Le Cirque executive chef Gregory Pugin is, as you would expect of a classically trained chef helming a French fine-dining institution, a hardcore Frenchman. Pugin is highly pedigreed, having worked for Joël Robuchon in New York City and been a James Beard nominee before joining the Maccioni family’s Vegas outpost. Here are a few places where he likes to unwind when he’s not preparing haute French cuisine at the Bellagio.
Marche Bacchus (2620 Regatta Dr. #106, 804-8008) Of course, when it comes to French cuisine, Pugin loves to visit his contemporaries at both Guy Savoy and Robuchon (who doesn’t?). It should come as no surprise, however, that Marche Bacchus is his favorite off-Strip French location. “I love wine. They have a great selection for the price. They have a great terrine and nice cheese plate, while both the moules (mussels) and frites (fries) and tartare are fabulous. All of their simple dishes pair nicely with wine.”
Lotus of Siam (953 E. Sahara, 753-3033) When looking for something different, Pugin likes to dine at this renowned Thai house. Of course, the wine has something to do with the attraction. “I love to go to Lotus for a great selection of German whites at a reasonable price. Their prices are amazing, while they go wonderfully with my favorite dish, spicy green curry. On a [heat] scale of 1-10, I prefer a 5, as it’s just spicy enough for wine. If you order a 10, you’ll need to drink beer instead.”
Mandarin Bar (Mandarin Oriental, 881-9367) This hidden favorite is tucked away on the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental at CityCenter. Leave it to a Frenchman to have scouted out one of the city’s most romantic spots. “This is a very nice place with fabulous nice champagne, while the view is unbelievable. Champagne and a view—there’s nothing better for a romantic date.”