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VegasWire: Eating Around Encore at the Wynn

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We spent a good portion of this week running around the Encore resort in Las Vegas, the new companion hotel to the Wynn. First: The resort is lovely, intimate by Vegas standards, and easily accessed by the larger hotel. We were invited to try any and all of the restaurants and did our darndest to get through them all. OK, so we left feeling like the Botero sculpture in the middle Botero, but since these are the newest spots on the Strip (two helmed by former Angelenos) we wanted to get to them in one fell swoop. One thing is for sure, the recession hasn't effected Vegas prices---entrees at most of these restaurants hovered around the $35-$50 mark. Some more observations:

Wazuzu: Local chef and personality Jet Tila's restaurant is just off the main casino floor. The smallish room is overlorded by a giant Swarovski crystal dragon; so stunning, we couldn't help but touch it while sitting underneath it. Tila's menu circles the Pacific Rim---sushi (we tried some great uni, fluke and toro), curries, spicy pineapple fried rice with duck sausage, Thai crispy fish with mango slaw. And it seems Tila's enthusiasm is infectious in the hotel: Every staffer we spoke to, whether it was a hair stylist or bartender, had something nice to say not just about the restaurant, but about the chef. [Full menu]

Botero: Encore has a lot of the natural light coming through floor-to-ceiling windows around the resort, unsual for Vegas. This restaurant's windows look out to the main pool, and the dining room is centered by Fernando Botero's Fertility Goddess sculpture (Steve Wynn is a fan of the Columbian painter and sculpture, who lent his name to the restaurant for free; Mr. Wynn, in turn, bought millions of dollars of art, some of which is at Botero). The chef is Mark LoRusso, who helmed Tableau at the Tower Suites at the Wynn. Steakhouse fare with wit---we couldn't stop raving about the fried polenta "rings," and the pb&j donuts were pretty darn good. Good bar for cocktails or single dining. [Full menu]

Society Cafe: Elizabeth Blau helped Steve Wynn attract chefs like Michael Mina, Todd English, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and the Maccioni family at the Bellagio when it opened, and she did the same for the Wynn. Now, her and her husband, chef Kim Canteenwalla, have their own spot at Encore. Also just off the casino floor, the room is stylish and whimsical, definitely a step up from the usual breakfast-lunch-dinner cafes at most resorts. We enjoyed an array of sliders (filet, tuna, sloppy joe), but this we know: There is no better way to start any meal than with homemade potato chips and onion dip, and warm pretzel-roll sticks with grain-mustard butter. [Full menu]

Sinatra: Remember when we chatted with former Patina exec chef Theo Schoenegger, tapped to open his eponymous restaurant at Encore? Well, now Theo's is called Sinatra. The room is lovely and lush, but unfortunately feels like it was supposed to be something else until a few Frank Sinatra paintings were put on the walls while Frank croons in the background. The menu is more contemporary Italian than classic red-sauce, but some nice handmade pastas. The older set seemed to like it. [Full menu]

Switch: This is the most gimmicky of all the restaurants, but only because every 20 minutes some fairly bombastic music begins to play and the the room changes---windows go up, a faux white brick wall comes down; paintings become white crisscrossed wall covering. One of our friends said the music was "very Jerry Bruckheimer," and watching the "switch" from the outside, another said it felt very Disney. Either way, chef Marc Poidevin's (formerly exec chef of Le Cirque at the Bellagio, and catering director at Wynn) French-inspired menu results in some tasty dishes like his signature rabbit friccasse. [Full menu]
· VegasWire: Encore Restaurants Open This Month [~ELA~]
· More Encore Las Vegas Coverage [~ELA~]