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Las Vegas Dining

There was a day when eating in Las Vegas meant suffering an overdose in a casino's buffet restaurant. There's a lot more variety today, as the hotels have developed a much more sophisticated approach to dining. All of the major casino operations have several restaurants including family-style cafes, and several of the newer (and classier) places have fine dining comparable to that available in New York and Los Angeles.

Celebrity Chefs and their Restaurants

Caesars set the tone by putting a branch of Wolfgang Puck's Spago in the Forum Shops. The MGM Grand followed with Mark Miller's Coyote Cafe, serving the same kind of Southwestern cuisine as the original in Santa Fe. Wolfgang Puck, not to be outdone with only one restaurant in town, opened Cafe California -- also in the MGM Grand, where famed New Orleans and food TV chef Emeril Legasse also holds court.

On the other hand, you can engage in fine dining without a big name attached at the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas. The restaurant is called Viic & Anthony's -- similar to one other in Houston, texas -- and it is one of seven restaurants in the venerable, deluxe hotel which has recently undergone a huge renovation and addition. The Chart House specializes in seafood, Lillie's Asian Cuisine in (what else) asian food, and the buffet (see below) ispone of the best in Vegas

Other Good Eating

TThere are several independent restaurants where one can get away from the bustle of casino life and thoroughly enjoy a good meal. Andre's Restaurant, at 401 South Sixth Street, serves French cuisine and does it with flair every day from 6 p.m. Reservations are advised, call (702) 385-5016.

Ruth's Chris Steak Houses are renowned and incredibly popular restaurants -- at 3900 Paradise Road on the Eastside (702-791-7011) and at 4561 W. Flamingo Rd. on the Westside (702-248-7011). Steaks and accompaniment is the theme here, but (unlike most steak houses) these double-name restaurants have excellent wine lists. There's a late-night menu from 11 p.m.

El Sombrero, 807 South Main Street, is a very small adobe cantina, run by the same family for many years. It's a local favorite, serving inexpensive and tasty Mexican cuisine, including their famous chili verde and sopaipillas. Look on the menu for the combination platters, which overflow with food. This is a casual place, with a Mexican jukebox, and informal service.

Pamplemousse, 400 East Sahara Ave., offers true "fine dining." It's one of the best restaurants in this town of many fine restaurants., serving a varying array of dishes that changes daily. There's no printed menu; your waiter will tell you what's available. Reservations are absolutely necessary, and should be made as far in advance as possible (733-2066).

Oyshi Sushi, 7775 S. Rainbow Blvd. is a bargain place for die hard sushi fans. The restaurant ofers all-you-can-eat sushi for $21 (lunch) and $26 (dinner). The sushi is good and the regular menu has a list of other Japanese dishes including sashimi, teriyaki, and dinners including steak -- try the rib-eye steak teriyaki-- which comes with miso soup and salad.

Those Las Vegas Buffets

Buffets are still popular at most casino-hotels, from Bally's to The Mirage, Harrah's, Luxor and Circus Citcus. For those who treasure the idea of the cheap buffet as part of a Las Vegas vacation.

The World Buffet in the Rio Suites Hotel at 3700 W. Flamingo,, is as unlike the normal casino buffets as Shanghai is to Las Vegas. Rated by many as the best buffet in town, the themed tables (islands) abound with Chinese, Mongolian, American, Mexican, and Italian specialties, offering favorite dishes and quite exotic fare. Add all this to sumptuous desserts, and you have one of the most distinctive eating experiences anywhere.

International selections are also a theme at The Buffet at Treasure Island and Cravings at The Mirage. Both buiffets also feature traditional American dishes.

The Sterling Buffet at Bally's Las Vegas offers upscale food along with formally-dressed staff. Menu staples include what we've come to expect at a Ritz Carlton brunch buffet: oysters, sushi, fine caviar, and myriad small desserts.

Downtown Las Vegas has a several buffets, including the new buffet at the Golden Nugget. There are cheaper buffets in the downtown Casino Center area, but they are skimpy and uninteresting tables, with food that's often been sitting too long on steam tables.

The Anti-Buffet

And if you wish to avoid the buffets and settle for a high-quality casino meal, go to Bacchanal at Caesar's Palace (3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S.) The room serves a six-course, fixed price dinner, including wine or champagne. Servers are clad in togas, and the wine is served by . . . well, see for yourself. For the ultimate Las Vegas buffet, see the World Buffet at the Rio (above).

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