatest bang for your buck here. You’ll never see the sliced eggplant dolloped with miso sauce coming, but at $4, it rivals the appetizers for flavor and favor. The category called “Fillings” is just that: noodle and rice side dishes that complete the meal and the experience as well as any dessert. Who needs yuzu sorbet when you can have uni fried rice?
While there’s far less of a show than those so central to the dining experience at é or Tetsu, housemade dim sum is still served tableside at Fortunes, a simple Chinese restaurant located inside the 24 Seven Café at Palms Casino Resort. This bright, circular room features a dozen or so tables and a delightful chandelier made from colorful parasols. Plenty of popular Americanized Chinese favorites are prepared well and served fast, dishes such as Mongolian beef, kung pao chicken and the like. But you can get that anywhere.
Look around when it’s busy — Chinese New Year is just around the corner! — and you’ll see casino hosts and their Asian guests dining on far more exotic fare, authentic regional Chinese cuisine including Szechuan, Cantonese and Mandarin, and dishes you likely won’t see elsewhere on property, such as spicy jelly fish, oxtail stew served in a clay pot and seafood congee. Or, if that’s a little too authentic for your taste, just tuck into a massive steaming bowl of one of the best hot and sour soups available outside of New York.
Photos Courtesy of Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and MGM Resorts International