There are few chefs in Las Vegas as intrinsically tied to their restaurants as Barry Dakake and N9NE Steakhouse at the Palms. And yet it was a different iconic dining room that originally brought the congenial Rhode Island native to the desert. Dakake came to town in 1998 to help open Charlie Palmer’s Aureole at Mandalay Bay (a restaurant currently undergoing a massive renovation) and also assisted at Charlie Palmer Steak at the neighboring Four Seasons. When the opportunity to try something different came along, Dakake couldn’t say no.
“These brothers kept coming in for dinner, and I kept seeing this crazy name—Maloof,” recalls the chef. “They snatched me away as executive sous chef, [working] with Brian Massie. He said, ‘If you ain’t going, I ain’t going.’ So we went.”
The result was an almost instant hit, a modern steakhouse that set all the trends and created its own scene. “I didn’t really know what I was walking into; I don’t think anyone knew,” Dakake says. “We started off doing 200, 250 covers a night, then it jumped to 400, then almost 700 on the weekends. Nobody expected that. The who’s who, the celebrities and the wannabes, they all wanted to eat in my restaurant.”
Dakake—who’s known to mingle with celeb diners and recently partied at the Palms with Vinny Paz for the premiere of the boxer’s biopic Bleed for This—acknowledges that the scene has changed and other restaurants have staked a claim to the hippest room in the city. But he’s excited about the future of the restaurant and the resort, now owned and operated by Station Casinos. “I’m really looking forward to working with the Fertitta [family], because they really understand what it was and what they want now. I really think we’re going to bring it back to life.”