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October 22, 2014

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Chef Danny Elmaleh: SLS Las Vegas brings taste of Mediterranean to the Strip

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Danny Elmaleh of Cleo at SLS Las Vegas.

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It’s a dazzling, glamorous, multimillion-dollar and legendary weekend for the opening of SLS Las Vegas, and chart-topping “Fancy” pop-princess Iggy Azalea is the first of the superstars to celebrate the opening of the first Strip hotel in nearly four years. There will be another surprise big-name guest onstage, too, and then DJ Erick Morillo will open the hotel’s Life nightclub.

Our guest columnists today in our Vegas DeLuxe salute to Style, Luxury and Service are Mio Danilovic, VP of nightlife operations for SBE (the parent company of SLS), and chef Danny Elmaleh of Cleo at SLS Las Vegas. Guest columns by SLS President and COO Rob Oseland and SBE Senior VP of Restaurant Operations Matt Erickson were recently posted, and our preview of the grand-opening party was posted Wednesday. Here’s Danny.

There’s no shortage of fabulous food on the Strip, but if you’ll indulge me, we at Cleo inside SLS Las Vegas are about to give Las Vegas and all of its foodies something bold and new. I am so fortunate to have grown up in a family with such a broad range of cultural influences and an unyielding passion for food.

Born in Haifa, Israel, to a Moroccan father and a Japanese mother, I learned to cook from my Lebanese grandmother. These experiences expanded my knowledge of global cuisine and fine-tuned my tastes for exotic flavors. I like to add my own personal touches and blend flavors, and at Cleo at SLS Las Vegas you will experience a contemporary but authentic taste of the Mediterranean, especially Eastern Mediterranean.

After completing training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, I began my career as a chef in Japan at a prominent French restaurant. I then cooked at Ristorante Giannino in Milan before making my way to Los Angeles, working at Melisse and its sister restaurant, Lemon Moon. In 2006, I met Katsuya Uechi at Celadon and forged the relationship that led to my role with SBE. In my tenure with the company, I’ve had the pleasure of working on nearly every one of SBE’s acclaimed restaurants.

In 2011, Sam Nazarian gave me the opportunity to bring my vision for authentic and unique Mediterranean food to life with Cleo. Like many of the concepts coming to SLS Las Vegas, Cleo’s original location is in L.A., in The Redbury at Hollywood & Vine, another hotel in the SBE portfolio. We found great success at our flagship location making this restaurant one of my proudest accomplishments to date.

My approach is simple yet refined. I have worked hard to develop a unique and ingredient-focused culinary style that combines genres informed by my eclectic upbringing. I love research, tasting and experimenting with flavors and thoroughly enjoy traveling the world to discover new restaurants, techniques and culinary philosophies.

Once I knew that I was bringing my beloved concept to SLS, the most important thing for me to do was come to the city and dive right into the foodie community. I’ve been playing around with local flavor and experiencing Las Vegas’ dining treasures, from fast casual to fine dining. Guided by this exploration, I’m bringing fan favorites from the L.A. menu like the Brussels sprouts in addition to creating several dishes that will only be available here.

Cleo serves contemporary Mediterranean cuisine in the form of mezze, flatbreads, tagines and other shareable plates. My goal was to create a warm, social-dining environment that brings a group together much like the family dinners traditional in Mediterranean cultures. Sharable plates encourage our guests to engage with one another over a meal, creating a playful and dynamic ambiance.

To match the culinary concept, Cleo has a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. Philippe Starck and Gensler reimagined Cleo’s design specifically for Las Vegas and effectively captured the essence of the brand, from the dramatic pyramid entryway with a 14-foot tall Cleopatra image to the brick-covered, wood-burning oven. Cleo has a warm and intimate atmosphere with decor that creates a true Mediterranean escape.

The authentic cuisine combined with our social-dining style and welcoming atmosphere all join to create the Cleo experience. Whether you’re here for a big celebration or a fun night out with close friends, we hope to give you an experience you’ll never forget.

I hope you’ll join us when we open this weekend.

We’ll have a report and photo gallery from Friday night posted Saturday. Be sure to read our other guest column today from SBE nightlife VP Mio Danilovic. On Sunday, we welcome Crystals chief Farid Matraki, First Friday’s Charles Ressler and restaurant designer Vincent Celano as our guest columnists.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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