Dig into the Mediterranean with a trip to Rivea

Strike it rich with Rivea’s paccheri with ox cheek.
Photo: Mikayla Whitmore

A little less than two months ago, Alain Ducasse’s Mix was reborn—rechristened as Rivea at the Delano, which itself is a metamorphosis from what was TheHotel at Mandalay Bay.

While its adjoining lounge, now known as Skyfall, underwent a major overhaul, little needed to be tweaked with the restaurant, which already afforded some of the best Strip views with an incomparable sightline to the north. A color shift to blues paralleled a menu overhaul with a new focus on Mediterranean fare, encompassing France and Spain. Only a single dish, the pepper-crusted bison tenderloin, remains from Mix.

Rivea’s menu is largely dominated by small plates with a smaller selection of mains, and that’s good because the small plates are where the remade restaurant shines. The well-balanced marinated sea bream ($14) is highlighted with chunks of citrus, enhancing the mild fish without obscuring its taste. My current infatuation is the focaccia di recco ($12), essentially a paper-thin, cheese-filled flatbread. The dish is flavorful yet fragile, crispy and savory and exuding a sharp, lingering funkiness while remaining completely ethereal.

Nicoise-stuffed baby vegetables.

When ordering the Nicoise-stuffed baby vegetables ($16), don’t be surprised when the dishes aren’t brimming with the traditional tuna-laden salad. Instead, you’ll be introduced to vegetables filled with myriad ingredients “in the style of Nice,” which on a recent visit meant sweet red peppers loaded with rice with cabbage-swaddled pork. The combination became a delicious, avant-garde reinterpretation of my grandmother’s stuffed peppers and cabbage. She would be proud.

Crispy socca ($6) are unleavened chickpea crisps that pair perfectly with an addictive olive tapenade, while cured ham tigelle ($8) are bite-sized sandwiches reminiscent of haute, charcuterie-laden Bagel Thins. Both are worth exploring. If tuna-sauced veal is your thing, then Rivea’s vitello tonnato ($14) is a textbook representation of the storied dish. I’m not much of a fan, since I don’t understand the point of obscuring perfectly good veal with tuna. Maybe it’s just me.

The simple Farmer's Cookpot of vegetables at Rivea.

Pasta seems to be where the kitchen excels most (outside of passable artichoke and spinach ravioli). The sage and parmesan potato gnocchi ($12) adorned with parmesan tuiles are light and fluffy, with the sage simply highlighting a pasta presentation reminiscent of a high-end Italian bistro. Even better is the paccheri with ox cheek ($12), thick noodles swimming in a rich, slightly acidic, daube-style sauce begging to be sopped up with baguette. And while it’s technically not pasta, the seasonal mushroom risotto ($12) is yet another example of Rivea running a clinic on Italian dish presentations.

Save room for dessert, as limoncello baba ($12) awaits. A light yeast cake soaked in sweet-but-not-cloying lemon liqueur, it’s a lovely finish to your whirlwind Mediterranean tour.

Rivea Delano Las Vegas, 702-632-9500. Sunday-Thursday, 6-10 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 6-10:30 p.m.

Tags: Dining, Food
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Jim Begley

Jim Begley is an avid food lover who began writing about his Las Vegas dining adventures to defray his obscene ...

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