ARIA Hotel Announces Celebrity Chef Lineup


Undaunted by the latest….er…uh… economic downturn, CityCenter, the joint venture between MGM-Mirage and a bunch of really rich dudes from Dubai, has announced the first lineup of chefs and restaurants to go into ARIA — the largest of the uber-swanky hotels being constructed there. ARIA will have over 4,000 rooms on 61 floors, and plans to have the following lineup of super swanky chefs and restaurants in its environs (these are, for the most part, as interesting a lineup as we could hope for in our already celebrity-drenched food scene):

Making his Las Vegas debut, Chef Masayoshi Takayama, Chef/owner of Masa and Bar Masa in New York, and a chef who has set the standard for greatness in Japanese cuisine (at least in America), will open Bar Masa, a restaurant divided into two different spaces offering different styles of service and cuisine. In the more casual space, guests will be invited to order from an a la carte menu featuring Chef Masa’s style of modern Japanese cuisine, much like Bar Masa in the Time Warner Center in New York — the only Masa that ELV and mere mortals can afford. The second space, Shaboo, will provide guests with an exclusive (read: much more expensive) dining experience. In spite of the expense, and in spite of the fact that Chef Masa is now franchising himself, ELV is most excited about his coming to the High Mojave Desert.

Michael Mina, the James Beard Award-winner who conceived and manages NOBHILL and SEABLUE at MGM Grand, along with his Michelin one-star eponymous restaurant at Bellagio and STRIPSTEAK at Mandalay Bay, will “head up” AMERICANFISH. Mina and his “group” like to capitalize their restaurant’s names and run words together….clever uh? ELV doesn’t know what the words “head up” mean, but thinks this is p.r.speak for “the chef will consult, open the place, collect his management fee, and rarely be around.”

Julian Serrano, one of our favorite chefs in town who is actually in town and in his restaurant every night, will be opening Julian Serrano, a casual restaurant with an expansive seafood bar highlighting exquisitely fresh shellfish and ceviches, tapas and other dishes from Serrano’s native Spain. Serrano claims he is looking to stretch the normal boundaries of small plates featuring both traditional and innovative interpretations of Spanish fare….and we believe him. Julian Serrano will be the first restaurant in the United States to be designed by famed Spanish design group Gente de Valor. ELV is so excited by this prospect that he’s salivating over his sangria, panting over his paella, and barking at his bulli.

Sirio Maccioni and sons, owners of Le Cirque and Circo in New York City and at Bellagio, will debut Sirio with a menu featuring Italian favorites such as Veal Milanese, Osso Buco and “pasta dishes like grandmother used to make…” — well, maybe their nonna, not mine. ELV’s yia yia (Greek for grandmother) was too busy watching professional wrestling and yelling at us in Greek to finish our pasticho. Longtime Maccioni collaborator Adam Tihany, will channel old time Italy with a Fellini-esque décor, that ELV presumes will not be so Fellini-esque as to scare grandmothers from Paducah. As with all Maccioni operations, expect this one to be friendly, fun, and faithful to the cuisine of their homeland.

The Light Group will unveil an edgy American dim sum style concept at ARIA….whatever that is. Overseeing the restaurant’s menu, Executive Chef Brian Massie (one of ELV’s favorite unsung local chefs) will offer unique interpretations on American favorites. No one does better gourmet bar food in town than Massie and The Light Group, so expect another winner. Adam Tihany will design the space.

Chef Shawn McClain will open his first restaurant outside of Chicago at ARIA. The seafood-centric menu of his first restaurant, Spring, drew immediate raves after opening in 2001 earning a coveted James Beard Foundation Best New Restaurant nomination as well as catapulting McClain to national recognition as “Chef of the Year” as awarded by Esquire magazine. McClain stretched his culinary muscle with the vegetable-focused Green Zebra, which opened in 2004, followed a year later by Custom House, a modern steak-focused restaurant. In 2006, McClain was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as Best Chef Midwest. According to the press release, all of these elements will come together(?) when McClain opens Sage at ARIA. Hummm….a steak-focused, seafood-centric, vegetable restaurant? Shawn McClain, Las Vegas (and ELV) eagerly awaits your genius!

“World-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten will challenge the definition of the traditional American Steakhouse by adding a strong dose of energy and sex appeal to Jean Georges Steakhouse at ARIA.” Yeah, that’s what the press release said. Let’s get one thing straight: Jean-George Vongerichten may be the world’s greatest guy, and one of its greatest chefs, but he has so many restaurants in so many countries these days that he has no more to do with them than Howard Johnson used to have with his motels. He is the Colonel Sanders of chefs, the Frisch’s Big Boy of gourmandia. All he is doing is lending his name to a place for a big, fat check that some unimaginative F&B honcho is more than willing to write him. His last steakhouse (V Steakhouse) failed in New York, and this one promises nothing new. Ay Chihuahua! ELV couldn’t be more underwhelmed.

The hotel is slated to open in late 2009, by which time we hope the economy won’t have most of us feeling like these guys.

13 thoughts on “ARIA Hotel Announces Celebrity Chef Lineup

  1. Get a preview of Chef Shawn McClain’s culinary genius by attending this year’s James Beard Foundation Taste America Las Vegas Gala dinner on Saturday, October 25th at the Palazzo. He’ll be paired with more than a dozen other JBF award-winning chefs creating a memorable night of food and fun – all for a great cause! Check out for more information and to buy tickets.

  2. Sweet merciful crap! MASA! My food nerd sensibilities can hardly be contained.

    And super happy another Chicago chef has made his way out here, McClain has been doing great work in the Windy City.

  3. “The chef will consult, open the place, collect his management fee, and rarely be around.” All he is doing is lending his name to a place for a big, fat check that some unimaginative F&B honcho is more than willing to write him.

    Hmmm Michael Mina, Jean-George Vongerichten, Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse, Alain Ducasse and little kerry simon. Hey, today is Friday “PAY DAY”!

    Thank the culinary gods for Chef like Alex Stratta, Saipin Chutima, Geno Bernardo, Mark Hopper, Julian Serrano, Mark LoRusso and the boys at Crazy Pita in the District!

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  5. OK fellas; (you can play too, Lefty.)

    What is the morning line on the first of these prima donnas (er celebrity chefs) to throw in the towel at Aria?

    Parlay with: over/under six months. (under -120)

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