The Trouble With Encore

There are passion restaurants and there are money restaurants. Rarely do the twain ever meet, and asking them to do so in Las Vegas is like expecting a stripper to take a check.

A cynic would say all casino restaurants are only about numbers and cash, but Steve Wynn has tantalized us before with the prospect of great food, generated by a passionate chef, generating lots of dough in the High Mojave. For what was Alex Stratta’s Renoir in the Mirage but an attempt to blend haute cuisine with lowbrow gambling?

Then came the Bellagio in 1998 — a place that sold its soul to the celebrity chef devil (igniting that stampede in the process) — and which took a fair amount of heat from the national food press for pretending to be passionate about food even as its absentee chefs did little more than wave at their operations from 30,000 feet as they flew from coast to coast.

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