ELV is of two minds about Lakeside.
On the one hand, he hates the name — since it is neither on a lake nor near anything like a lake. (Cementpondside would be a more appropriate moniker.)
Plus, we’ve never really forgiven the Wynncore for running off Daniel Boulud from this spot. (“Running off” may be a bit of an exaggeration — the truth is, after five years of dealing with the penny ante politics of the Wynn’s F & B hierarchy, Boulud was off like a prom dress as soon as his five year deal expired. And who could blame him?) But there’s no doubt, for the first couple of years of its existence, when Philippe Rispoli was at the helm, it was one of the finest restaurants Vegas had ever seen.
Now that the space has been re-configured in bright white and orange, and the kitchen turned over to David Walzog (along with his able lieutenant Joe Zanelli), there’s almost no faulting the food — such as this beautifully fried squash blossom, stuffed with runny/tangy goat cheese:
…or this porcini-crusted halibut which may be the most perfect piece of fish we’ve had all year:
…or this vegan (yes, we said “vegan”) carrot cake:
…that was deeply satisfying and practically guilt-free — in other words, just about the perfect dessert.
So is there anything to dislike about Lakeside? Not really. The place is gorgeous and comfortable (notwithstanding the Chilewich place mats), the service top notch (criticize the Wynncore’s restaurants all you want – and we have – but the service throughout the hotel is unfailingly excellent), and the cooking is done to a fare thee well.
But there’s something missing. And what’s missing isn’t unique to Lakeside. It’s what’s missing in any number of restaurants in Vegas. It’s the missing component that makes the rest of the food world look upon us with disdain — no matter how excellent our final product is. It is the thing that foodies yearn for and critics sense the presence or absence of like a wolf sniffing the wind.
And that thing, that missing component, that je nais se quoi is passion. Individuality. An intensity of purpose driving things beyond the need for a business to “make its numbers” according to the dictates of its corporate masters.
All restaurants are businesses, of course, and all need to crunch their numbers to survive, but big, expensive hotel restaurants that exist by committee will never garner the respect of smaller places that reflect the vision of a single person.
So, as we said, we are torn about Lakeside. Walzog and Zanelli are doing some fine work here. You will properly oh and ah over many of the bites you take during your meal, but ELV would love it a lot more if it didn’t feel like a something-for-everyone spot on a fake “lake.”
In other words, if it had an identity. And those three dishes above would be a great place to start.
“Lakeside Vegetarian” anyone?
ELV’s meal was comped.
In the Wynn Hotel and Casino
3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109