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Merging dining with entertainment has always been a Las Vegas
tradition. In fact, the now nearly-extinct dinner show had been a
standard hotel offering for years.
Crammed in sardine-style at long rectangular tables, guests
labored to cut a vulcanized chicken breast while avoiding their
seatmate’s elbow and craning their neck 90 degrees to watch the
Needless to say, that setup was uncomfortable, unappetizing and
not fun. In the ongoing evolution of this model, however, new
eateries and myriad forms of entertainment began to spawn up and
down the ever-changing Strip.
A relatively new wave of restaurants have fused dining and
entertainment into a concept that might be called
The entertainment itself isn’t necessarily straight-ahead or
traditional, but in true Vegas fashion, it’s often a little
different; sometimes even odd.
What it never is, god forbid, is boring.
Whether serving casual or gourmet fare, the following dining
locales are favored for offering clients an experience beyond pure
Shintaro at Bellagio
The wall-length aquarium stocked with slowly gliding, multi-hued
jellyfish at Shintaro’s entrance portends a very different dining
experience. Whether seated at the fast-action teppan-yaki grill or
in the elegant dining room, clients are treated to exquisitely
prepared cuisine. Talented chefs prepare contemporary Japanese
creations many infused with other Asian influences featuring subtle
flavors and are elegantly presented on a variety of uniquely
We were duly impressed with the duck leg over pumpkin squash
with star anise sauce; and the coconut sorbet was to-die-for. The
chef’s special tasting menu also features saki pairings with each
course. And if the jellyfish, teppan-yaki action and imaginative
cuisine don’t provide enough stimulation, the water ballet show on
Lake Bellagio viewed through large windows tops off the
Café Lago at Caesars
Featuring subdued lighting, waterfalls, aqueducts and
floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Garden of the Gods
swimming pool, Café Lago is Caesar’s casually chic, 24-hour dining
Clients enjoy on an international menu supplemented by a compact
yet classy buffet that epitomizes the quality-over-quantity
experience. In particular, the Sunday Brunch Buffet is an upscale
feast that suits all tastes without overwhelming the senses.
Enhancing the dining experience is talented recording artist
David Osborne, whose piano melodies at just the perfect volume
bathe the room in a lovely ambience.
Rainforest Café at MGM
Appropriately billed as "A Wild Place to Shop and Eat,"
Rainforest Café doesn’t disappoint on either activity. Passing
under a 10,000-gallon aquarium arch into a simulated canopied
rainforest populated by animatronic insects, birds and animals,
patrons are slack-jawed at how much activity takes place here. The
animals move every 10 minutes; there’s a thunderstorm every 20
minutes; and a series of waterfalls surround the room. The clever
menu including Congo Clam Strips, Jungle Safari Soup and Monkey
Business Bread Pudding complements the décor, but with all this
action, the food almost seems secondary. The crowds, however, eat
it all up with gusto.
Top of the World at Stratosphere
Where else but in Las Vegas could you dine on gourmet food 105
stories above the Strip while revolving 360-degrees as a roller
coaster rumbles just above you every 15 minutes? Recently voted
“Best Gourmet Room” by The Las Vegas Review Journal, Top of the
World is definitely an only-in-Vegas experience.
Besides being wowed by the fabulous vistas of Las Vegas and
beyond, patrons in the elegant dining room are equally impressed by
the chef’s specialties. Specifically, the spinach salad with
raspberry vinaigrette, the savory rack of lamb, and a luscious
pecan tart were winners. After their meal, clients are invited to
enjoy the outdoor viewing patio on the 108th floor. And please,
ride the roller coaster before dinner.
Canaletto at The Venetian
The recent “close-to-home” travel mantra applies perfectly to
Canaletto. Why travel to Italy when it’s all right here in Las
Vegas? Seated in a near-perfect re-creation of St. Mark’s Square,
Canaletto’s alfresco diners enjoy traditional Venetian pastas and
seafood and efficient European service in a continuously perfect,
72-degree, early evening environment.
Fresh-baked breads and homemade pastas are the culinary
highlights. Naturally, people-watching is a favorite activity, and
singing gondoliers ply the canal while strolling minstrels sing and
juggle to patrons’ delight. It’s a perfectly authentic Venetian
experience, just without the pigeons which we didn’t miss.
Stefano’s at The Golden Nugget
Let’s face it: Italians are hopeless romantics. When the waiters
at Stefano’s break into song favorite standards such as “Volare”
and “That’s Amore” eyes get misty and couples nudge closer
together. Clients are catered to by an attentive and super-friendly
staff in an intimate room that evokes an Italian village.
Somehow, enjoying southern Italian favorites likes veal
Bolognese or clams with linguini in this festive atmosphere is
reminiscent of a slower, gentler time; certainly not the typical
go-go Las Vegas tumult.
And when a hotel restaurant in this town feels like a family-run
establishment, as Stefano’s does, it’s a refreshing find.