Lamar Moore, head chef at Bugsy & Meyer’s Steakhouse inside the Flamingo, is still getting used to the desert heat, having only moved here a few weeks ago from Chicago. But Moore’s no stranger to high-temperature situations. Consider how he landed his coveted position on the Strip’s newest $10.5 million culinary destination. He prevailed over seven other chefs on Food Network competition series Vegas Chef Prizefight to land the dream job, impressing a panel of judges that included Anne Burrrell and Scott Conant.
The stakes could not have been higher, especially since the very venue he would be helming carried lots of history. Its namesakes, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and business partner Meyer Lansky, opened the Flamingo in 1946, the first resort-hotel of its day, which became the foundation of the Strip. The rest, as they say, is a four-mile-long trail of neon history.
There are touches of vintage Vegas all over the art deco space, starting with the bakery façade entrance and the dry-aged meat cooler, a wink to days past when those in the know would enter discreetly through the back of restaurants. The main dining room is capacious and bright, with flamingo murals and glamorous chandeliers. You can imagine the Rat Pack strolling in any moment now, ordering a seafood tower with King crab legs and shrimp cocktail just as chill.
There are homages to Vegas’ storied and colorful history here, including menu items like Dirty Fries and a desert called Wise Guys. Certainly, the past is a nice place to visit, but this is a modern steakhouse, with room for reinvention. “Our plates are very, very different,” Moore says. “I have a background in steak and seafood for 15 to 20 years, and I remember when every plate looked the same. It was always a heavy green and white plate, and that’s what you’re used to. And we’ve kind of upped the classical bit—we have nice round darker plates or amber colors—and that adds a different feel to it with the vintage style.”
The steak presentation has also been given a bit of a shake-up, Moore explains. “Our steak program is very aggressive, but then we add our own [touches]. Right before every steak goes out, we crush it with a little bit of reduced wine butter, then add little flakes of sea salt,” he says. “So that adds a different touch to it, as opposed to the old-school way.”
And while the carnivorous delights are abundant—like rib-eyes, a wagyu rib cap and a majestic 32-ounce tomahawk, along with unexpected jamon Iberico—the other half of the menu boasts seafood flown in daily. “We want to obviously make food that’s approachable, but we want to also go out on a limb and do something fun and something that you wouldn’t expect,” Moore says. “Like in our raw bar, we know we have a really, really good ceviche that has a lot of coconut nuances in there. It’s very colorful, it’s flavorful, and then we add a little bit of coconut foam. So there’s different techniques and textures.”
The steak and seafood—and the top-notch cocktail and wine program—might compete for your attention and calories, but the dessert menu wins the beauty contest, hands down. The Big Apple is a glossy green confection made of silky white chocolate, yuzu mouse, caramelized apple, soft caramel and a hazelnut crumble, while the aforementioned Wise Guys is a warm chocolate espresso fondant, praline lime Success, raspberry yogurt soufflé and nougat semifreddo. Plus, there are more cookies and confections from the candy shop that you can hit up on your way out.
“I want guests to walk away feeling that they were taken care of, and I want them to be full if possible,” Moore says. “I tell some guests, if you walk in and don’t waddle out, then we’ve done something wrong. We should be able to feel very, very good when you leave.”
BUGSY & MEYER’S STEAKHOUSE Flamingo, 702-733-3111. Thursday-Monday, 5-10 p.m.