Egyptian-born, but raised in Washington, there may be no more successful American-trained chef than Michael Mina. A graduate of Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and founder of the Mina Group, which operates forty-one restaurants worldwide, the chef’s history in Las Vegas dates back over two decades to the opening of Aqua at the Bellagio. It continues on today with four restaurants across an equal number of properties. Most certainly a “celebrity chef,” but also an author and mentor to many of Sin City’s most talented restaurant heads, it has been through steady change and internal promotion that Mina has remained relevant in a transient town, and in order to understand why, all one must do is take a seat at the table.
Pub 1842 at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino
Named for the year Pilsner beer was invented, PUB 1842 resides at the casino end of The District and offers guests a combination of sports, comfort food and suds inside casual confines. Open from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Thursday through Monday, weekends featuring brunch early, and the menu otherwise focuses on barbeque meats and PUB grub. Guided by Executive Chef Isaiah Utter, PUB invites guests to belly-up and enjoy everything from fried pickles to Saint Louis-style ribs or fork-tender brisket. Equally adept with sandwiches, PUB’s bacon burger is an award-winner, while another sandwich featuring pimento cheese and peanut butter seems crazy until tasted. Those seeking PUB 1842’s best bites, though, should make no mistake and dive right into layered nachos or hot soft pretzels with beer cheese and a poached egg for added creaminess.
StripSteak at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino
Currently led by Executive Chef Tony Schutz, StripSteak exists amongst tough competition from Las Vegas’ treasure trove of steakhouses. The swanky space stands out, nonetheless, thanks to an organic beef program that sees every cut basted in butter before being grilled over mesquite wood. The Mina Group’s first steakhouse, with a line of Bourbon Steak concepts now stretching from Orange County to Miami, StripSteak’s guests will find no lack of items to savor, whether meaty or vegetarian-friendly. Always starting with Chef Mina’s duck fat fries plus a trio of sauces, and likely to continue by way of “instant bacon” served with tableside smoke, choices span from baby kale to caviar Twinkies even before eyeing main courses. The menu offers everything from domestic ribeye to Japanese A5 – none of it complete without sides – and several new desserts from pastry chef Vivian Chang are offered, though beignets with Macallan butterscotch pudding are renowned for good reason.
Bardot Brasserie at Aria Resort & Casino
Arguably the best Las Vegas restaurant to open in a decade, and unapologetically North America’s finest French Bistro or Brasserie, BARDOT “embraces the culture and feel of dining at a Parisian café with the focus and detail of a modern craft kitchen.” Led by Executive Chef Josh Smith, a Valley native whose training includes Michelin 3-star kitchens, it is on Aria’s second floor that guests will find a glorious space lined by flowers and brass. Fortunately for all, the attention to detail is equally evident across a menu prone to frequent change. Offering lunch and dinner daily, plus weekend brunch featuring the Chef’s now-famous French toast, there is really no wrong choice across any part of the menu. For starters, consider snails wrapped in puff pastry or the foie gras mousse, and before moving on to desserts, which include baked Alaska or tarte tatin, be sure not to miss the reference-standard beef Wellington built for two (or more).
Michael Mina Restaurant at Bellagio Hotel & Casino
Originally known as Aqua, but since reborn as Michael Mina, it is amidst The Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens that guests will find this fine dining establishment, which is focused on market-fresh seafood. A former Michelin star recipient with world class service led by Jorge Pagani, it is from the skilled hands of Executive Chef Nick Dugan that diners are served elegant plates offered a la carte or via tasting menu. From Michael Mina’s caviar parfait to ricotta gnudi with Maine lobster, first courses present beautifully. Not about to forget those who do not consume meat, Dugan’s current spring plate of white asparagus and black truffle on toast is nothing short of outstanding. Further impressing by way of crudo and whole fish presented tableside, as well as Spanish Turbot and lobster pot pie, the restaurant’s sweets (again from Chef Chang) are no less splendid, whether one chooses the pineapple parfait or a brand-new take on Mina’s rootbeer float served on ice.