The Mirage has been a hot topic for those of us who like to speculate on what’ll happen next on the Strip—which casinos will open, close, renovate or change hands. It’s been rumored for months that MGM Resorts might unload the tropical, volcano-fronted icon that changed things forever when Steve Wynn defied naysayers and opened the first real Vegas megaresort in 1989. Early this year the Mirage named a new president and announced a full remodel of the casino floor, which makes it seem like maybe MGM will hold onto it. (Besides, the new rumor is Mandalay Bay. Keep an eye out.)
- 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 791-7111.
What does this mean for the casino eater? The restaurants of the Mirage will likely change soon, which is a good thing; they are ripe for refreshment. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t delicious discoveries and rediscoveries available; overall, Mirage food is better than you might remember.
The mostly mediocre casual dining options drag down the awesomeness of the fine dining restaurants at Mirage. California Pizza Kitchen, BLT Burger and Carnegie Deli are tourist traps to be skipped, even if Carnegie, with its oversized and overpriced fare, still serves one of the better pastrami sandwiches in town. Cravings was one of my favorite buffets on the Strip, and though the food has barely slipped, it can’t keep up with the quality of new-era all-you-can-eateries at the Cosmopolitan and Caesars Palace.
Hiding in the casino corner next to Cravings is Onda, one of the best Italian restaurants you’ve never heard of. Inside is a bright wine lounge serving tasty snacks like cheesy arancini, pizza margherita and tomato-mozzarella napoleon. Deeper, you’ll find a big, warm dining room serving hearty treasures: braised beef cheek risotto with mascarpone, killer osso bucco and gnocchi in lobster cream sauce. Onda currently has a mini-menu of steakhouse favorites to hold you over until Tom Colicchio’s Heritage Steak opens this summer in the lobby space where Kokomo’s used to be. That will be a big deal, and it wouldn’t be surprising if other Mirage restaurants are reimagined with big names attached, though I hope Onda sticks around.
There’s another steakhouse at Mirage, Samba Brazilian Steakhouse, which is just like every other rodizio joint in town. More attention should be paid to the trio of slickly designed restaurants in this area—Light Group’s clubby yet comfortable Stack, the Chinese room Fin and the classic fusion palace Japonais. While recently sipping whiskey at Stack’s handsome bar, I chatted with a doctor in town for a convention who raved about it as his favorite restaurant while devouring a plate of jelly doughnut holes. It’s hard to argue with that kind of passion, and those doughnuts looked good.
Still, my pick would be Fin. This is, after all, the space that once housed Alex Stratta’s first Las Vegas restaurant, Renoir, when Wynn decided (pre-Bellagio) to up the ante in fine dining. It’s still a good-looking room, with strands of glass baubles dangling from the ceiling, and the food is straight-ahead: clay pot chicken, live seafood, seafood-saturated fuzhou fried rice. I’ll miss this one if it goes, too.