The Michelin Guide and the Las Vegas restaurant scene are not BFFs. The prestigious culinary guidebook stopped producing a Vegas version more than 10 years ago, although its Red Guide lists Strip restaurants that have received those all-important stars. Joël Robuchon is our only three-star spot, followed by Guy Savoy and Picasso with two and nine others with one.
Since stars are awarded to restaurants and not chefs, the Michelin-Vegas connection remains limited. But a true Vegas chef has broken through: Akira Back, who came to town to run Yellowtail at Bellagio in 2008 and also maintains Kumi at Mandalay Bay, was awarded a Michelin star this week for Dosa, the small restaurant he opened in May 2016 in his native Seoul, South Korea.
Its a rare accomplishment for a rare restaurateur. Back has bucked the trend of big-time Vegas chefs—he made his name on the Strip first, then expanded outward with his own empire. Independent of the Vegas business, he owns and operates restaurants in Singapore, Jakarta, New Delhi and Dallas and will soon expand to Toronto, Bangkok, Hanoi and Dubai.
“As a chef, I feel like I’ve always been lucky to be busy, but this is a huge thing. I grew up reading about guys like Robuchon and [Alain] Ducasse, and I’ve always dreamed about Michelin,” he says. “Korea was the hardest restaurant I’ve ever opened in my life. I’m sure [the star] has a different meaning for everybody, but for me, [that’s] where I was born and raised.”
Back designed Dosa, which serves multicourse meals and is decorated simply with his mother’s paintings, as his personal fine-dining expression of Korean cuisine. He says he’d love to duplicate it in America one day, but he’s also interested in growing the new Korean barbecue steakhouse concept he just opened in Jakarta. “I already have [opportunities] for barbecue in Korea and San Diego, but I really want to do it in Vegas.”