Try these best new Las Vegas restaurants to get 2019 off to a tasty start

NoMad’s fruits de mer.
Photo: Wade Vandervort

2018 was another big year for Las Vegas restaurant openings, and a handful of them squeaked in just before the New Year. While the rest of your friends dedicate January to running on a treadmill, might we suggest a much more fun challenge: making the rounds to Vegas’ best new restaurants in 2019.

If you’ve always wanted to dine inside a luxe library, NoMad at Park MGM is for you. The three-story interior is lined with 20,000 books, a nod to Brazil’s Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, and features an imported staircase from New York, tiered chandeliers, velvet and more. The Sydell Group paired up with Chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara for the November 2018 opening, and if you haven’t been, now’s the time.

After dinner head to Eataly at Park MGM for some Italian treats and a scoop of house-made gelato, just like you would in the streets of Italy. The open marketplace features a handful of “restaurantinis” where you can enjoy fresh pastas, pizzas and charcuterie. And don’t forget to pick up a couple bottles of wine before you head home.

LA restaurateur and chef Roy Choi launched the awaited Best Friend at Park MGM in December, making it the first Korean barbecue joint on the Strip. The front of the restaurant operates as a kitschy bodega with hats, T-shirts and other Best Friends swag. Head into the dining area just past the plastic red curtain and you’ll find a festive tribute to Choi’s Los Angeles. Black and white photos of the Chef’s hometown adorn the walls, as do colorful, inviting murals of Choi’s friends and family, plus chefs and influential activists. Plants hang from the ceiling … did I mention the food? It’s got everything you want, from homemade kimchi (they’ve got an entire walk-in refrigerator dedicated entirely to spicy fermented cabbage) and other refreshing banchan to kalbi and spicy pork, kogi short rib tacos, elotes and more. It’s Choi’s homage to the Korean and Latin culture that makes LA so rich—and now you can experience it here.

One of my favorite restaurants from 2018, Red Plate, opened at the Cosmopolitan in October, featuring lauded Chef Yip Cheung of the resort’s high roller lounge, the Talon Club. Of course, unless you were a high roller raking in beaucoup bucks, you couldn’t actually eat at the Talon Club, leaving everything inside its gold-plated doors up to your imagination … until now. Red Plate allows guests to experience Cantonese cuisine in an intimate and beautiful setting. Enjoy evening dim sum and the must-order caviar taro puff with quail egg, pan-fried Chilean Sea Bass, Peking duck and so much more.

Mott 32 at Palazzo celebrated its official opening on the last weekend in December. Not only is Mott 32 absolutely stunning, its size is impressive, too. Hip and modern, this Hong Kong import should be on everyone’s bucket list in the New Year. Even more recently, Palazzo rolled out Factory Kitchen. The LA-base Italian restaurant opened on New Year’s Eve, taking over the former B&B Ristorante.

The Palms welcomed very different restaurants at the very end of 2018: Vetri Cucina and Mabel’s BBQ. Philadelphia native and James Beard award-winning chef Marc Vetri opened the former, an Italian restaurant, on the 56th floor of the Palms, replacing the shuttered Alizé. Think veal tartare with crispy sweetbreads, pastrami foie gras, almond tortellini with truffle sauce, malfadini with wild duck ragu and a whole roasted and smoked baby goat. The meat fest continues over at Mabel’s, with another James Beard award-winner at the reigns. Food Network Iron Chef Michael Symon hails from Cleveland, but he’s got southern barbecue running through his bones. The proof is all over the menu: beef brisket, pork spare ribs, giant beef ribs, crispy pig tails, sausage sandwiches and more. You’ll definitely need extra napkins.

In other barbecue news, Mama Bird Southern Kitchen opened its doors in July out in Southern Highlands. Texas-style eats are served up in big, rib-sticking portions, the interior is quaint and the staff has southern hospitality down to a science. The menu is pretty hefty, too. Aim for snacks like deviled eggs or shrimp and grits before chowing down on delightful breakfast bombs like chicken fried steak or smoked brisket hash.

Another awaited event at the end of 2018 was the opening of New York City Italian destination Cipriani inside Wynn Plaza. Stepping into Cipriani is like stepping into dad’s study … if dad was a millionaire and his study was on a yacht. Black and white portraits of supermodels like Cindy Crawford hang among gorgeous teak wood furnishings, making Cipriani a mid-mod bachelor—or bachelorette’s—paradise.

Over at Bellagio, another vaunted New York City favorite, Sadelle’s, opened late last month. Legendary for its bagels and smoked fish platters, the spot is open from 6 a.m. to midnight adjacent to the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, serving everything from French Toast and steak and eggs to triple decker sandwiches, salads, lobster and shrimp scampi.

And, of course, there are a slew of new restaurants coming to Vegas in 2019. Continuing the wave of California exports, Caesars Palace will welcome high-end LA seafood haunt Water Grill in the old Spago spot, plus San Francisco Vietnamese mainstay the Slanted Door from acclaimed chef and James Beard award-winner Charles Phan.

Gourmet fried chicken spot Crack Shack will round out Park MGM’s restaurant roster this year, and Bobby Flay’s Shark will debut at the Palms in March.

This year will also usher in some exciting off-Strip ventures. Daniel Krohmer of Other Mama will bring his passionate flair to the Ferguson Hotel in Downtown Las Vegas in the form of a new Mexican restaurant, Le Monja, and a new Japanese spot Hatsumi. Both are slated for January openings. And James Trees, chef and owner of Arts District favorite Esther’s Kitchen, plans to expand to Tivoli Village later this year.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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