If there’s one thing mandatory for a true Vegas vacation, it’s a trip to one of our incredible steak houses in one of the many Las Vegas hotels. But there are so many cow palaces on the Strip now (literally dozens), it’s hard to separate the tender and true from the overpriced and overdone. So your tireless blogger spent the last several months tasting as many as he could (cholesterol count be damned!), carefully judging every detail from–first and foremost–the meat itself, to ambiance, accompaniments, wine & cocktail lists, service and more. Here’s the countdown:
10) TENDER at Luxor
With a category-killer menu, and a warren of mood-setting dining rooms, Tender commands respect. Five kinds of oysters, five kinds of caviar, dry-aged Niman black angus, Dutch friesan Brandt and organic grass-fed New Zealand beef, multiple game meats and game birds, strictly Vermont-sourced butter…overwhelmed yet? Just opened, Tender is still working out some kinks in their clever concept, though most steaks and side veggies are solid. Still the Wagyu chili wins backhanded kudos for the most absurd use of trendy, expensive American Kobe.
9) THE STEAK HOUSE at Circus Circus
You tend to feel good about a place that ages its steaks in a glass cooler at the entrance, grills them over Mexican mesquite in the middle of the dining room, and has waiters in tuxedo shirts bring them to you. THE Steak House–voted tops in a local poll for 20 years–is archetypal in almost every way, especially its dimly lit deer head-decorated interior (which seems unchanged since it opened), huge portions–the bone-in prime rib is truly Fred Flintstone size (enough for two if not three)– and even music (we had an appropriate Tony Bennett soundtrack all evening). The menu mostly sticks to the rules, but exceptions like a “waldorf wedge” salad are surprisingly good. TSH is unpretentious, a relative value (all entrees include soup or salad, veggies and starch), and delivers what it promises.
8) THE RANGE at Harrah’s
With all the competition in carnage, it’s easy to believe that at least one steakhouse could fly under the radar. This is it: In a huge mod-western room overlooking the Strip (with a classic jazz trio in the adjoining lounge), The Range manages to find an unfussy balance between old-school charm and new- school twists like an addictive five-onion soup (served in one more hollowed-out onion) and a bread basket offering a bacon-studded loaf. Service, overseen by an old-school Vegas captain who seems to touch every table, is among the best anywhere, and the waiters make surprising recommendations from the reasonably priced wine list. Did I mention I inhaled every morsel of my hefty 28-day dry aged angus steak?
7) STRIP HOUSE at Planet Hollywood
For what is actually a chain concept, Strip House offers authentic ambiance: beyond a dark, clubby bar, it’s a sexy fantasy revision of an old-school Hollywood haunt, with red flocked walls (in a sexy silhouette pattern) covered in b&w movie star photos. The menu is at once classic and creative, offering treats like a must-have gorgonzola fondue starter, nicely presented scallops, and crusty charred cuts that are dense and flavorful. Be warned (or save room): the 24-layer chocolate cake is, in a word, massive.
6) CUT by Wolfgang Puck at Palazzo
Fusion sensibilities are commonplace these days, but Puck’s new concept truly blends influences from his native Austria, France, Japan, America and elsewhere. Almost painfully serious about beef, servers here display raw kobe and wagyu cuts before you order, to show the differences in the meat. Visual aids aside, we actually preferred the 21 day wet-aged Illinois Prime to the American Wagyu/Angus (offerings also include 35 day dry-aged Nebraska Prime and True Japanese Waygu a.k.a. Kobe choices–all are grilled over hard wood & charcoal then finished under the broiler).
Cut’s whole menu seems overly eager to please, with an excess of options in starters, side dishes, desserts, and even sauces. Many are superb, including the maple glazed pork belly, big eye tuna tartare “sandwiches” and bar menu’s knishes and kobe sliders—but portions are too large to sample much. The selection of original and classic cocktails is solid, but their wine list is pretentious and overpriced ($15 for a glass of average Argentinian Malbec? Really?) And the quality of the food is seriously offset by the dining room’s officey décor and classic rock soundtrack; better to enjoy some small plates in the comfortably cool front lounge.
5) PRIME at Bellagio
With a hard-to-beat setting overlooking the Bellagio’s renowned
fountains, Jean-Georges Vongericten’s elegantly appointed steakhouse
wins for ambiance. It has a more limited menu than many newer options,
but sometimes that’s a good thing. Excellent quality in every regard.
4) SW STEAK at WYNN
In a casually romantic setting overlooking Wynn’s fanciful Lake of
Dreams, SW — run by James Beard-nominated chef David Walzog — is one of
the best options should your party include non-carnivores. The meat
itself is perfectly tender and bursting with flavor, but a
deconstructed lobster tail, “Steve’s Chopped Vegetable Salad” and even
the parmesan creamed spinach is equally strong. A spring berry tart,
with just a light accent of aged balsamic, makes a fitting finish.
3) CARNEVINO at Palazzo
Mario Batali’s trademark is authentically adventurous Italian, and
he continues that at this rustically cavernous wedge-shaped room
accented by a huge golden bull. It’s not inexpensive — a gorgeous bone-in
ribeye for two (expertly carved tableside) is over $130, and the
ricotta raviolo is $19 (that’s one ravioli, in a brown butter sauce).
But nearly everything served is exceptional, including the many
vegetable sides, creative sauces, and wine list. Even the steak knives
are the best I’ve used. For a memorable light bite, just order the
steak tartare (carne cruda) with a couple glasses of wine at the bar.
2) CRAFTSTEAK at MGM Grand
If you go to a steakhouse for the meat alone (is there a better
reason?), Craftsteak, run by James Beard-awarded, Top Chef-winning Tom
Colicchio is unbeatable. The expansive selections — some roasted, some
grilled — of wet and dry aged Prime Angus, as well as American Wagyu,
show a true appreciation of beef. Though the Wagyu flatiron and Wagyu
skirt steak are both loaded with flavor despite dense velvety texture,
their prime hangar steak was virtually as good, aged so thoroughly it
had the distinct essence of blue cheese (possibly the best meat for its
price in the whole town). Sides and options show an attention to fresh
ingredients: market mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes, a sweet corn dish
with “cult status,” several shellfish choices. For dessert, their
exceptionally light bread pudding is a fine finish.
1) BOA at Forum Shops, Caesars
Big-boned brother to two LA predecessors, BOA blends modern design
and classic cuisine seamlessly. Cocktails are one of their fortes — their
mixologists have won many awards to back it up — as well as a bountiful
and well-selected wine-by-the-glass menu. Creative appetizers include a
tableside-blended steak tartare, two ounces of stacked perfect Wagyu
and a Goat Cheese Baklava that only had seconds to live. The meat — we
had a bone-in rib eye and a bone-in KC filet — is practically perfect in
flavor and texture. Service was dedicated, attentive, and friendly;
though I could do without their loungey trance music, in overall
experience, Boa is the best.
Honorable Mentions: Nero’s at Caesars Palace (traditional French
meets modern menu, perfect filet mignon), Charlie Palmer Steak at Four
Seasons (nice raw bar, solid wine list, impressive desserts), Delmonico
at Venetian (Emeril’s Cajun-inspired sides are unforgettable), Capital
Grille (clubby atmosphere with a killer Strip view, creative steak
preparations, sensational cheesecake),
You may also want to try: Michael Mina’s StripSteak (Mandalay Bay),
The Steakhouse at T.I., House of Lords (Sahara), The Palm (Forum
Shops), N9ne (Palms resort), Vic & Anthony’s (Golden Nugget), Smith
& Wollensky (3767 LV Blvd. So.), Alan Albert’s (3763 LV Blvd. So.),
Del Frisco’s (3925 Paradise Rd), The Golden Steer (308 W. Sahara Ave)
and my way-off-Strip favorite, Bob Taylor’s Ranch House (6250 Rio Vista St).
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E.C. Gladstone is a former editor for AOLVegas, and interviews top Strip entertainers, restaurateurs, moguls and behind-the-scenes players for VEGAS Magazine. Like many Las Vegans, he sleeps only when absolutely necessary.