Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

May 11, 2010

Vegas Uncork'd: Conclusion

Posted by Hunter

Uncork'd has now come and gone.

@atdleft has a final submission for this year to wrap things up. Can't wait for next year!

On Sunday, I suddenly had to resume my "normal life". No more being waited upon hand and foot. No more "beach" pools. No more celebrity chefs cooking for me. Nope, it was back to "normal living" in the very "un-Vegas-y" (that's how my State Senator describes it) town of Henderson.

But as I sit here in "un-Vegas-y" territory, I just want to reflect upon the amazing weekend of delicious activities I just experienced.

This was really a chance for us to explore a different side of Las Vegas. Not that long ago, "eating out" mostly consisted of generic steakhouses, dull diners/coffee shops, and cheap buffets. The buffets were especially "legendary" (or should I say notorious?) for "food" that may not have been fit for serving in school cafeterias, and the diners and steakhouses weren't all that better.

But about twenty years ago, it all started to change. When Steve Wynn built The Mirage, he was looking for restaurants worthy of a world-class resort. When Caesars Palace built The Forum Shops, they invited Wolfgang Puck to open a Las Vegas branch of the famed LA hotspot Spago... And ignited the first of many "waves" of "celebrity chef invasions" to come. In the late 1990s, new resorts like Bellagio, Paris, Venetian, and Mandalay Bay looked to New York and Chicago to bring even more culinary star power to town. And just in the last five years, "The Great French Invasion" has brought international superstars like Joel Robuchon, Guy Savoy, and Pierre Gagnaire to Las Vegas to give us even more foodie clout and Michelin Stars than ever before.

Meanwhile, Vegas has also seen the rise of "homegrown talent". Rick Moonen left the hubbub of New York to open RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay and stay here to run it. Kerry Simon actually became a "celebrity chef" here in Vegas, and has since opened a branch of Simon in LA. Signs of life have even appeared out here in the suburbs, as real Neapolitan style pizzerias, funky sushi houses, classy French bistros, and cool gastropubs have popped up from Summerlin to Henderson.

So with Vegas Uncork'd here for its fourth year, it really feels like we were celebrating something quite special. Las Vegas truly has arrived as a sophisticated culinary destination.

Think about it. The world's best and finest chefs were just here in Las Vegas. They were here to feed us. They gave us cooking classes. They served us lunch. They pulled out all the stops for elegant multi-course dinners. They all gathered at Caesars Palace's new pool complex to let us sample their offerings. Hell, they even threw us a big barbeque at Mandalay Bay's beach!

It's incredibly difficult for me to pick a favorite moment from last weekend, since there were so many. There was Charlie Palmer serving me pork hot off the BBQ. There was Cat Cora personally offering me a lamb burger from her booth. There was Joel Robuchon doing a champagne toast with me, silly lil' moi!

And after all these great meals, I'm ready for more. The Grand Tasting gave me a chance to sample some great restaurants that I know I'll need to visit (or try again) soon. Sage tasted very promising. Nobu (as usual) had great sushi offerings. I must admit, even Bobby Flay's seafood at Mesa Grill tasted good. (Last time I was at Mesa, my meal was on the underwhelming side.)

Meanwhile, the full sit-down meals confirmed to me some of my favorite restaurants that I know I will be visiting time and again. Bradley Ogden is a real "hidden treasure" at Caesars Palace. Joel Robuchon is a breathtaking experience never worth missing at MGM Grand. And over ten years later, Aureole is still dazzling us at Mandalay Bay.

Vegas Uncork'd was the perfect opportunity to explore more of what Las Vegas has to offer, especially the great restaurants serving phenomenal food and drinks here. But even if you couldn't make it here last weekend, fear not. There is always something good cooking here.

Just give me a call, and we'll do dinner. Trust me, you'll have fun eating here. :-)

(OK, just one more thing: I need to thank some very important people who made this all happen. Much thanks to Bon Appetit Magazine for hosting Uncork'd and making it yet another fabulous success! I also need to thank Hunter again for giving me the opportunity to be your eyes and ears at Uncork'd. Thanks to my "table partners" at Bradley Ogden on Thursday, including Bon Appetit Executive Ediotr Victoria Von Biel, for the enlightening conversation and great company. Thanks to my new friends from Seattle, jsmeeker, and David Ross for guiding me through The Grand Tasting. Thanks to THEhotel at Mandalay Bay for such an enjoyable stay last weekend. Oh, and thanks to YOU for bearing with me these last few days. I hope to keep seeing you here!)


Read archived comments (11 so far)
May 11, 2010 4:14 PM Posted by atdleft

Again, thanks to everyone here for following my eating adventures! And many thanks to Hunter for inviting me here in the first place! And btw, if you'd like more photos from last weekend, I now have my Photobucket albums ready:


May 11, 2010 4:29 PM Posted by jsmeeker

Great job on all the coverage! It was nice to get insight into events that I didn't attend myself. You should absolutely check out Sage. It's great.

May 12, 2010 2:55 PM Posted by John

My conclusion: Next year I'm going to be taggling along with you.

May 12, 2010 4:51 PM Posted by atdleft


Thanks! And same here. Next year, I should try that all-star cooking lunch.


"Next year I'm going to be taggling along with you."

And most likely, you'll be more than welcome to. Where do you want to eat? :-D

May 12, 2010 6:56 PM Posted by John


May 12, 2010 10:25 PM Posted by atdleft


That's what The Grand Tasting is for, John. ;-)

No really, there were well over 100 restaurants representing Friday night at Caesars' new pool. If you're feeling indecisive in the weeks before Uncork'd, at least get a ticket for The Grand Tasting so you can sample all sorts of grub from all over town.

May 16, 2010 9:01 AM Posted by bonk!

@atdleft, thank you for the well-written review of this extraordinary event. My mouth was watering as a I read the details! I do want to say though, that there were some great steaks to be had in Las Vegas pre-Mirage. --bonk!

May 17, 2010 6:12 PM Posted by atdleft


Thanks! I'm glad you appreciated my updates.

" I do want to say though, that there were some great steaks to be had in Las Vegas pre-Mirage."

Yes, there were a few good spots... But overall the dining scene here in 1960 was nothing like what we can find today. Hell, the dining scene here in 1990 was nothing like what we can find today! The initial competition between The Mirage, Caesars Palace and MGM Grand to up the ante on great dining allowed for more "celebrity chefs" to arrive, then for real culinary creative juices to flow.

May 17, 2010 7:29 PM Posted by mike_ch

Celebrity chefs were okay at first, but have lead to the franchising and sameyness of resorts, especially since they seem to be at the beck and call of not a single property but an entire resort company. We could have probably expected a dozen Puck joints eventually in 1994, but Michael Mina?

Our food scene is basically just going ga-ga over New Yorkers and Chicagoans, thanks to a resort industry led mostly by a whole bunch of New Yorkers and Chicagoans.

Steve Wynn at least has been "keeping it real," though on the other side of the coin I'm not sure why I'm supposed to be impressed that he has a seafood truck.

May 17, 2010 8:11 PM Posted by atdleft

Mike C-

"We could have probably expected a dozen Puck joints eventually in 1994, but Michael Mina?"

But at least Michael Mina turns out great food at all his MGM Mirage restaurants. The same can't be said of a number of Station & Boyd eateries. And for the record, no Station or Boyd restaurants were represented at the Vegas Uncork'd Grand Tasting.

Now yes, it can become increasingly difficult to guarantee the quality of the food and the uniqueness of the experience with multiple locations. Spago at Caesars still delivers stellar dishes, but Wolfgang Puck at MGM has really gone downhill over the years. Emeril's at MGM has also been lackluster of late, and I've heard mixed reports of Delmonico and Table 10 at Venelazzo. That's why I'm usually not a fan of "gourmet chains", but if it can be pulled off well like Michael Mina's restaurants can I'll take any of those over a mediocre "unique" casino steakhouse any time.

"Our food scene is basically just going ga-ga over New Yorkers and Chicagoans, thanks to a resort industry led mostly by a whole bunch of New Yorkers and Chicagoans."

Maybe 10 years ago you'd be right, but not any more. As I mentioned above, Rick Moonen gave up his New York career to open RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay and run it himself. Shawn McClain gave up his Chicago celebrity status to open Sage at Aria and run it himself. In addition, we're now seeing more and more homegrown talent. Kerry Simon got his start here. So did Alex Stratta. So has Michael Jordan (of Rosemary's). So has Todd Clore. And so have a number of other restaurants that have popped up on and off-Strip in the last 10 years.

May 17, 2010 8:59 PM Posted by John

I'd like to add that a great many New Yorkers and Chicagoans make food that's better than some of the sex I've had in my life. So, if they'd like to keep on opening restaurants here in Vegas I, for one, will not be heard complaining.