The “Ninth Island,” aka Las Vegas, always impresses with fun entertainment and memorable meals when my husband and I travel there for business events.
The Peking duck is reason enough to dine at Mott 32. But another compelling reason is the award-winning design with five private dining rooms, booths that resemble Asian opium beds, a dining table made of a vintage roulette wheel and chandeliers with feather boas.
We headed there right off the plane and discovered five Hawaii-born servers on staff, exuding aloha spirit all the way.
As repeats to Mott 32, we ordered the Peking duck ahead of time, as is required. Marinated for 48 hours and roasted with apple wood in a fiery brick oven, the duck is wheeled to your table on a “gueridon” and carved tableside by a chef in traditional Chinese attire. Diners can spread thin, steamed pancakes with brown palm sugar sauce, hoisin, peanuts and freshly grated garlic for wrapping around a piece of crisp skin and juicy meat with fresh julienne vegetables. Your taste buds will be transported to Beijing.
Located in the Palazzo casino level, Mott 32 is the perfect place to go for Chinese New Year on Jan. 25, or any time. Other crowd pleasers are shishito peppers stuffed with chicken paste in black-bean sauce, delicate pea shoot tendrils sauteed with garlic, dim sum and Chinese tea. Come during happy hour and you won’t bust your budget. Call 702-607-3232.
ZEN VERSUS OPULENT
Named after the Mandarin term for “pulled,” La La Noodle in the Park MGM excels at hand-pulled Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai pasta dishes including vegetable lo mein with choy sum, bean sprouts and shiitake mushrooms and spicy Szechuan pork over hand-ripped egg noodles with cucumber and scallions. The minimalist decor sets a Zen-like backdrop for lively ’80s American pop music. Indulge in dim sum, won ton soup, drunken beef and stir-fried green beans in XO sauce at moderate prices. Call 702-730-7777.
NoMad Restaurant in the NoMad Hotel is a Harry Potter-meets-Dead Poet’s Society affair with 25,000 books on shelves that soar skyward lining the opulent restaurant.
“We have a robust menu that celebrates grand, clubby, midcentury dining with a dash of theater,” spieled our server Phillip Cadiz, who attended Sunset Beach Elementary on Oahu. “We feature fruits de mer seafood platters in two sizes, seasonal pasta, signature black truffle-laced roast chicken and baked Alaska flambeed tableside. “
Located directly across from the T-Mobile Arena, NoMad Restaurant also presents Lady Gaga’s trumpet player, Brian Newman, reimagining the swinging, cocktail-swilling Las Vegas of old with a late-night show featuring vocal sirens, burlesque queens and sexy horns. It’s a bawdy hoot. NoMad Restaurant is open for dinner and Sunday jazz brunch. Call 702-730-7000.
DIRECT FROM MAUI WATERS
It had been a few years since we visited Lakeside at Wynn Las Vegas. We had heard that executive chef David Walzog’s renowned restaurant features Hawaii seafood, mainly line-caught by family fishermen in Hana. The website reads, “Flown to Wynn and served fresher than even restaurants in Maui.”
Focusing on fresh sustainable fish, Lakeside imports catch that is out of the water less than 24 hours before it arrives from fishers such as Hana’s own Greg Linn.
“Recently I had the pleasure of visiting the island of Maui and working side by side with the fishermen who catch seasonal and indigenous species of wild fish that are hook-and-line caught using only sustainable methods,” said Walzog. “With our ocean-to-table program, Lakeside is the only restaurant on the mainland to source from this group of local day boats.”
Savor opakapaka, uku, monchong, mahimahi, shutome and niragi — all from Maui waters — while you watch videos on a massive screen at Wynn’s Lake of Dreams. Also unique to the restaurant is a regional selection of live lobsters, presented in a tank tableside with three to five species offered nightly. High-end, Lakeside is open for dinner as well as Dixieland jazz Sunday brunches. Call 702-770-3310.
Just off the Strip at 99 Convention Center Drive is the Barrymore in the Royal Resort boutique hotel, listed at the top of many haunted tours of Las Vegas because of its gangster past. A hidden gem for tourists, it’s well known by local Las Vegans who park right next to the entrance in fancy cars. The Barrymore is a throwback to Sin City’s ring-a-ding-ding history, with pictures of Bugsy Siegel, Frank Sinatra and other legends adorning the dimly lit dining rooms.
The award-winning wine list includes more than 50 selections priced at less than $50 per bottle. The Barrymore looks like the old Chez Paul in Olowalu, with a Ruth’s Chris Steak House-style menu of crisp salads, seafood platters, fabulous cuts of steaks with sauce add-ons and sides from lobster creamed corn to charred broccolini. Prices aren’t bad for such a classy joint. The Barrymore also boasts Social Hour and lounge performers. Call 702-407-5303.
PIZZA ON THE GRAND CANAL
You’ll feel like you’re dining in Italy at Sixth+Mill Ristorante, Pizzeria and Bar in the Venetian. Watch mimes and other street performers in Saint Mark’s Square as you dine on the air-conditioned indoor patio overlooking action at the Grand Canal Shops and fountain. The menu features Neapolitan-style pizzas with airy and chewy crusts, gnocchi, ravioli, chicken Parmesan and branzino (sea bass) with tomatoes and basil.
“We use three varieties of tomatoes for our pizza sauce,” the server told us. “One for sweetness, one for tanginess and one for consistency. Our pizza ovens were flown in from Italy to achieve the best results.”
Two happy hours daily feature 50% off all wines by the glass along with beer and specialty cocktails. Savor super-reasonable pizzelo (surfboard-shaped individual pizzas), fried calamari and Brussels sprouts with toasted almonds, paprika and lemon. Owner Matteo Ferdinandi stopped by our table and said he wants to open a restaurant on Maui. Call 702-414-1227.
For the first time, we checked out the LINQ Promenade with the world’s highest observation wheel, the High Roller, zip lines, Jimmy Kimmel comedy show, shopping and dining. We stumbled upon a familiar name: Flour & Barley — Brick Oven Pizza, also at Waikiki’s International Market Place. We were looking for someplace casual and affordable and knew this traditional pizzeria would fit the bill.
Brought to life by Las Vegas entrepreneur Billy Richardson, Flour & Barley stokes wood-fired pizzas made with whole-milk mozzarella and a selection of toppings. Also on the menu are Italian-inspired appetizers, pastas, salads and seasonal entrees, beers galore and craft cocktails. Perfect for families, it’s open for lunch and dinner. Call 702-430-4430.
HERE’S THE BEEF
Stripsteak at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino is a modern American steakhouse owned by acclaimed chef Michael Mina, who operates 20 restaurants from Oahu to Miami. Stripsteak features certified Angus beef and American Kobe cuts of beef cooked over mesquite, better known in the islands as kiawe, wood. Sides such as truffled mac ’n’ cheese and spinach souffle with Parmesan cream are recommended.
“I’m such a fan of the islands and am thrilled to head over to Four Seasons Resort Maui Food & Wine Classic May 21 to 25 in Wailea,” emailed Mina. “Hawaii has an emerging culinary community and I’m so honored to be a part of it. I spend a lot of time on Oahu between my home and our restaurants there, but I’ve always loved Maui and can’t wait to expand my work and passion to this special island.” For reservations, call 702-632-7200.