Category Archives: Las Vegas Restaurants

AquaKnox and Public House to Close at Venetian

Two well-regarded restaurants at Venetian Las Vegas are slated to close, AquaKnox and Public House.

The closures haven’t been officially announced yet, but we have no interest in waiting for news releases.

AquaKnox

Fun fact: AquaNox is a series of submarine-based first-person shooter video games. And, yes, we’re using the term “fun” very loosely.

An employee confirmed via phone AquaKnox will close in January following a large convention. We can’t remember which one because, honestly, we drink heavily.

AquaKnox is a Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Award recipient located in restaurant row at Venetian.

The AquaKnox staffer also confirmed Public House will close.

A rep of Public House said the restaurant isn’t allowed to provide any information at this time, but did mention the restaurant’s contract is expiring “soon.”

Public House AquaKnox

Here’s where everything sits.

Public House, a gastropub, opened in early 2012.

Public House comes from Billy Richardson, a well-known restaurateur whose company also operates Holsteins at Cosmo, Flour & Barley and Haute Doggery at Linq Promenade, The Barrymore at Royal Resort and recently-closed Pink’s Hot Dogs at Planet Hollywood.

Public House Venetian

Public House at Venetian should not be confused with Public House at Luxor. Or, for that matter, Public House at Tropicana. Because naming things is hard.

It’s apparent Venetian and Palazzo are shaking up their restaurant line-up.

Three Mario Batali restaurants were closed at Venetian and Palazzo in July 2018, Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria.

There’s no official word on what might replace AquaKnox and Public House, or if employees have even been notified of the closures, but Las Vegas always has something new up its little black dress.

Unless that’s offensive in some way, then nevermind.

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Cafe Bellagio Closes to Make Way for Sadelle’s

Cafe Bellagio has closed after 20 years at Bellagio Las Vegas.

The beloved restaurant closed at 9:00 p.m. on Aug. 19, 2018, and will be replaced by Sadelle’s, a restaurant and bakery touted as “a New York brunch institution located in the heart of SoHo.” That’s in New York City. You really need to get out more.

Cafe Bellagio

If you thought we wouldn’t go to Bellagio to take two photos because we have a life, you would be wrong.

Cafe Bellagio has been around since Bellagio opened in Oct. 1998.

Staffers at the restaurant say they’ve been overwhelmed with an outpouring of appreciation from longtime customers. Some, they say, have cried and written letters to MGM Resorts brass to ask that the restaurant be spared, but to no avail.

Business has slowed at Cafe Bellagio in recent years. We know this because, in Las Vegas, successful restaurants don’t close. It’s not rocket science.

A good number of Cafe Bellagio employees will take positions at another Bellagio restaurant, Harvest by Roy Ellamar. Harvest recently started serving breakfast and will do so until Sadelle’s opens in Dec. 2018.

Other displaced Cafe Bellagio employees will have to apply for positions at Sadelle’s.

Sadelle’s comes from Major Food Group, the folks behind Carbone restaurant at Aria.

Cafe Bellagio

So long, old girl. Yes, “girl.” Because referring to a restaurant as an “old guy” is awkward.

Of Sadelle’s, the Bellagio Web site says, “Serving the best bagels in New York City, Sadelle’s offers quintessential classics like sliced-to-order salmon and sturgeon, chopped salads, and other New York classics in an updated, fun-yet-refined fashion.”

The site also states, “Sadelle’s was voted 23 Best Restaurants for Brunch in New York City by Harper’s Bazaar, 2017 Best Brunch Spots in NYC by Cosmopolitan, and our sticky buns were named as one of the Best Dishes in 2015 by The New York Times, among other accolades.”

While Cafe Bellagio was popular for many years, some Vegas regulars report the appeal and quality of the restaurant declined recently, so something new was in order.

It’s bittersweet to see a treasured Vegas classic go away, but given the venue’s view of the Bellagio Conservatory, we’re confident Sadelle’s will beget legions of loyal new fans.

Bellagio Conservatory

We may have taken a third photo. It happens.

That’s right, we said “beget.” It’s Bellagio, so one has to up one’s fancy game.

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Shinya Maru Ramen & Izakaya Opens on Fremont East

A new Asian restaurant has opened on Fremont East, Shinya Maru Ramen & Izakaya, and we fully know what one of those words means.

Ramen.

Because we went to college. Not that you’d know it from our writing, of course.

Shinya Las Vegas

Hard seats, one demerit. Bar seating for solo diners, bonus points.

Shinya is located in the Emergency Arts Building, just around the corner from another new dining option, Eureka.

Shinya is just off Fremont Street, facing El Cortez.

Shinya Las Vegas

This location is easy to miss. The murals, not so much.

“Shinya,” it seems, can mean either “truthful one” or “late at night.”

We would’ve asked the owners which definition applies, but we were too busy stuffing our face with the amazing potstickers.

Shinya Las Vegas

It’s possible these are named “I’ve Been Waiting for a Gyoza Like You.” We were drinking.

Yes, we know potstickers are Chinese and gyoza are Japanese. We were not born yesterday. We also have the Internet.

Shinya’s menu is teeming with cleverly-named appetizers (“Izakaya”) inspired by song titles and bands, from “I Slaw Her Standing There” and “Sgt. Shishito Peppers” to “Belly Jean Slider” and “Poutine on a Show.”

There’s also a Yakitori menu if you like your food simple and served on sticks.

Shinya menu

While we strive to avoid learning things, we now know what Izakaya means.

While ramen is a bit of a tough sell on a 110-degree day, we weren’t going to visit a ramen restaurant without trying it, despite the fact we aren’t particularly a hot liquid person.

We’re pleased to report that the ramen is top-notch, and the fried chicken in our “Let’s Get Physical” fried chicken ramen could could go toe-to-toe with some of the best fried chicken in town.

Shinya Las Vegas ramen

One test of a good restaurant is whether they make you like things you don’t usually eat. Shinya qualifies.

Here’s the rest of the Shinya ramen menu.

Shinya Las Vegas ramen menu

“Ramen” is a Japanese word that comes from two Chinese words meaning “to pull” and “noodles.” Which reminds us to make an appointment for a massage.

Shinya has a full bar, of course, because in Las Vegas it’s the law.

Shinya Las Vegas bar

“Maru” means “circle” in Japanese. Which is what we do when we enter a restaurant with a bar.

The signature cocktail menu only has five options, but they cover a lot of ground. Cocktails include berry sangria, Caribbean sangria, mojito (strawberry, peach and mango), Mai Tai and
margarita.

Shinya cocktail menu

Bonus: All the signature cocktails are less than six bucks.

There are also non-alcoholic beverages, although if you order something on this side of the menu, you’re doing Vegas wrong.

Shinya cocktail menu

You’re not boring, you’re just alternatively interesting.

Desserts come in the form of macaron ice cream. They’re kept in a freezer just inside the entrance so they’ll be on your mind the whole time you’re dining. At just $3.50 a pop, we’ll be back to try all five flavors.

Shinya macaron ice cream

This may require some late night raiding.

The hours at Shinya are all over the place, so keep this blog post handy at all times if you expect to crave Ramen for some reason.

Shinya is open from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, Sunday through Wednesday, and open until 2:00 a.m. Thursday and Friday. Saturdays, it’s 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. There will be a quiz.

Shinya Fremont Street

Just to keep you on your toes.

We love new things, and Shinya Maru Ramen & Izakaya is a new downtown Las Vegas dining option well worth a “maru.”

If you hadn’t skimmed, you’d know what “maru” means. It wouldn’t make sense in that sentence, but you’d know what it means. Let that be a lesson to you.

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Spago at Bellagio is Reliably Unremarkable

Spago has opened at Bellagio and we can confidently report the longtime Strip fixture is still sort of just okay.

Spago Bellagio

Spago has a new home at Bellagio. Water Grill will move into its former space at Forum Shops in 2019. Please keep up, there will be a quiz.

It was big news when Wolfgang Puck’s Spago announced it would relocate from the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace to Bellagio after a quarter century in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas media outlets reported the news with little interest in, or perhaps knowledge of, the backstory.

Specifically, business had flagged for several years at the Forum Shops location, and when the Forum Shops threatened to raise the restaurant’s rent, it was time to go.

During Spago’s heyday at Forum Shops, it was raking in an eye-popping $18 million a year, despite the fact only a handful of restaurants in Las Vegas make $10 million or more.

Spago set its sights on the Olives space in Bellagio. The space was freed up by another turn of events largely unreported, the decision by MGM Resorts to cut ties with the chef behind Olives, Todd English, following sexual harassment allegations. That’s also why the Todd English P.U.B. at Aria is now just The Pub. Props to MGM Resorts for taking a stand.

The glorious drama!

Spago opened at Bellagio on June 7, 2018, and we had to check it out, of course.

Spago Bellagio

Of course, we stopped by the bar first. Do you know this blog at all?

A news release about the restaurant opening said, “Spago is inspired by California living with its casual elegance and farm-to-table ethos. Wolfgang hand selects seasonal ingredients to create the restaurant’s market-driven menu, featuring the chef’s signature fare paired with modern technique and creative elements.”

Ah, news releases.

While the Spago menu offers many of the dishes created by Wolfgang Puck, what the release and news reports haven’t shared is Wolfgang Puck isn’t really involved in Spago restaurant at Bellagio anymore.

As has become the norm in Las Vegas with celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Giada de Laurentiis and Guy Fieri, the restaurants boasting their names are operated by the host resort, with licensing fees being the only real connection to the chefs. Ditto Spago.

That means employees of Spago at Bellagio are on the payroll of MGM Resorts. Does it matter? Maybe not, but it’s something to keep in mind when deciding whether to dine there or not.

As was the case at the Forum Shops location, Spago serves up reasonably good, but far from great, fare.

One of the restaurant’s claims to fame is the smoked salmon and caviar pizza. The basic version is $36, the kaluga sturgeon caviar version is (wait for it) $75.

Spago Bellagio

We’re all for indulging in Las Vegas, and this pizza might make a fine photo op, but if you think it’s worth $75, you’re Pucking nuts.

Other dishes are equally forgettable, including the $21 micro portion of spaghettini.

Spago Bellagio

Mama mia, that’s adequate!

There’s also the grilled chicken sandwich ($22). You know you’re in “meh” territory when the best thing about a dish is the fries.

Spago Bellagio

Well, it’s certainly food! Feel free to use that in your advertising, Spago.

Here’s the menu for Spago at Bellagio. While we found a menu for the restaurant online, it didn’t have prices. Which we’re sure is just an unintentional oversight.

Spago Bellagio menu prices

Fun fact: Sometimes Las Vegas restaurants share menus without prices so they can increase prices when business is heaviest. Like rideshare’s surge pricing, but with pasta.

Here’s a larger version of the Spago menu to reward you for reading this far.

We were convinced the signature cocktails would be a highlight of the otherwise humdrum offerings at Spago, and if you can get past the sticker shock, the drinks are plenty tasty.

It seems $22 cocktails are the new $18 cocktails. To be honest, we were just starting to adjust to $12 cocktails.

Spago Bellagio

Remember, you’re not paying for a cocktail, you’re paying for an experience. The experience of paying for an expensive cocktail.

Here’s the signature Out on the Tiles cocktail, with Chamucos Silver tequila, Aperol Aperitivo liqueur (made with gentian, cinchona and other words we don’t recognize), hibiscus, grapefruit juice and lime juice. A worthy addition to our collection of panty-dropper cocktails.

Bellagio Spago cocktail

The $22 price tag wouldn’t have been nearly as painful were it not for the fact Out on the Tiles is served in what amounts to a glass thimble.

An undeniably spectacular aspect of Spago is its view of the Bellagio fountains.

An outdoor patio makes it feel as though you’re part of the iconic show.

Spago Bellagio

This is about as Vegas as it gets.

A big plus for Spago is its excellent service and friendly, knowledgeable waitstaff.

It was refreshing when our waiter rolled his eyes at the fact straws are no longer provided at Spago, except upon request. When they were requested, this was the presentation. Note: We are not making this up.

Spago Bellagio straws

“Straws by request only” is easily our “Most Annoying Thing About Las Vegas” for 2018.

Also classy is the option for guests to choose either black or white napkins.

As is the law, the place is a tad loud, but that’s a good sign as it means the Spago name still pulls in a decent crowd. Spago, by the way, translates as “string” in Italian.

Designer Gelila Puck (Wolfgang’s wife) collaborated with architects Massimiliano Locatelli and Annamaria Scevola of CLS Architetti to create a bland space you and your kids probably could’ve decorated better.

Spago Bellagio

Then again, who are we to say this is boring? We are not an interior designer, we are a blog. And barely that, come to think of it.

If you decide to try Spago (we’d strongly suggest the nearby Lago restaurant instead, but you know how strong-headed you can be), expect to work up an appetite first.

Spago is in Bellagio’s shopping promenade, nearly a quarter mile (about 1,100 feet) from the main hotel entrance. No joke. It’s across from Tiffany & Co. and near Bottega Veneta, whatever that might be.

While Spago didn’t knock our socks off, it’s certainly not bad, and may just be what you’re looking for when you’re visiting the Bellagio Conservatory or the world’s largest chocolate fountain at Bellagio Patisserie, formerly Jean Philippe Patisserie.

Let us know what you think of Spago at Bellagio, and “Bon apetite!” or some other cliche people use in the last sentence of articles.

Spago at Bellagio

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Bomb Tacos Lives Up to Its Name

When Bomb Tacos opened downtown, some doubted its chances of success. Bomb Tacos has proven the skeptics wrong, the restaurant more than lives up to its name.

It’s “bomb,” in case that wasn’t clear.

“Bomb” in the post-1997 sense, that is: Legit, epic, cool, awesome sauce and fire. In other words, Bomb Tacos is the opposite of what “bomb” meant prior to 1997.

Now that we’ve established the appropriate definition of “bomb,” boom.

Bomb Tacos

This taco has onion, cilantro and guacamole. We’re a big fan of guacamole and played it often at Chuck E. Cheese as a child. We’ll wait.

There are two Bomb Taco locations, both owned by chef Robert Solano.

The original Bomb Taco is located about 15 minutes west of The Strip, so let’s not pretend you’re ever going to go there.

The Bomb Taco downtown is a block off Fremont Street, on Carson Avenue. It’s 616 E. Carson Ave., to be exact, next to Vegenation and 7th & Carson restaurant.

You sort of can’t miss Bomb Taco, as its exterior sports bright colors galore and can be seen from the surface of Jupiter.

Bomb Tacos

Life is too short to blend in. Unless you’re blending rum into diet Coke. But that could just be us.

The space has been tricky for previous restaurant offerings, including Zydeco Po-Boys and Two Bald Brothers.

The third time’s a charm, apparently, because Bomb Tacos does brisk business and has become a popular hangout for denizens of downtown.

Bomb Tacos

Denizens in their native habitat.

Bomb Taco keeps the menu streamlined, and while the menu is limited, it hits all the right notes.

On a typical day, selections include carne asada, grilled chicken, carnitas, al pastor, braised brisket, fish and rock shrimp.

Oh, hell, why did we bother typing all that when we could’ve just shown you this chalkboard?

Bomb Tacos

Most chalkboards are made from porcelain enamel. It’s not like you’re reading these captions, anyway.

Here’s more of the menu.

Yes, there are veggie options, freak.

Bomb Tacos

We don’t even know what language they’re speaking right now.

The tacos have fairly straightforward ingredients, but manage to have wonderfully complex flavors.

In fact, the restaurant’s mushroom tacos were recently named “Best Tacos from the Earth” by Las Vegas Weekly. We’re going to trust the judgment of Las Vegas Weekly on this one, as we are definitely not a mushroom person.

Bomb Tacos

Jorge has never lost a staring contest.

The tacos run anywhere from $2.75 to $3.75.

Our recommendations: Grab the braised brisket tacos and al pastor.

Bomb Tacos

These tacos are a-maize-ing. Because tortillas are made from, oh, nevermind.

The Bomb Tacos Web site is fairly useless, so find out more about the place on their Facebook page.

Bomb Tacos

Not gonna lie, those two just look guilty as hell.

Bomb Tacos in downtown Las Vegas offers up an unpretentious, satiating dining experience that’ll satisfy your drunchies with a timeless Mexican classic.

In other words, try Bomb Tacos the next time you’re bombed.

You’re welcome for the new tagline, Bomb Tacos advertising copywriting person.

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Las Vegas Sands Takes a Stand, Pulls Plug on Three Mario Batali Restaurants

We have a long-standing adage: Successful things don’t close in Las Vegas.

In the case of CarneVino Italian Steakhouse at Venetian, that assertion simply doesn’t hold up.

CarneVino, along with B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, closed on July 22, 2018. The three restaurants closed nearly a week earlier than originally announced (July 27).

B&B Las Vegas

B&B might as well stand for “bye and bye.”

The decision to close the three restaurants was made by Las Vegas Sands, owner of Venetian and Palazzo, where the establishments were located.

Las Vegas Sands decided to boot the restaurants following explosive allegations of sexual misconduct against celebrity chef Mario Batali on “60 Minutes.”

While Las Vegas Sands didn’t operate the restaurants, casino companies have to steer clear of even an appearance of wrongdoing due to strict gaming regulations.

The decision to sever ties with Batali’s B&B Hospitality was intended to be a decisive, very public condemnation of his conduct, and bravo to Las Vegas Sands for taking the action it did.

That, despite the fact, by all accounts, the three restaurants made a metric ass-ton of money for Las Vegas Sands.

CarneVino, in fact, was considered by many to have been not only one of the best restaurants in Las Vegas, but the nation.

CarneVino

“CarneVino” is Italian for “Keep it in your pants, jerk.” Or should be.

The banishment of Batali’s restaurants follows on the heels of MGM Resorts terminating their relationship with another controversial chef, Todd English.

While MGM Resorts managed to keep its actions fairly low profile, the company closed English’s Olives restaurant at Bellagio (Spago took over the space) and rebranded Todd English Pub to The Pub.

Given the current climate, the elephant in the room with all these moves is Eataly.

MGM Resorts has invested millions in construction of Eataly at Park MGM. Eataly, of course, is being developed in partnership with B&B Hospitality Group. Yep, that B&B Hospitality Group.

While B&B Hospitality Group is buying out Mario Batali, and doing its best to distance itself from Batali (now under criminal investigation), it was too little, too late for Las Vegas Sands.

It remains to be seen if MGM Resorts will bail on its sizable investment in Eataly at Park MGM or stay the course and hope the public has a short memory.

Park MGM resort rendering

Eataly is going to sit right up front at Park MGM, making it all the more gloriously awkward.

We trust MGM Resorts has been exploring other potential partnerships even as Eataly’s construction continues.

As we said, casinos don’t play around when it comes to upholding the exceedingly high ethical standards required by regulators to get and keep a gaming license. That extends to its restaurants, shows, nightclubs and other venues.

MGM Resorts says it has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual misconduct and harassment (at least for employees), but Las Vegas Sands is one of the few Las Vegas casino companies that’s put its money where its mouth is with the closure of CarneVino, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria.

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