The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2012

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Page 60 of 132

MERRILL SHINDLER'S WORD OF MOUTH Meatless in Vegas W hen all is said and done, Las Vegas is a City of Meat. It may, in fact, be the most beef-obsessed city in America. The steakhouses of Las Vegas are iconic—so much so that they don't even disguise their meatiness behind pretty names. There are several places called simply "The Steakhouse." There's a StripSteak, a Strip House, a Prime, a CUT, a Craftsteak—even a Carnevino ("meat and wine")—among many others. The time may come when restaurants with names like Joël Robuchon, Guy Savoy and Daniel Boulud fade into memory. But they'll still be eating meat in Las Vegas. Or will they? Vegas Goes Vegan (top to bottom): Vegan truffled arancini at Lakeside res- taurant at Wynn Las Vegas; Lakeside's vegan crab cakes; Vegan dim sum at Wazuzu at Encore Las Vegas. 60 / the tasting panel / may 2012 In recent months, vegetarian restaurants have been proliferating throughout Las Vegas. Meatless destinations with righteous names like Go Raw Café, Veggie Delight, Gandhi and the Pura Vida Bystro (their spelling, not ours). That there's a vegetarian underbelly comes as no surprise; that's to be found in any major American city. The surprise is the degree to which meat-free meals have spread into the mainstream; going veggie is all the rage along the Strip. And it began—as has so much in Sin City—with the architect of the New Vegas: casino owner Steve Wynn. Wynn, who had been having health issues, was given a DVD called, simply, "Eating." It was an argument for the life- changing impact of a diet without animal products. Wynn decided to try it. And since his hotels are a function of his life and his taste, he opted to offer vegan menus in every one of his restaurants. His chefs knew better than to argue with an edict from the top. And so, they threw themselves into an orgy of tofu and tempeh. The power of Steve Wynn cannot be overstated. These days, Las Vegas is riding a desert storm of meatlessness. Ground Zero is, of course, Wynn-owned hotels Wynn and Encore, where Chef Tal Ronnen, the resort's consulting vegan chef, works with Corporate Executive Chef David Snyder and executive chefs property-wide to create appealing vegan dining options. At Red 8, the offerings include marinated cucumber salad, plain congee, a steamed vegetable basket, Chinese greens sautéed with garlic and stir-fried tofu and black mushrooms. And if you line up for the Wynn buffet, traditionally a hotbed of fat and cholesterol, you'll find dried fruit vegan stuffing, vegan naan, vegan babaganoush and vegan corn and quinoa cakes. Meatlessness has spread like Texas Hold 'Em along the Strip. When Chef Hubert Keller turned his elegant Fleur de Lys into a more casual small-dish restaurant called Fleur, he made sure to offer a sizable section of vegetarian options—including fried chickpeas with preserved lemon, salt 'n vinegar root vegetable chips and wild mushroom ragout. (Ironically, his other restaurant is the wildly successful Burger Bar, which has its own butcher shop.). At ARIA Resort & Casino, Chef Julian Serrano serves vegetarian and vegan tapas at his Spanish restaurant called Serrano—including a vegan paella. And at MGM Grand, on occasion, there's a vegetarian tasting menu at Joël Robuchon— from 9 to 12 meatless courses created by the man who's been called "Chef of the Century." So perhaps we're wrong. Fabled chefs won't necessarily be replaced by grill cooks who know the difference between medium-rare and medium-well. Not as long as they're willing to put aside the foie gras for les petits pois en fin velouté rafraîchi à la menthe poivrée sur un voile d'oignon doux. P H O T O S C O U R T E S Y O F W Y N N L A S V E G A S

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