My, how time flies. Earlier this month, the Cosmopolitan celebrated its 5th birthday. When it opened in late 2010, the resort was groundbreaking in numerous aspects: free Wi-Fi and non-gaming amenities like pool tables, foosball and touring bands playing the lounge, along with elevators allowing locals to avoid the casino floor when visiting the best feature of all: a restaurant murderer’s row unlike any other on the Strip.
From a culinary standpoint, the resort has been remarkably resilient. While it’s common to see casino venues turn over, the majority of Cosmo’s opening-day restaurants are intact, apart from one sad casualty, French bistro Comme Ça. And the only opening since the start has been the underrated, strangely punctuated supper club Rose. Rabbit. Lie.
In an upcoming F&B overhaul, the players are set to change radically over the next year, with the openings of Tao Group’s Beauty & Essex, contemporary Japanese restaurant Zuma, a Strip-side Starbucks and my most anticipated opening—LA’s Eggslut, with its transcendent breakfast sandwiches. In the meantime, let’s celebrate the original offerings—with a perfect 24 hours of gluttony. Tough to think of a better spot for a daylong dine-around.
9 a.m. This is Vegas, so let’s assume we’re not starting our day any earlier. Begin at Wicked Spoon, which revolutionized the all-you-can-eat concept on the Strip by turning the buffet into a full-on dining destination. Dive into vanilla and cinnamon-tinged French toast or the daily ricotta pancake selection, recently orange and chocolate. Less breakfast-like but no less tasty are pepperoni rolls made with pepperoni butter, jalapeño-forward Angry Mac and Cheese and rope sausage made in-house. Whatever you do, save room for dessert—gelatos, including a spot-on Thai tea flavor, await.
11 a.m. Because I’m such a fan of Second Breakfast, let’s wander upstairs to one of Cosmo’s more casual dining establishments, D.O.C.G. The little brother to Scott Conant’s Scarpetta is unsurprisingly Italian-centric, doling out some damn fine wood-fired pizzas. Opt for the smoky, spicy soppressata picante, then prepare for one of the Strip’s best desserts in the salted caramel budino, vanilla pudding smothered in caramel sauce and adorned with pretzel brittle.
12:30 p.m. There are several lunch options at Cosmo, but if you’re not doing it at Estiatorio Milos you’re doing it wrong. Ever since the restaurant began offering prix fixe lunch in 2011 for $20.11, savvy diners have flocked here for a discount taste of the otherwise expensive Greek seafood emporium. Although the price has increased to $25.15, it still ranks among the best deals in town.
Begin with the lightly grilled, fork-tender octopus wading in olive oil (a $10 upcharge) before moving on to the dorade royale. A recent transition from the lavraki (European sea bass), the tender sea bream more than suffices as a replacement. Round out your meal with sweet karidopita walnut cake with kaimaki ice cream.
2 p.m. Cosmo’s opening was the harbinger of José Andrés’ Vegas takeover. China Poblano, his first fusion concept, draws upon the geographically inexplicable yet delicious pairing of Chinese and Mexican cuisines. Explore the silencio tacos with duck tongue (do ducks even have tongues?) and lychee, maybe the Valley’s best dan dan noodles and a ridiculously good shrimp mojo while watching adorable Asian grandmothers doting over their hand-prepared dumplings. Wash it all down with a salt air margarita, and you’ve got a quality lunch part deux.
4 p.m. Take a break from stuffing your gullet to explore the bamboozled shakes at Holsteins—alcohol-zapped dessert drinks that will let you relive an adult version of your youth. Regress to Saturday morning cartoons with Cereal Bowl 2.0, combining Froot Loops-flavored vodka and Cap’n Crunch. Or camp out with the Campfire Smores shake, where marshmallow vodka elevates the cookout treat.
7 p.m. Start your dinner procession with a visit to the second of Andrés’ restaurants, the Spanish tapas-oriented Jaleo. The smoky aroma from the centerpiece paella wood-fired grill beckons you to the third-floor venue, where the ringing of the cowbell foretells each arrival of the feature dish. Bring friends to share in the traditional Valencian rice and its crispy underside, and accompany it with a sampling of smaller dishes. Pan de cristal con tomate fresco (tomato bread) is a Jaleo staple, but gild the lily with the expert addition of nutty manchego slices. Sample José’s “tacos,” which can be forgiven for being not very taco-like—caviar swaddled in jamon Iberico de belotta. Wash it all down with wine from the hand-eye coordination intensive porron, and the experience is complete.
Of course, visiting Jaleo assumes you haven’t scored what might be the most difficult seats in town, at the urban legend-esque culinary theater known as é. Tucked in the back of Jaleo, the performance kitchen showcases a tasting menu of avant-garde Spanish cuisine to an audience of eight. The peanut praline “pillow,” dusted with plum powder and the foie gras “empanada”—a cotton candy shell stuffed with foie and corn nuts—is dream-like, part of a once-in-a-lifetime dining event.
9 p.m. Scarpetta is a sanctuary of pastas, ranging from the infamous tomato and basil spaghetti—buttery with a bit of bite—to rich duck and foie gras ravioli, savory short rib and bone marrow agnolotti swimming in sharp horseradish brown butter sauce. Thick pici—think obese spaghetti—delivers surprising heat in a dish overwhelmed with lobster.
11 p.m. Cosmo doesn’t lack for late-night dining. Blue Ribbon Sushi doles out raw fish, but don’t overlook its famous matzo meal-crusted chicken wings with wasabi and honey dipping sauce. Pick from a pair of memorable fried rices: a rich oxtail rendition topped with an even richer bone marrow omelet, or a sweet king crab version hiding beneath soft scrambled eggs.
If you’re in a red meat mood instead, party-scene fixture STK has you covered. Affable executive chef (and Top Chef alum) Stephen Hopcraft has crafted a new menu befitting the clubby atmosphere, highlighting the appetizers and sides that separate Strip steakhouses from one another. The Lil’ BRGs, his play on the Big Mac, stacks Wagyu patties with special sauce, cheese and house-made Japanese pickles on sesame-seed buns. Mac and cheese rife with mascarpone and gruyere is a fixture. And don’t miss the blue cheese-y pull-apart bread.
Less visible since the departure of the Vegas Nocturne show, Rose. Rabbit. Lie. continues to thrive under the watchful eye of Strip veteran Dan Rossi. Crispy oysters Rockefeller remain fantastic, as do caviar pasta and bite-size caviar tacos. But Rossi demonstrates his influence on the menu with black bucatini intermingling with uni butter, smoked trout roe and Alaskan king crab.
2 a.m. There’s no good reason for finishing a night at the Cosmopolitan without a visit to the not-so-secret Pizzeria, for textbook NYC thin slices that rank among Las Vegas’ best.
Happy birthday, Cosmopolitan. You’re still delicious.