Originally appeared in May 2015 issue of Virtuoso Life
Written by Nils Bernstein
Photography by Luis Garcia and Frederic LaGrange (Sea Bass)
Chew on this: With diners growing more discerning than ever, destination restaurants have become as important to hoteliers as spa treatments and thread counts. These days, some of the most anticipated establishments debut in hotels – all the more appealing for guests, as the concierge can likely fit them in, so they don’t have to wait months for a reservation. Here are a few of our favorite recent openings.
Bardot Brasserie at Aria Resort and Casino
Michael Mina’s latest Vegas outing brings Paris luxe to Aria’s second-floor promenade. Inspired by Hemingway-era café culture, a gleaming brass-and-zinc bar welcomes you, while the dining room’s sexy low-lit chandeliers feel more Sin City than City of Light. Chef Joshua Smith dresses up modest French brasserie cooking with a bit of Vegas extravagance: Escargots come individually wrapped in puff pastry and dotted with Chartreuse-spiked butter; the already rich onion soup gratinée borders on opulent with optional added Périgord truffle, braised oxtail, or poached egg. Patio seating evokes people-watching on a Paris sidewalk (most effectively during the hopping weekend brunch). In addition to Mina’s terrific wine list, Bardot serves an extensive beer and cognac selection.
Lago at Bellagio
The Strip’s best bet: Julian Serrano’s just-opened Lago. Replacing Circo after its 15-year run, Lago marries the Spanish chef’s love of convivial tapas culture with traditional Italian food – gussied-up bruschetta, carpaccios, and crudos, and personal pizzas for small plates – plus hearty shareable dishes such as house-made pastas, wine-braised veal shank, and even a whole suckling pig. A 15-foot-tall, 100-foot-wide colored glass mosaic of Milan greets diners as they enter, and elsewhere the design references Emilio Pucci, Italian futurism, and Murano glass. Request a table by the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Bellagio’s choreographed fountains or on the waterside patio.
New York City
Chevalier at Baccarat Hotel
Service, please: Iconic restaurant host and manager Charles Masson oversees Baccarat New York’s sparkling Parisian brasserie, which opened with chef Shea Gallante of New York’s Ciano and Cru in the kitchen. Masson considers the restaurant “a younger, friskier sister to La Grenouille,” the city’s bastion of French fine dining, which he managed for 40 years. Go for duck tortellini with truffles and leeks, turbot à l’orange, or a four-course prix fixe dinner for two built around côte de boeuf or a four-pound Maine lobster. Have a hankering? Gallante will work with diners to create custom tasting menus.
Highball & Harvest at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
In the running for modern-Southern cuisine favorite, The Ritz-Carlton’s new farmstead-chic restaurant serves as an ode to the Orlando area’s many farms, coasts, and waterways, and its year-round availability of fresh ingredients (much of it sourced from the resort’s own 7,000-square-foot culinary garden). Start with ham-hock-boiled peanuts and homemade molasses-infused flank-steak jerky before moving on to Southern Surf & Turf – citrus-cured cobia with pork belly – and Back Porch Ceviche, which combines pickled tomatoes and delicate and deliciously sweet Royal Red shrimp caught an hour away near Cape Canaveral. Our first choice for a decadent breakfast: The Chicken & the Egg, a stack of cinnamon-spiced waffle, chicken-fried chicken, and a poached egg, resting atop homemade hot sauce and maple-pecan syrup.
Atlas at St. Regis
Atlas’ January opening brought an artistic slant (literally) to Atlanta’s increasingly hot dining scene: The St. Regis restaurant is decorated with more than two dozen masterworks from the Lewis Collection, considered one of the world’s most important private art troves. Former French Laundry chef Christopher Grossman’s vision stands up to the bold strokes of Picasso, Freud, and van Gogh, with dishes ranging from delicate – a salad of just-picked sprouts with house-made buttermilk ricotta or Vidalia spring-onion soup – to decadent, such as striped bass with charred asparagus and pecan-grilled venison with roasted parsnip bone marrow. Don’t miss the sustainably farmed caviar from the University of Georgia, dolloped on a spring-onion emulsion with pickled shallots.
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