Monday, Sept. 12, 2011 | 2 a.m.
More restaurants have closed than opened in Las Vegas during the recession, but openings in recent weeks are giving foodies hope of a rebound.
New on the menu: Washington, D.C., Chef Michel Richard made his Las Vegas debut Wednesday with the opening of Central Michel Richard, a 24-hour cafe described as the first all-hours eatery started by a James Beard award winner. Located in the main lobby of Caesars Palace, it features Richard’s signature California-French cuisine.
35 Steaks + Martinis, which serves — well, you can figure it out — also opened last week at the Hard Rock. It picks up on the resort’s rock ’n’ roll theme with a menu that features “wines that rock,” including Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin labels. Signature dishes include the heart-attack-inducing Tomahawk Steak, a 35-ounce cut, and the 35 Gimlet, the restaurant’s take on the classic gin-lime cocktail.
Last month, Planet Hollywood got two additions: the Las Vegas Chocolate Shop and Lobster ME in the Miracle Mile Shops. The chocolate shop sells typical chocolate fare — bars, dipped strawberries and truffles — as well as baked goods, classic sugar candies and coffee. Lobster ME is a fast-casual seafood haunt that boasts “the world’s best lobster rolls.” It also features lobster macaroni and cheese, a “Lobsicle” (fried lobster on a stick) and lobster ice cream (at $8.50 a pop) for more adventurous eaters.
And the folks behind Holsteins, the Cosmopolitan’s upscale burger and shake joint, rounded out the restaurant debuts by announcing they will open a gastro pub at the Venetian. Public House will feature “contemporary versions of tavern classics” and is slated to open by year’s end.
Restaurant followers say they can’t remember a time since the boom years when a similar number of restaurants opened. Food is a necessity but dining out is a luxury, and casino restaurants suffered mightily as tourists and locals reined in spending.
The new entries are a far cry from McDonald’s, but they’re also not ubervenues where customers can expect to drop $200 for a four-course meal. Rather, Richard and his colleagues took a cue from successful Las Vegas chefs such as Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali and opened quality restaurants with more affordable prices.
“It’s smart. It’s much more approachable,” said Elizabeth Blau, a local restaurateur and founder of the restaurant consulting firm Blau and Associates. “And from the buzz that I’m hearing, there is more exciting stuff coming.”