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Restaurant Lineup At The Cosmopolitan Shows Las Vegas Still Has Training Wheels On

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (the two dormant towers on the right side of CityCenter that’s not actually part of CityCenter) announced their opening restaurant line up to which I respond a resilient “meh” amongst the praise of the oohs and ahhs.  My “meh” comes from a desire to see Las Vegas complete the next step in its evolution as the Culinary Capital of the Universe, and this step is for Las Vegas to finally pop the titty of New York out of our mouths.

Rendering of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Rendering of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

The quickest way to success is to steal other people’s successful shit, put your flavor on it and call it your own.  Always has been and always will.  The very foundation of what Las Vegas’ culinary scene is, is built on this principle.  We steal other people’s shit, pair it up with our own over-indulgent flair and we do it better than anywhere else on the planet.  While the names of Batali, Puck, Lagasse, Flay and Mina adorn many of The Strip’s most celebrated eateries, we all know that none of them have to make the “do I take the I-15 or go up Frank Sinatra” decision to get to work each day.

With Las Vegas’ solid establishment as a gastronomic mecca, I argue that it’s about time we build off this base and start creating a stable of Las Vegas based chef’s cooking a Las Vegas based cuisine.  Is over-indulgence a cuisine?  It can be if you squint your eyes and tilt the menu just right.  Over-indulgence means many different things to many different people, and this is where a great diversity can come in a Las Vegas cuisine.

Las Vegas is the place everyone wants to go to get away from their miserable lives.  They come here to blow the kid’s college fund on a weekend of stress release.  They come here to be the people they want to be and not the people they have to be.  While Las Vegas residents are nauseated at the “what happens here, stays here” line, our bread and butter tourists take this mantra to heart and will use a Vegas vacation try things they didn’t even know was possible back at the homestead in B.F.E. Kansas.

Steve Wynn

Steve Wynn

Steve Wynn found out a long time ago that it is all in the packaging.  Wynn is a master at finding chefs and entertainers that are ripe for blowout success.  Cirque du Soleil was just a small troupe of French-Canadians jumping around when Mystere opened at the Mirage.  Who the hell was Danny Gans? (Rest in Peace) But no, really, who the hell was Danny Gans?  Steve Wynn was also the guy that turned Julian Serrano from the guy that took over Masa’s Restaurant in San Francisco to the guy that is head of one of the most acclaimed restaurants in Las Vegas’ history with PicassoPaul Bartolotta is from MILWAUKEE for Christ’s sake and now he’s the head of the most celebrated Italian Seafood restaurant outside of the Mediterranean Sea. (yeah yeah yeah, Spiaggia Smeeaggia is what I say, the guy is from MILWAUKEE).  Is Steve-a-rino’s newest find a young, hip, brash, relatively unknown cook from L.A. in Jet Tila?  Time will only tell.

What Wynn realized early on is that you can take the relatively unknown and turn it into something special if it is of good quality.  Outside of hardcore foodie circles, no one knew who the hell Paul Bartolotta was before he opened up shop at the Wynn, and people may not even know his name now, but they know they are in for something special when they go to his restaurant.

You see, thanks to people like Steve Wynn, the tables have turned, and now instead of us having to import the best in the world to make us special, Las Vegas is now the place that automatically gives a talented chef instant street cred.  Douche McGee can have a steakhouse here, and if it has a storefront in a place like Bellagio, Aria, Palazzo, Caesars or Encore, it automatically has street cred among our visitors.  Its continued success all comes down to it being good and how well it is marketed.

So what does all of this have to do with the Cosmopolitan you ask?  Well, here’s the restaurant line up that was announced:

  • Blue Ribbon (NYC)
  • Scarpetta (NYC)
  • Estiatorio Milos (NYC)
  • STK Steakhouse (NYC)
  • Comme Ca (L.A.)

Four rip offs from New York and one from Los Angeles.  With the exception of Estiatorio Milos, it’s more of the same old imported stolen crap that we already have.  Blue Ribbon will either be a brasserie or a sushi joint.  I’m hoping for brasserie as the Manhattan menu has pierogis on it, (pierogis on The Strip!), but it could be just another sushi joint (because we don’t have enough of those) with David Myers’ Comme Ca filling in the brasserie role.  Scarpetta is one of the hottest restaurants in New York, but I think Vegas has its fill of expensive NYC Italian joints.  STK Steakhouse is a steakhouse…do we have any of those in Las Vegas?

Estiatorio Milos is the lone example of something unique on The Strip in the Cosmopolitan’s initial offering, but in looking at their New York menu, I think Estiatorio Milos stands for heinously priced Greekish food.  Time will only tell how they gouge the Vegas crowd.

While I’m sure all of these places will be just fine, I can’t help but be underwhelmed by the prime opportunity the Cosmopolitan had when choosing their restaurants, and in the grand scheme of it all, the newest building on The Strip is going to be filled with more of the same.  The Cosmopolitan is scheduled to open late this year, but if you can’t wait till then to check it out, just go to any other resort on The Strip as they have the exact same stuff.  It’s just a different name of a guy that doesn’t work here either.

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeDobranski.

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

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1 comment to Restaurant Lineup At The Cosmopolitan Shows Las Vegas Still Has Training Wheels On

  • yeah, this is a good catalog of “everything that is wrong with the Las Vegas restaurant scene.” Maybe because each casino property considers itself its own planet (and the business model is, ‘rich tourist do not leave the property’) that explains the repetition in the same boring safe choices. This ensures no dining diversity, and explains why the strip has 87 monorail systems that each have 3 stops and aren’t connected.

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