Not too many years ago, using the word 'dining' in relation to Las Vegas would have elicited laughter from any gourmet.
True, you could get a steak for $2, but it was barely edible. The 'all-you-can-eat' buffets for a few dollars were no better. The cheap food was there, as everyone knew, simply to draw in the crowds, who would then spend money gambling.
But Las Vegas has changed.
There are now almost as many fine restaurants in Las Vegas as there are in New York or Paris. And 'fine' in this case is an understatement. Having long ago attracted some of the world's most notable chefs, Las Vegas has become a true restaurateur's town. Whether you want some good but simple fare at Planet Hollywood, or won't eat anything less than Emeril's finest creations, you'll find something here to satisfy.
Bouchon at the Venetian is a popular attraction for Vegas food lovers. Moderately priced, the food is outstanding in this French bistro setting. With a full bar and private rooms, you can have the kind of atmosphere you want to go along with the fine meal.
For truly 4-star French, though, you'll want to visit Le Cirque in Las Vegas. An import from New York, it has all the outstanding features of that metropolitan delight. The lobster is, as they say, to die for even if your diet allows for no more than a few bits in a salad. The already excellent heirloom tomato soup can be livened up with morel mushrooms to give a distinctive dish.
An intimate setting fleshed out in a circus-themed decor, the atmosphere is hushed, making it the perfect spot for dinner for two. Be sure to dress well, though. Las Vegas casual doesn't cut it in this up-scale establishment.
For the finest seafood in town, Commander's Palace inside the Planet Hollywood Resort is the place to go. Known by its New Orleans roots, of course you can find many cajun and creole offerings. But the atmosphere is fine, too. The cream and black decor accented with gold makes it a visual treat to go with the gustatory.
Items are pricey but worth every penny. The tasso shrimp henican appetizer, for example, could be a meal all its own. For the truly daring, there's turtle soup. For a main course try the pork loin with cayenne catsup and be ready to pig out. Don't forget to try some of the bread pudding dessert, even if you have to split it to make room after the huge meal.
For a great steak try The Tillerman, a Las Vegas specialty for more than 25 years. The fish is equally good, but the menu has enough choices to satisfy the whole family. For the adults, the wine list is superb, offering vintages from California, Spain and even Argentina and South Africa. These last two offer delightful variations on familiar themes.
For another American delight, try Planet Hollywood. Located inside Caesars Palace the now-iconic establishment offers everything from burgers to gourmet pizza to a range of sandwiches. On the lively side, calling the interior 'decor' would do it a disservice. Name it a 'setting' instead. Unique. And don't leave without sampling a Ghirardelli chocolate brownie - a specialty of the house.
For that final meal of the trip you may want to save an evening or at least a lunch to go to Wolfgang Puck's Bar & Grill inside the MGM Grand. Redefining fast food to be something truly special, you'll enjoy the energetic California-style setting. Go for the Maine crab cakes whenever you can.
Whatever your taste in food, Las Vegas now has more than you can enjoy in a single visit. Better plan to come back often.