Lakeside, Costa di Mare and Wing Lei offer guests three exceptional opportunities for dinners to remember long after they’ve left Wynn Las Vegas.
Lakeside's outdoor dining area
“Dinner is not what you do in the evening before something else. Dinner is the evening.” Should you find yourself in agreement with the late, great American humorist Art Buchwald on this point—whether as a general rule or just for an evening—the restaurants of Wynn Las Vegas and Encore operate along this principle. Despite the resorts’ many options for post-prandial entertainment and amusement, one could find oneself very much satisfied by an evening spent simply dining, which is not at all to say dining simply. Three venues in particular—Lakeside, Wing Lei and Costa di Mare—present the opportunity to relax in the knowledge that the dishes placed before you have been tended to with the utmost care.
From impeccably sourced ingredients to knowledgeable, attentive service and expertly prepared dishes, an exceptional dining experience is something Wynn restaurant-goers have come to expect. And rightly so.
Take as a starting point the lobster cart at Lakeside. There’s nothing quite like the dinner theater of an elegantly appointed, custom-designed silver trolley rolled to your table, displaying various sizes and species of lobster to choose from. Lakeside Executive Chef David Walzog, who also helms the adjacent SW Steakhouse, says he enjoys a little bit of show and tell. “The lobster experience is the Vegas thing,” says the chef. “Everybody’s coming for those experiential ingredients, and the roving cart, showing off lobsters from California, Scotland, Australia, Maine, is great for that. We like to tell guests about the differences and let them decide.”
A lobster supper at Lakeside
Walzog explains that each variety has its own “proprietary” tastes and textures. The Scottish blue lobster, hailing from cold waters, tastes “sweet with a silky, tendery, buttery texture,” Walzog says. “Maine is right in the middle, flavorwise, and has a tooth to it. The earthy, southern Australian rock lobster takes on that ocean big-time flavor and those are great. We’re bringing them from all around the world, and they’re live. We get them here and to the table as soon as possible.”
So that’s expertise in procurement and presentation. Then there’s technique. Because where some diners have perhaps only enjoyed lobster steamed or boiled (which the kitchen will happily accommodate if preferred), Walzog has his own method. “All the lobsters we can prepare in many different ways,” says the chef. “But our unique way of preparing them is that we steam them partway, and then finish them off in the wood stone hearth where they roast on the shell. It’s very similar to cooking beef on the bone where it intensifies all that flavor. You want that moisture from steaming, and then the nuttiness that comes from roasting it on the shell.”
Imperial Peking duck is a specialty of the house at Wing Lei.
Walzog says some groups order a tasting of one of each of the varieties. “That way you can really see the different taste and texture profiles.” A great lobster experience, the chef suggests, is to order a lobster split in two, with half simply roasted, and half prepared with a house-made chili rub. All lobster orders are served with a trio of butters—red chili, citrus with yuzu and clarified. “To be able to take things to the next level, it’s fun,” says Walzog. “And that’s the Wynn way, to have those experiences, those cool things that are around every corner—whether they’re design elements or on a plate.”
No less than a royal experience awaits, meanwhile, at Wing Lei, where the authentic Imperial Peking duck is a specialty of the house. Wing Lei, the country’s first Chinese restaurant to be awarded a Michelin Star and the only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Award-winning Chinese restaurant, Chef Ming Yu’s menu offers a mix of Cantonese, Shanghai and Sichuan cooking. Peking duck was historically only served in the emperor’s palace. In keeping with this symbol of status, Wing Lei presents the duck to guests tableside, slicing and serving it with traditional accompaniments of cucumber, scallions and hoisin sauce and a choice of either crepes or steamed buns made in the restaurant’s dim sum kitchen. Often steamed buns are so thick you don’t really taste the flavor of the duck; here the chef prepares a thinner version, leaving the emphasis on the duck and crispy skin.
The ducks in the Wing Lei kitchen (sourced from the same purveyor in Long Island, New York, since the restaurant first opened) are at the sweet spot of 4.5 to 5 pounds. At this point, the chef says, the “meat is perfectly sweet, tender and not too fat.” This size is sufficient for at least two, or more, depending on appetizers or sides ordered (warning: if you try the shrimp toast, it will ruin any other version for you). Groups of up to eight order the duck as a mid-course dish, so that everyone can enjoy a sampling. The menu also offers a five-course duck tasting, incorporating the duck in salad, consomme, clay-pot rice and stir-fried with vegetables.
Imperial Peking duck at Wing Lei
The chef’s technique for preparing this delicacy is a 48-hour process. The duck is first seasoned inside with a mixture of five-spice, cilantro, ginger, scallion and bean paste. “We marinate it for 24 hours,” says Chef Ming. “After that we coat the outside with a mixture of vinegar and honey.” The duck is then air-dried for another 24 hours to enhance the crispiness of the skin, before going in the oven for two phases of cooking. All of this, together with expert tableside carving, results in duck with a perfect balance of crackly skin and tender meat, for a Peking duck experience that even Wing Lei’s many visitors from China say exceeds all others.
A perfect experience at Costa di Mare means partaking of the restaurant’s famous seafood sourced directly from the waters of Italy. The seasons dictate the menu, filled with rare, impossible-to-find-elsewhere fish and shellfish from the Ligurian, Ionian, Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas. With five different types of shellfish, each chosen for its distinctive qualities in terms of both taste and texture, one dish encapsulates the experience. Chef Mark LoRusso’s Garganelli Freschi al Ragu di Crostacei is, like the restaurant itself, the perfect marriage of pasta and seafood. “This dish nicely showcases the house-made pasta,” says Chef LoRusso. “We make it fresh every day. I like the cut of pasta, it’s a little more interesting, and I like the cylinder to catch the sauce. So with each bite you get a taste of shellfish and a nice explosion of sauce.” There’s Italian lobster, two types of crab and two types of shrimp—a pink and a blue. “The pink is a little softer and a little sweeter, and more delicate—we serve it raw in some of our dishes,” says the chef. “The blue shrimp is meatier and firmer.” Of the two types of crab, the domestic lump crap is firmer, where the delicate Venetian is shredded and permeates throughout.
The dish starts with a crustacean sauce base, made from the shells, heads and tails of the shellfish the kitchen uses every day. “We make a classic French lobster sauce but we make it more Italian by adding tomato,” he says. The base also includes celery, carrots, garlic, olive oil, brandy, sherry, white wine and herbs. The shellfish is lightly sautéed and gently poached in the sauce. The dedication to technique and freshness— in both the house-made pasta and the crustaceans—is evident. The dining experience is exceptional.