Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

December 22, 2009

Serrano Serrano Serrano

Posted by Hunter

This is a short post about something I haven't been able to get out of my head. I had lunch at Julian Serrano inside ARIA this past Friday. Serrano is doing tapas at this joint, unlike the far more formal Picasso at Bellagio.

Wow. I can't wait to go back.

Not only is it open for lunch but given the restaurant's tapas format, it's super easy to try a bunch of different flavors without committing to one dish. In some way's it's the anti-buffet - small portions of the best food you'll ever have.

The shots of what I tried:

any my personal fave:


Read archived comments (14 so far)
December 22, 2009 8:56 PM Posted by atdleft

Yummy! I wish I had known last night. I guess I'll have to go there next time I'm at CityCenter. Don't get me wrong, Silk Road at Vdara was quite nice. I just can't wait to try these kick@ss tapas!

December 22, 2009 8:58 PM Posted by Hunter

I rarely get this excited about a single restaurant but I literally can't stop thinking about how good it was.

December 23, 2009 6:49 AM Posted by Brian Fey

My thoughts on this subject....

The menu might be a bit scary to someone who isn't a foodie, but as with all of these places, all the items look much more scary on paper, than in person. That never sits well with my brother, who says just state clearly what it is exactly. But I think if they did that, they couldn't charge twice what it was worth. :) But all in all, I agree with Hunter the food was excellent, and this is a way to try many different items. The only down fall, is I think it will take 3-4 items for the average person. And at $10+ an item, you're looking at a $80 lunch, which is what we spent. I'm not a complete tight ass, but at least in the midwest $80 for lunch for 2, with no drinks is pretty expensive.

December 23, 2009 7:38 AM Posted by detroit1051

Serrano is #1 on my list when I visit Aria. It will certainly be a different experience than Picasso, but it should be. Vegas doesn't need a clone of Picasso. I have dined at Picasso at least five times (the most expensive "free" dinners I've ever had), and each time the food and service were consistently excellent. Much of that consistency comes from the fact that Julian Serrano is onsite most of the time, far different from the fly-ins of Michael Mina, Wolfgang Puck, etc. It makes a huge difference to have the principal person there. Serrano can certainly juggle two restaurants almost next door to each other. I believe that Paul Bartolotta's presence has the same effect on his room at Wynn.

December 23, 2009 1:55 PM Posted by atdleft


"And at $10+ an item, you're looking at a $80 lunch, which is what we spent. I'm not a complete tight ass, but at least in the midwest $80 for lunch for 2, with no drinks is pretty expensive."

I hate to channel Katy Perry here, but "that's what you get for waking up in Vegas". I know that once upon a time food was cheap (and lousy) all over the valley, but those days are long gone (with the only remaining exceptions of Downtown & "The Boulder Strip"). The downside of "New Vegas" is that restaurant prices here now easily rival those in other top-notch foodie towns as New York and San Francisco, but the upside is the quality, taste, creativity, and energy are now finally nearing the "culinary norm" in NYC & SF.

It's just so sad that you tourists take advantage of our culinary wonders far more often than so many of my fellow locals do. Ask some of my neighbors here in Green Valley about a tapas bar, and I fear a few of them might still send you to the Hustler TOPLESS club on Dean Martin. Sadly, it's still a struggle to get more locals to even set foot on The Strip to try all these wonderful new restaurants.


"Much of that consistency comes from the fact that Julian Serrano is onsite most of the time, far different from the fly-ins of Michael Mina, Wolfgang Puck, etc. It makes a huge difference to have the principal person there. Serrano can certainly juggle two restaurants almost next door to each other. I believe that Paul Bartolotta's presence has the same effect on his room at Wynn."

DEFINITELY AGREED! Steve Wynn was most certainly right in demanding that his "celebrity chefs" actually manage their restaurants in person and on location. It's made a HUGE difference in quality in most every Wynn & Encore restaurant.

And now that I know Julian Serrano won't be another "absentee chef", that makes me want to try his tapas bar even more! I'm also hoping to FINALLY make it to Picasso soon to see how he earned those two Michelin stars. :-)

December 24, 2009 1:53 AM Posted by mike_ch

Brian, you've pretty much described why I've avoided CatHouse and other tapas joints. I have a very fussy and limited appetite and once watched a BBC series about people who are like me and will only eat just a few types of foods and whose stomachs turn if they try anything else. The hosts took them out to a tapas place and explained it and had them trying little bits of all kinds of all kinds of things and explained it as a way to discover if you like new things without having to commit to a full sized course of it.

Sounded great, and I went on a researching trip on tapas in hopes that my palette might move past steaks and cheeseburgers and pizza, and I ran into two problems:

1) The tapas restaurants are all geared towards foodies.
2) Everything is very expensive.

Though of course that's also sort of the case in a whole lot of places. The past several months I've lived a two hour bus ride from San Francisco (sounds bad, but Vegas is so poorly connected that it's a two hour bus ride for me to go to the Strip, soooo..) and everything here is expensive too. I never even got to try the newly opened SF Burger Bar. :)

atdleft: I don't know if food prices are that much more than San Fran, being that I'm sitting close to San Fran and keep trying to plan days in the city. Michael Mina's restaurant here? Still pretty expensive. Probably a little more exclusive too since property in SF is expensive.

Our restaurants are almost all imported from NY and LA to begin with, and 8 out of 10 times are remote outposts that don't get much attention from management. The few (only?) nice things I can say about the Light/Pure managed trendy restaurants popping up everywhere is that those groups are more or less focused on Vegas dining, instead of being an import from some other city with distant owners.

As far as absentee chefs go, *shrug*. Guys like Emeril and Puck have so many restaurants around the country that I don't think anyone walks into one of Puck's hundred or so casual cafes and really expects Puck to be cooking their food.

I get from your past posts that you're new in town. Locals see the Strip the way locals in other cities see a business park, an industrial sector, whatever. It's everybody's job site or economic driver. It does have a few practical uses, but they all begin with "if you have money and want to pamper yourself..."

It also has a sort of negative side-effect in that the surrounding city has difficulty finding any community pride in anything other than casinos.

Certainly, few people move to Vegas feeling blessed that they can hang out at Bellagio for as long as they like without having to fly home.

And finally, Las Vegans make a lot less income on average than the people in cities that Vegas draws. We're a not highly educated, not high earning city and that means a lot of people think Friday night is spent squealing your tires in parking lots, not going to Le Cirque.

December 24, 2009 2:00 AM Posted by mike_ch

BTW, I just want to say that the above are all my impressions from three years of seeing, talking to, and interacting with people in Vegas. I don't have statistics, so if there's people here armed with facts (and I know there's gotta be at least one) who wants to shoot me down, be gentle.

December 24, 2009 9:05 AM Posted by atdleft


Well, the recession really has taken its toll on Vegas. Depending on which economist you talk to, either we're just starting to recover after hitting rock bottom or we're still in our own "Greater Depression". I tend to think the former, but I do realize it won't be an easy recovery and we probably won't be back to 2005/06 levels of business for another 3-5 years.

But still, Greater Las Vegas has really changed over the years. In fact, average household income in Clark County is now higher than the national average... And it's even higher where I live in Henderson (my zip code was created after the 2000 Census, so I'm resorting to demographic data from nearby zip codes). (However, you are correct that the neighborhoods immediately surrounding The Strip house mostly casino workers and are less affluent than Henderson and Summerlin.)

Vegas has now grown large enough to where each area has its own "culture". Summerlin residents take pride in their French bistros, while folks on The East Side, OTOH, like their taco joints and "neighborhood casino diners". We in Henderson argue over which pizzeria serves the best pie in town, while folks in The Northwest go to IHOP and Chili's.

There are signs of life here and there with the Vegas food scene, but I will admit that it isn't fully developed yet. Great foodie towns like NYC and SF have exciting neighborhoods full of special, unique food offerings. And while we're starting to see more interesting local fine dining restaurants emerge in Summerlin and Henderson, as well as better world cuisine offerings in areas like "Spring Mountain Chinatown" and the heavily Latino areas of North Las Vegas & The East Side, the rest of the 'burbs are still cursed with boring "food factory" chains and "casino-bars" that just happen to serve food.

Still, you make good points on locals' attitudes toward The Strip. I've found this same "if I have to do something there for work I will, otherwise I avoid it like the plague!" attitude among most of my friends and family here. And yes, I find it annoying... Especially since The Strip is one of the top foodie destinations in the world, we have so many Michelin stars concentrated in just a few square miles, and there are plenty of nice restaurants to try that don't cost that much more than the usual steaming pile of crap at the usual Applebee's or Chili's.

There really is plenty for us locals to be proud of... Especially The Strip, since this is something we have that nowhere else has!

December 24, 2009 10:37 AM Posted by mike_ch

The past few years will probably not come back. The city was practically becoming the New Hollywood and that kind of attention just never lasts forever. I was saying back in 2005 that the amount of "...In Vegas!" that I was seeing on national TV wasn't something that would last forever and the city shouldn't hold itself to sustaining record levels of tourism.

03/04 is sustainable, and we've been about there the past year. The reason it SEEMS so bad is that they're comparing themselves to last year. Part of the problem with the financial money people is they simply compare themselves to where they are one year ago, and many people can't see back further than five years.

If you're raking in record profits, then you're dooming yourself to a downer period after. Otherwise it's expecting to be making record high profits every month for the rest of time, which is unrealistic.

As for local attitudes, I dunno, since your friends probably aren't the same as mine. :) Really, what it all boils down to is if you like something you shouldn't do it for a job. It's what stops me from packing everything and moving to Orlando and working at Disney since I'm much more passionate about that product than Vegas' product. I'd hate to look at Cinderella and see a girl from that one gated burb on the south end of Kissimmee who swears a lot and smokes a ton during breaks. :)

I'll just put it this way: The Strip doesn't do itself any favours in regards to prices (food isn't TOO bad, alcohol is well overpriced and entertainment/concerts is ridiculous compared to other cities). Then there's the matter that a lot of people don't want to spend their time off where they work. And then you've got a traffic situation that's bad and only getting worse.

In a way, the Strip is sometimes better off that locals avoid it. A horde of coupon clippers coming in cars containing one person each is the kind of thing that could bring it's ecosystem, if not it's finances, to it's knees pretty quickly.

December 25, 2009 9:18 AM Posted by atdleft


I guess I'm just more optimistic. Again, I don't think this will be a fast and easy recovery. But hopefully with CityCenter now open and likely future efforts to diversify Nevada's economy (which we desperately need, since we obviously can't live on tourism alone!), we'll be back. Hopefully, 2010 Nevada GDP will turn positive again and unemployment will continue coming down (but for all the right reasons, this time) as tourism numbers pick up and local elected leaders focus more on diversifying the economy. It may be irrational, but then again no one has ever ultimately won on a bet against Vegas. :-D

And hey, whenever I go to The Strip I either carpool or use RTC (our transit system, which actually isn't bad compared to other Southwest/SoCal areas). And I still think it will be good for more of us locals to expand our horizons, especially those of us who don't work on The Strip and otherwise never see it.

December 25, 2009 9:18 AM Posted by atdleft

And btw, Merry Christmas & Happy Kwanzaa to all of you! Enjoy the holidays! :-)

December 26, 2009 5:57 AM Posted by Jeff in OKC

Eveeryone is more optimistic than Mike_ch. That's why we love him :-).

December 27, 2009 1:24 AM Posted by mike_ch

atdleft: Oh my god, another transit rider! Maybe sometime in the next year I'll come by Henderson and see we can stand at a sidewalk at a corner unprotected from direct sunlight, burning our skin as we squint up the street looking for the next bus. :)

(seriously, RTC desperately needs to add shade to a whole lot of stops!)

Jeff: Pfft, I'm more positive about some things (like LV Sands) than other people I could name. :)

January 11, 2010 6:40 PM Posted by billyinlasvegas

This place (Serrano's) might be the biggest hit at Aria. The place is packed non stop from lunch until closing.

I got the chance to try it out pre-opening and it was amazing. I'm not a foodie and I'm a very picky eater and used to be afraid of tapas but the staff is very good at helping you out, just tell them what you like and they'll help you out.

Coincidentally two of the dishes I tried were the same ones Hunter had (the beef with brie and the pintxo de chorizo) and they were amazing. Next time you're here try the Chicken Croquetas (they're addictive!) and of course the red sangria!

It's definitely a very cool spot to hang out, you can always spot your favorite MGM MIRAGE executives there as well as Julian Serrano himself is always walking around the joint.