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A Tale of Two Cities: Where Dining is a Sure Bet-Los Angeles and Las Vegas

By Andrea Lita Rademan

You don’t need a gambler’s instinct to be enticed by the LUCKYRICE Feast, coming to Las Vegas’ trendy Cosmopolitan Hotel on October 4. One of the key players is chef Jet Tila, whose folks founded America’s first Thai grocery, Bangkok Market, in L.A., and who has had successful restaurants in both cities. He serves his latest creation, Kuma Snow Cream, at his Las Vegas shop, and he’ll bring it to LUCKYRICE Las Vegas. His five spice pork belly tacos were a hit at LUCKYRICE L.A., where the lineup included food from host Sang Yoon’s Lukshon, Hamasaku, RockSugar, Parks BBQ, Ayara Thai, Carb & Nation, Phorage, Seoul Sausage and Katsuya. Tila’s European-inspired food hall, Stir Market, opens in September.

LUCKYRICE Las Vegas will feature bites from Yellowtail, Pok Pok, Holstein's, Perry St., Aburiya Raku, Stk, Fukuburger and many others. Star chefs Brooke Williamson and Nick Roberts will bring bites from their just-opened Playa Provisions in L.A.’s Playa Vista. Expect free-flowing cocktails made with presenting sponsor Bombay Sapphire’s gin, bottles of Asahi Beer and fabulous Bruce Cost Ginger Ales. To attend LUCKYRICE San Francisco (Sept 5); Las Vegas (Oct 4); or Miami (Nov 14), buy tickets at www.luckyrice.com.

The Cosmopolitan’s third floor is a diners’ paradise thanks to restaurants Comme Ça, Scarpetta, D.O.C.G., STK, Blue Ribbon and Milos, plus José Andrés’ Jaleo (tapas and paella) and China Poblano (Asian-Mexican). Comme Ça’s David Myers was chef at L’Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills before opening Sona, Boule Bakery, Pizzeria Ortica and Hinoki & the Bird but he’s off to tackle new projects, including one in Singapore, where his neighbors will include L.A. chefs Wolfgang Puck and Nancy Silverton.

Before 1914 Hollywood was a failing real estate development in the sleepy city of Los Angeles but with the release of Squaw Man, the first Hollywood motion picture, a new industry was born. Among the entrepreneurs it attracted was German immigrant Carl Laemmle, who sold his nickelodeon and bought a dusty chicken ranch in the San Fernando Valley to produce movies. Today, it’s the largest film company in the world, Universal Studios. Carl’s brother, Max, founded what is now the last family-owned theater chain in America, the Laemmle, whose third- generation owners recently celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Although Las Vegas was founded in 1905 it didn’t get rolling until Nevada legalized gambling in 1931. Ten years later, mobster Bugsy Siegel used illicit funds to build the Flamingo, the first hotel-casino, on what is now called “the Strip.” In 1966 Howard Hughes checked into the Desert Inn penthouse and, rather than check out, he bought it—and $300 million worth of other local properties. Today “Sin City” is a conglomeration of glitzy casinos, entertainment spectacles, eye-popping designer shops and 9,000 square foot “villas” that, where land once sold for $1.25 an acre, rent for $25,000 a night.

The sky’s the limit for dining in Las Vegas too, which draws chefs from all over the globe, especially Los Angeles. Wolfgang Puck, today the world’s most successful chef, was a pioneer when he came in 1992. His outlets in L.A. (Spago; CUT; Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill; WP24 at The Ritz-Carlton; Chinois on Main and Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air) and Las Vegas (CUT; Postrio; Spago; Trattoria del Lupo; Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill; Brasserie Puck; and The Pods) are part of an empire that includes establishments in Hawaii; Atlantic City; Detroit; Washington,, DC; Colorado; Dallas; Singapore; London and Dubai.

When he arrived from Tokyo, chef Masayoshi Takayama opened Ginza Sushi-ko in a bland L.A. strip mall. Eventually he relocated to Two Rodeo Drive, where he earned four stars and lots of money. After turning the location over to his sous-chef, Hiroyuki Urasawa, who named it for himself, Masa decamped to New York to launch Masa and Bar Masa. When the Aria opened he raised the stakes with Bar Masa and Shaboo, where a $500 Japanese hot pot was the specialty of the house. Exotic cooking equipment, and ingredients such as wild bluefin tuna belly, taraba crab legs, winter yellowtail, and Ohmi beef, accounted for some of the initial prices, though Masa’s interest in attaining $80,000 golden bowls made the white truffle ice cream dessert a virtual bargain at just $95.

People who can’t snag a reservation at one of Nobu Matsuhisa’s 24 global restaurants just increased their chances 180 times. That’s the number of guestrooms at the new Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace. The business partnership between Nobu and actor Robert De Niro started at a humble sushi bar on La Cienega Blvd. in L.A.. It’s down the street from KOI Restaurant & Lounge, where the view is not as spectacular as the one in Las Vegas that overlooks the Bellagio fountains.

Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis’ first restaurant, Giada, shares that view. Owned by Caesar’s, the brand new eatery is an anchor to the new Cromwell boutique hotel. Giada’s Los Angeles roots show in the California spin she gives her recipes and the drinks she named after some of the movies produced by her late grandfather, Dino De Laurentiis, who was a foodie before there was a word for it. The roof of the Cromwell houses Drai's Beach Club and Nightclub, a rooftop pool and deck with an indoor/outdoor club, views of the Strip, DJs from around the globe and VIP bungalows. Before heading to Las Vegas, nightlife maestro, Victor Drai, had an L.A. restaurant so it’s not surprising that he has brought his pool/bar-restaurant-club concept back to the city, where he has taken over the top two floors of the W Hotel Hollywood.

Alessandro Stratta, who has two Michelin stars, presided over his namesake restaurant at the Wynn before decamping for Scott Conant’s Scarpetta in Beverly Hills, then boomeranging back to take over Elements Kitchen & Martini Bar with plans to open Alex Stratta Italian Steakhouse this fall at the Gramercy.

Although the ruling Las Vegas triumvirate of Michelin starred chefs Guy Savoy, Joel Robuchon and Pierre Gagnier do not have outlets in Los Angeles, the link between Los Angeles and Las Vegas restaurants is so embedded that in many cases they mirror each other. SUSHI ROKU, whose contemporary sushi incorporates ingredients from Latin America (e.g. jalapeños) and Europe (e.g. olive oil), and Boa Steakhouse, are at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Kabuki serves their Las Vegas roll in both Las Vegas and L.A. Fans of Border Grill and HOUSE OF BLUES flock to their outlets at Mandalay Bay. Craft is in Century City in L.A and Craftsteak is at the MGM Grand. Cravings and California Pizza Kitchen are both at The Mirage; Il Fornaio and Chin Chin Cafe are at New York-New York; Chipolte has two dozen locations and In-n-Out Burger has five.

The World Tea Academy, which is based in Las Vegas, is the tea industry’s premier marketplace. It will be blending fresh ideas and new trends May 6 - 8, 2015 in Long Beach, California. http://worldteaexpo.com.

When it comes to dining, what happens in Las Vegas doesn’t always start in Las Vegas.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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