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December 21, 2014

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CityCenter aims to make dining experience ‘cooler and hipper’

Veritable who’s who of celebrity chefs headline casino-resort’s restaurants

CityCenter Dining Experience

CityCenter offers excellent dining experiences.

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Employees ready the bar at the Skybox Bar at Aria, the centerpiece of the $8.5 billion CityCenter project, Monday, December 14, 2009. Launch slideshow »

The list of chefs behind CityCenter’s restaurants reads like a celebrity who’s who in the culinary world — Wolfgang Puck, Todd English, Michael Mina, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Julian Serrano, Martin Heierling.

They are part of MGM Mirage’s effort to create food offerings at CityCenter that are as unique as the rest of the new casino-resort.

“Generally what we were looking for was to take the partnerships that we have and work off of them, making them more high-energy, cooler and hipper,” MGM Mirage Food and Beverage Vice President Bart Mahoney said.

With the completion of Aria, the complex will house more than 20 restaurants, with more to follow, bringing out some of the country’s top culinary masters.

Besides some of the more familiar names in Las Vegas dining, CityCenter will bring some first-to-Vegas chefs to the mix, such as Shawn McClain who will be opening his fourth restaurant, Sage, located just off the Aria Resort & Casino lobby.

“I was fortunate enough and humbled to be invited to come out here. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” McClain said. “The talent of all the chefs out here is a real inspiration to me and to be among them now is awesome.”

Sage will feature a “new American” menu, as McClain describes it, with a bit of a Mediterranean flair. The interior of Sage is dramatic, decorated in dark purple hues and dim lighting, accented with hanging chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling murals.

“We want it to be it to be exciting and lively but, at the same time, really comfortable,” McClain said.

Three-star Michelin chef Masayoshi Takayama is another chef making his Vegas debut.

Takayama brings two restaurants to Aria — Bar Masa for modern Japanese dining and Shaboo, which features a style of Japanese hot-pot cooking called shabu with a $500 per person fixed-price menu.

Adding some restaurateurs to CityCenter were no-brainers, Mahoney said, like Michael Mina, who is opening his fifth restaurant at an MGM Mirage resort.

The name of Mina’s latest creation, American Fish, pretty much says it all. Mina said the restaurant will showcase seafood from the nation’s great lakes, rivers and oceans.

“Also, the techniques we’re using pay some homage to things that are indigenous to how things are cooked in certain regions, like maybe how mussels are cooked in Washington,” Mina said.

The smells from the wood-burning oven, one of the five techniques Mina is using to prepare his food, fills American Fish, complementing the restaurant’s earthy décor.

“The idea was to have a concept where there is great harmony in all of it, the design, the food and the techniques,” Mina said.

Mina has carried over CityCenter’s mission of sustainability into his cooking. The chef said American Fish follows a set of standards mapped out by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which supports environmentally friendly fishing and farming and discourages over-fishing.

Just next door to American Fish, Jean-Georges Vongerichten will be opening Jean Georges Steakhouse, the chef’s second steakhouse with MGM Mirage.

Vongerichten, who is responsible for the regal and pricey Prime Steakhouse at the Bellagio, said his namesake restaurant takes on a more comfortable, hipper vibe.

“The feel of the restaurant is very minimalistic, very industrial. Prime is very classical, timeless...This one is more modern, more casual and darker,” Vongerichten said. “We really want the plate to be the star.”

Guests can find 10 different cuts of meat at Jean Georges, from filet minon to porterhouse steaks to lamb chops, all fired over a wood-burning grill.

Prime opened more than 10 years ago at the Bellagio, but in Jean Georges Steakhouse, Vongerichten said, he believes he’s created a restaurant for the 2000s.

“You have to create cravings both in the décor and on the plate,” he said. “People are always going to come the first time, but you have to give them something to crave to keep them coming back.”

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