After much anticipation, the fifty-story Cosmopolitan hotel opens its doors today in Las Vegas! The resort’s CEO, John Unwin, asserts that “The Cosmopolitan is about creating a resort experience that is truly different than anything else that exists right now in Las Vegas.” Well, the hotel has certainly culled some of the country’s top culinary talent, all of whom debut outlets unique to the Vegas market. Eater caught up with the Cosmo's culinary panel for a round of questioning, responses are below. But first, a quick recap of the lineup.
Jaleo and China Poblano, a new Chinese-Mexican fusion concept, both by Chef José Andrés (JA); Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill by restaurateurs Bruce and Eric Bromberg (BB/EB); Comme Ça by Los Angeles Chef David Myers (DM); Costas Spiliadis’ Estiatorio Milos (CS); Holstein’s a new burger concept from Billy Richardson, Kyle Madden and Chef Anthony Meidenbauer of Block 16 Hospitality (KM); Scarpetta and the more casual D.O.C.G., both by chef Scott Conant (SC); and Stephen Hopcraft’s STK from The One Group (SH).
1.) How were you approached to join the Cosmo project?
JA: I met John Unwin many times over the years. Whenever he would come to Washington, John would dine at my restaurants minibar, Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel. We always had much to say to each other and I liked his way of thinking. So when John had the opportunity to do his own project and he came to me and my team, of course, we were very interested. I liked his vision for The Cosmopolitan and I thought this was good place for us in Las Vegas.
EB/BB: We were approached by the initial development team 18 months ago to see if we were interested in opening in Vegas. The more we heard the more we were interested, which is a rare experience for us. The fact that we are open now is extraordinarily exciting.
DM: We were approached by Related Development Company. They had come into Comme Ca in Los Angeles and really enjoyed the experience and thought it would be a perfect fit for TCLV.
CS: I was approached by related companies interested in new projects with an aim to redefine everything about Las Vegas including the appreciation of food with a selected group of restaurateurs who are committed to delivering just this, real food. By addressing a new market, which searches for meaningful experiences in life, I believe that the philosophy of Estiatorio Milos and the concept of The Cosmopolitan is relevant and I thus agreed to take part in this endeavor.
KM: Through a wonderful long standing relationship with John Unwin and the development team ofCosmopolitan.
SC: It’s actually kind of a weird. I had a deal at The Fountainebleau and already have a restaurant in their Miami property, but when it fell through I met John Unwin and loved his vision for the space and the Cosmo as the whole. He is a great person to be in charge and he was, so I said yes.
JS: We were approached by John Unwin and agreed to bring an STK because we knew John would protect the vision of STK. Vegas was the logical next step for STK... and we've waited awhile for the perfect location, which we found with The Cosmopolitan.
2.) How will Vegas be similar to your other location(s)?
JA: China Poblano is a completely new restaurant so there is nothing to compare it to. I do believe we are faithfully representing the spirit of China and Mexico. Jaleo is a restaurant we have had for a long time in Washington, I came to DC to build Jaleo. It is for me a way of talking to Americans about my home country, how we eat, how we live. The energy, the informal and social nature of tapas dining were things that Americans very much responded to.
EB/BB: Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill is essentially the same as our Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill at Columbus circle in NYC. We will be intensely focused on the same goals and core values we have had at all of our Blue Ribbons since the beginning. When we opened Blue Ribbon in New York 18 years ago, our goal was to create a fun restaurant serving wonderful food in a casual environment. Our motivation in bringing that concept to Las Vegas remains just that.
DM: Comme Ça at TCLV will greatly resemble the West Hollywood location. Inspired by France’s vibrant neighborhood brasseries, the Adam Tihany-designed restaurant will serve up hearty brasserie classics alongside handcrafted cocktails. The restaurant is reminiscent of 1920s Paris, but with a modern note. I like the juxtaposition of old and new culinary traditions and design elements. Whether ordering the Steak Frites, a whole roasted fish or our famous Comme Ça burger, the food and design of Comme Ça is at once stylish and satisfying.
CS: Estiatorio Milos has been evolving for thirty years. It grows as I grow. It changes as I change. Estiatorio Milos Las Vegas is an amalgamation of everything that has been done so far in Montreal, New York and Athens. This new level, at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas represents our new stage of development. Furthermore, being on the west coast, I am now able to immerse myself with local products and great farms all helping to enrich our menu with ingredients and elements that were once difficult to acquire. Evolution of design, from our industrial, elegant and minimalistic approach in New York, to a meta-modern design in Athens, we bring to Las Vegas a refined, finished look with the creative ideas and architecture from Jeffrey Beers.
SC: Scarpettas in general share a common thread - modern and rustic design with cohesive, rustically refined food.
JS: The STK menu is 75% STK and 25% localized by the chef. The design is the signature look, such as the white horns on the white wall.
3.) How will it be different?
JA: Las Vegas is a very unique place, I believe every city has its own rhythm, its own way and Las Vegas is no exception. We wanted to re-imagine Jaleo, to give it the unique energy and excitement that is part of Las Vegas while still being faithful to authentic Spanish cooking. We’ve constructed a one of a kind custom paella kitchen that will be the heart of the dining room. There cooks will prepare large paellas in the traditional way over wood fire.
EB/BB: It will not be different, minus the location. The plan from the beginning was to bring our New York identity, values and experience!
DM: Setting the scene for the Vegas version of Comme Ça is renowned designer Adam Tihany’s spectacular design. Greeting guests in the bar lounge/café are a seductive French pewter bar, tufted red leather banquettes, velvet club chairs and espresso-stained ipe wood cocktail tables. Graphic murals and decorative pewter bar accessories adorn distressed oak walls. A custom mosaic tile floor leads guests into the dining room, where amber glass chandeliers, dark brown leather banquettes and green enamel and pewter dining tables maintain the elegant vibe. The centerpiece of the restaurant is its expansive outdoor patio, complete with a canopy-covered private cabana, all overlooking sweeping views of the Las Vegas Strip. The menu will feature dynamic new versions of favorite dishes, like a towering Grand Plateau of fruits de mer and steaks carved tableside.
SC: I wouldn’t say different but more fluid. It really taps into that sexy feel of what Vegas is. Not glitzy at all but, awesome views of the fountains, a great chef’s table that looks into the kitchen and onto the fountains with a couple private dining rooms. It’s more fluid. D.O.C.G. is more of a departure. Not very expensive but well flavored. It’s not average enoteca food; there are more twists and soul. It’s more interesting and it’s the first one I am doing and I would love to do more.
JS: Las Vegas is the largest location and they have the outdoor seating and bar out front. And this is the first location to add a gold hue to the design.
4.) How often do you plan to be in Vegas?
JA: Anyone who knows me knows I am very hands on. After all I have to be proud of my work, I have to answer to myself. I cook for me, to satisfy what s in my vision, in my heart. That has to happen first before I can please anyone else. I plan to be there as often as necessary.
EB/BB: Bruce moved to Vegas. The rest of the team will be here consistently.
DM: I will be making monthly trips.
CS: I must say that I never abandon my children and they are always my prime focus. I will stay as long and as often as required to develop our restaurant into a wonderful neighborhood based venue, which caters not only to tourist but also to the locals in Las Vegas. Whatever it takes, I will be here.
KM: As long as they will have us? We are locals and have every intention of remaining that way, wherever our business takes us, we will still call LV our home base.
SC: In and out? I am already between NYC and LA a lot and now Vegas. It’s easy because it’s close to LA. I can’t put days down, but equal times between all my restaurants.
JS: The corporate team rotates their schedules, so someone will always be at the restaurant.
5.) For those who are not here in LA any plans to come?
JA: I am always planning something.
EB/BB: You never know.
KM: LA has a special place in our hearts and we’re always looking at/considering LA for a unique venture.
6.) What are your three favorite places to eat?
JA: There are so many great places to choose from and my favorites change from day to day. It depends on my mood, the company I am keeping, so many things. Right now I love food carts, I am eating a lot at Chinese restaurants all over the country, home.
EB/BB: Benu in San Francisco, Benihana everywhere, and our own homes.
DM: Sushi Nozawa, sugarFISH, and Yakitoria.
CS: McDonald’s because of its consistency, Sen of Japan for its amazing sushi and Kavos in Greece – they serve fantastic fish.
KM: We look for places which welcome you in with open arms? places that give you a sincere and friendly, “Hello, how have you been?” And, of course, the food and beverage must be wonderful. Cuisine specific is varied and wide ranging. It is more how they execute the food and beverage than the type of fare which is chosen.
SC: I just ate at Ubuntu, the vegetarian restaurant in Napa. It was awesome. They are really doing great stuff. Madison Park in NYC is one of my all time favorite restaurants and Pizzeria Mozza in LA.
SH: I like Lotus of Siam (Vegas), Strip Steak, and Raku.
7.) What do you cook at home?
JA: Everything. I especially love to cook with my girls. We cook everything from simple chicken soup to a version of fried rice made with vegetable scraps from my beloved juicer to a healthy version of mac and cheese made with Greek yogurt.
EB/BB: Lots of the same things as everyone else, grilled meats, roast chicken, you name it, with some occasional flourishes. We recently made our Thanksgiving turkey on a rotisserie.
DM: I love to grill out. Between being in Tokyo, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, it’s challenging to find the time, but when I am home, that’s what I’m doing.
CS: My mother’s recipe of stuffed chicken; lentil soup and grilled sardines; and stuffed eggplant, onion, garlic and fresh tomato.
KM: We all dabble in things very basic to things never tried before. Anthony, of course is the leader in home cooking and I often call him for tips and advice when I’m preparing anything from a preparation to an enhancement to a standard dish – to spice it up in a unique way. A recent favorite has been to make quinoa with a variety of vegetables and a touch of tasty wine.
SC: I don’t. I am so busy that if I do anything its puree for my daughter. I work 7 days a week and at home I am either coming or going.
SH: I cook whole chickens, crock pots and lots of desserts.
8.) If you were going to do a totally new concept what would it be?
JA: Richard Branson trying to get space travel going. Why not a restaurant on the moon? Zero gravity and the food would kind of float to you.
EB/BB: Stay tuned?
DM: We are working on a new concept, but we’re not ready to announce any specifics.
CS: I do not do concepts. I deliver fresh, healthy food.
KM: We have a number of thoughts and concepts both in our brains and on paper. Some are more food driven while others are beverage heavy. We find that the concept needs to fit the area and location where it is placed and since that has so many items to consider for the best fit, the answer is contingent on the spot.
SC: [D.O.C.G is a totally new concept.]
JS: Last night, The One Group just opened their first Italian restaurant called Asellina Ristorante (in New York’s new Gansevoort Park).
— David Morris