LAS VEGAS - The glass elevator rises slowly into the nighttime sky and the neon Vegas skyline spreads out in all directions like a giant glittering rainbow quilt.
A few seconds later we arrive at the top of the Delano, the posh golden tower resort that sits next to the equally dazzling Mandalay Bay. We step off into a world of thumping DJ music where glamorous patrons, draped in designer chic, are milling about in Delano’s stylish Skyfall Lounge.
As we make our way to some theatre-style seats, which offer breathtaking views of the twinkling night brilliance below, we see one of Skyfall’s mixologists entertain couples gathered at the semi-circular bar by shaking up his cocktail creations to the beat of the music.
The only thing missing from this magical Skyfall scene is James Bond.
There’s no question that Skyfall Lounge offers the best 180-degree view of Las Vegas and since opening in the latter part of 2015 has become the “it” place to be seen in this glamour capital of America.
However, Skyfall is not a stand alone act. It shares the Delano stage with Rivea, an absolutely stunning restaurant which occupies some glorious space just a few feet away from the lounge.
But it’s not just the same floor that Skyfall and Rivea share. Both are governed by Alain Ducasse, the celebrated French chef whose culinary genius has earned Rivea top billing among the restaurants along the Strip that are ruled by celebrity chefs. And that’s quite an achievement considering that list includes the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck, José Andrés, Michael Mina, Joël Robuchon, Emeril Lagasse, Pierre Gagnaire and Nobu Matsuhisa, just to name a few.
Ducasse and Rivea’s Executive Chef Bruno Riou - a star in his own right - rely on simple, fresh seasonal ingredients - the kind you’d find in a Provence market - to satisfy palettes, and present them on plates that look like works of art.
Above: Mixoligists entertain the in crowd with their creative cocktails.
I dive into my Rack of Lamb - from Colorado - accompanied by turnips, nougat and bigarade sauce - Yum! - while my
dinner companion savours every bite of her Seared Sea Scallops that come with confit shoulder and Swiss chard.
Thoughts of my visits to seaside restaurants in St. Tropez and the French and Italian Rivieras dance through my head as I admire the restaurant’s “Wave Wall” - a mesmerizing design by Parisian artists Patrick Jouin and Sankit Manku which consists of hundreds of glass pieces that mimic the lapping water. I can almost hear the waves.
The restaurant’s maritime - white and blue - decor, combined with the breathtaking views of Las Vegas, make this one of the most appealing dining spots on the Strip. And the perfect way to end a meal at Rivea is to have an après dinner drink at Skyfall.
While Ducasse and Rivea take dining to new heights atop Delano, I discover another dining gem at ground level when I visit Mandalay Bay’s Libertine Social, a gastropub that liberates the casino crowd with a menu of bar food that would make a lot of fine dining establishments blush with envy.
The kitchen at Libertine Social is ruled by James Beard Award-winning Chef Shawn McClain, who has been quoted as saying his restaurant “is all about the food, the drinks and the party. We want this to be a playground for people to explore familiar dishes and cocktails.”
Above: Skyfall offers patrons stunning views of the neon city.
Patrons get into a party mood quickly thanks to myriad of cocktails designed specifically for Libertine Social by Mandalay Bay’s resident “modern mixologist” Tony Abou-Ganim. The playful Abou-Ganim has created bottled cocktails, barrel-aged cocktails, cocktails on tap, and lots of other adult beverage drinks that have diners smiling form ear to ear.
Through blurry eyes - the bottled apple cobbler cocktail really packs a punch - I scan McClain’s vast menu and can’t decide between appetizers like King Crab Salad or a house specialty known as a Modern Fried Egg. On my server’s advice I order the Modern Fried Egg - it comes accompanied with corn pudding, American sturgeon caviar and brioche. Scrambled eggs will seem pretty ordinary after this.
My main course Korobuta Pork Chop - a cooked to perfection bundle of goodness that’s accompanied with salsa mojo, carrot purée and crispy herbs - jolts my taste buds to life. McClain keeps things light with an offering of flatbreads and boards - I just couldn’t resist the one containing various sausages and pickled hot peppers - and side dishes like barbecued carrots, crispy potato salad and roasted cauliflower.
Above: Rivea is the hottest restaurant in Las Vegas.
For heartier appetites, chef includes such crowd favourites as Wagu skirt steak, a 20 ounce bone-in prime ribeye steak and lots of fish - all flown in from the West Coast.
For desert you can opt for a chocolate hazelnut bar, hot apple pie that’s all American, poached warm pear or a whiskey pudding. I order another bottled cocktail.
Afterwards, many Libertine Social diners drift into the stylish Arcade bar, tucked away in a secluded area next to the main dining room. There they enjoy some legendary cocktails from the 19th and 20th century - like the Daisy, the Smash and the Flip - while the bartender, oops, I meant mixologist, tells them the origins of each drink.
Mandalay Bay and Delano have certainly taken fine dining to new heights.
For information on the boutique Delano property as well as Rivea and Skyfall Lounge, go to www.delanolasvegas.com / To find out what’s happening at Mandalay Bay, go to www.mandalaybay.com / Air Canada and WestJet offer daily service to Las Vegas from most major Canadian cities.