By Lisa Mogensen
Las Vegas is well-known for the astounding spectacles of the Strip, but the excitement is no longer limited to its neon signs and dramatic shows. Within the city's top restaurants, chefs are adding a dash of special effects to the dining experience with over-the-top plate presentations, live "performers" and garnishes of smoke, fire and ice.
The Kani Salad at Shibuya
Japanese restaurant Shibuya at ARIA Resort & Casino features a wave of "live entertainment" with its Kani Salad, served atop a fish bowl with a live Siamese fighting fish swimming inside. The salad features King, Snow and River Crab, tossed with pickled cucumber, seaweed and lotus chip. Far from traditional, this seafood dish brings an aquarium to the table.
Adding some Cirque to the dining experience, Charlie Palmer's Aureole at Mandalay Bay features "wine angels" who fetch guests' wine selections from a 42-foot glass tower. One of the angels, Isabella Maia, is a former touring Cirque du Soleil artist who ups the ante by performing acrobatics in the wine tower to guests' delight.
La Framboise at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon
From culinary mastermind and chef of the century Joël Robuchon comes La Framboise, a white chocolate sphere filled with fresh raspberries, white chocolate crunchy pearls, yuzu sorbet and mascarpone mousse at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. At the table, the server pours a warm raspberry and yuzu coulis atop the sphere at your table. As if it touched by a magical wand, the sphere opens up like a blooming flower revealing her secrets inside. "The presentation of a dessert- from creation of the dish to execution on the plate, is just as important as the food being served," said Kamel Guechida, Executive Pastry Chef of Joël Robuchon Restaurant and L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand. "Such is the case with La Framboise, a decadent, sweet dessert that takes guests on a culinary journey and allows them to create memories in both the mind and palate, a special moment they will never forget."
Featuring one of Vegas' largest absinthe collections, Shawn McClain's Sage at ARIA Resort & Casino puts on a show with the now legal liquor. The highly intoxicating green substance is ignited by the server and transformed into a blazing blue potion, then poured into a glass of orange juice below. Absinthe fumes are trapped in the glass so guests can inhale the warm, anise-flavored air before chasing it with the OJ/absinthe mixture, finally exhaling as they finish the drink. For some extra pizzazz, "Shock and Awe" subs root beer for OJ and adds a colorful pop rocks-lined rim. "Our absinthe cart grabs the attention of nearly every guest that dines at Sage," said Michael Shetler, ARIA Resort & Casino's Director of Beverage. "The unique, interactive presentation piques the interest of our guests and the theatrical nature of Absinthe service ties in perfectly with the elevated hospitality level found at ARIA. The romantic history of Absinthe is also a great story for our guests that lead many of them to try Absinthe for the first time, providing them with a great memory and something to talk about for years to come."
Kushi Oysters at Fleur by Hubert Keller
With a focus on extravagant presentations, Fleur by Hubert Keller features several dishes served in truly unique fashions, a prime example of Chef Keller's creativity and genius. Kushi Oysters topped with margarita sorbet and orange purée are served on an illuminated block of dry ice. Doused with water tableside, the oysters billow with a seductive cloud that covers the table, creating an illusion of a floating tray. To round out the show, Fleur's Maple-Glazed Pork Ribs are hidden beneath a smoke-filled glass dome that when lifted, reveals the sweet and savory combination as smoke wafts out.
The excitement of The Strip has made its way to chefs' kitchens, reaffirming Las Vegas as the entertainment capital and a rapidly growing culinary mecca.
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