The Cosmopolitan’s opening is generating foodie hype, but any Strip newcomer has some work to do to challenge the culinary heavyweights stretching up and down Las Vegas Boulevard. Not to be outdone, Wynn Las Vegas has opened two restaurants recently, both moving in bold new directions.
Across from the popular SW Steakhouse at Wynn’s Lake of Dreams is Lakeside Grill, which opened in late October with SW’s chef David Walzog in control. Formerly the site of Daniel Boulud’s Vegas adventure, the space has been updated, opened up and made much more approachable by Wynn designer Roger Thomas, and Walzog’s wide and comfy menu matches the new scenery. In fact, the chef considers Lakeside the supreme complement to the adjacent steakhouse.
“If you’ve been to SW and you know it’s the same team, you’re going to expect to see certain things. But Lakeside needs to have an identity of its own,” Walzog says. “It’s very comfortable and familiar, but it’s not comfort food. The whole concept of comfort food kind of reeks to me. But we’re not trying to pitch over anyone’s head, we’re trying to hit it dead on.”
The chef assembled the menu by putting together things he likes to eat, and apparently he likes to start his meals big, with hearty bites like garlic-bread meatballs, steak sandwiches with caramelized onions and robiola cheese and a white flatbread pizza with anchovy and bacon. There are steaks and chops, but also smoky Berkshire pork ribs with papaya slaw and crispy Dover sole.
The menu is distinctly American and deceptively creative, and it seems like a lot of work for Walzog and his team. But then, he was running seven restaurants in New York before his Vegas days, so he’s up for the challenge. “It’s an opportunity for us to show what else we’ve got up our sleeve,” he says. “We’re not trying to reinvent the steakhouse. It’s more of a chance to dig deep and come up with a fun concept, and that’s a win-win for everybody.”
If Lakeside’s appetizers get your mouth watering, save some room for a late night trip to the month-old La Cave, Wynn’s new wine bar and “food hideaway” imagined and operated by N9ne Group’s Michael Morton. Nearly 300 wines are at your disposal in this sexy, multi-room cavern, but there’s some serious food, too, from chef Bill DeMarco, who slides over from Wynn’s buffet. He created the menu of not-necessarily-tapas.
“That makes you think of Firefly, and that’s different. This is a whole menu of appetizers,” DeMarco says. “I’ve always wanted to do a restaurant of just appetizers, because people fall in love with certain dishes like these and wonder if they should order some more instead of getting an entree.”
Small plates don’t have to be as refined as filet mignon on crostini with caramelized blue cheese, or a sunny side duck egg with crispy prosciutto and pencil asparagus. There are plenty of those at La Cave, but there’s fun, too. Try the egg, ham and cheese “breakfast” flatbread, or a mini charcuterie board where you choose the meats and cheeses.
“This room is perfect for these dishes. It’s very sexy and it’s a great complement to the resort,” DeMarco says of La Cave, which is open for lunch, dinner and later during weekends. “It has different moods in the different spaces, kind of more casual in the bar area where you can see behind the scenes, how the pizza is made. There’s great music, and it takes you away from the casino. It’s the perfect getaway.”