Not since the Cosmopolitan has a Strip arrival brought a stable of high-profile restaurants like what SLS promises. As the casino-resort gets ready for its August 23 grand opening, here’s a look at four of these spots, all LA fixtures where I’ve dined to provide this preview.
Nobu Matsuhisa invented this genre of modern Asian fusion restaurants with sprawling spaces filled by A-listers. But Katsuya, from sushi chef Katsuya Uechi and star-chitect Philippe Starck, added fun and flash while creating what’s turned into a successful collection of high-end LA neighborhood restaurants. We showed up for a 6 p.m. dinner at the Brentwood location a few years ago, and Don Cheadle and Anthony LaPaglia were already at separate tables, eating with their families.
But unlike so many scene-driven restaurants with chefs who don’t take chances and owners who don’t want patrons’ palates challenged, Katsuya likes playing with texture, acid and heat. You’ll do great ordering king crab legs from the robata section or going big with toro, kanpachi and uni by the piece. Katsuya is also beloved for creative dishes like spicy albacore sashimi with crispy onions and earthy preparations of wagyu beef that burst with umami.
A Middle Eastern feast is one of the best occasions to share a lot of small plates, and chef Danny Elmaleh’s refined but accessible Cleo should be unlike anything else on the Strip. One way to approach the wide-ranging menu is to blanket the table with mezze (like babaganoush, carrot harissa, Brussels sprout hearts with walnuts and assorted kebabs) and salads before enjoying soulful, slow-cooked dishes like fragrant tagines with beef cheeks or daurade. Also, look for items with cumin, chilies and the wondrous spice blend known as za’atar. Small plates, big flavors.
With Umami Burger opening at SLS and Shake Shack’s forthcoming location at the Park, Vegas will get a better understanding of the bicoastal burger wars. While NY-based Shake Shack offers all-American tastes, LA-based Umami knows better than anyone how to merge diverse flavors into a crowd-pleasing burger.
The namesake burger has a lot going on with its Parmesan crisp, shiitake mushroom, roasted tomato, caramelized onions and a house ketchup that’s just a little sweet and has a hint of truffle. But the combo works: The beefiness of the juicy but not-too-thick patty holds up against the barrage of flavors. Ordering anything here—including the Hatch Burger with four kinds of green chilies and the Truffle Burger with house-made truffle cheese—poutine-style, over fries without the bun, is a pro move.
This no-fuss Neapolitan pizza spot, with an outpost already at Monte Carlo, prepares individually sized pizzas in a wood-burning oven. The thin crust and crushed tomatoes make the margherita a fine choice, but toppings like bacon marmalade, grass-fed meatballs and fresh clams are worth considering. We also dig the piccante pizza with soppressata, garlic and Calabrian chilies. Hot.