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January 19, 2018

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Counter Intelligence: ‘Celebrate L.V.’ aims to boost December; Alex Stratta; turbot



Charlie Palmer, Andre Rochat and Hubert Keller at the 2012 Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit Grand Tasting at Garden of the Gods at Caesars Palace on Friday, May 11, 2012.

Chef Charlie Palmer is leading Las Vegas chefs, restaurants and artists in a new project this December to combat “the city’s slowest month of the year.” I was told: “Las Vegas is among the greatest destinations in the world. Unfortunately, many people who live here don’t always have the chance to enjoy what our city has to offer. Our struggling economy has made it even harder for locals to experience our city’s abundant assets.

“Each December during the holiday season, our city’s restaurant sales decline, our shows’ attendance drops, and our economy slows down. This is an unfortunate reality of living in a tourist destination. However, most Las Vegans spend more of their discretionary income during the holiday season.”

So the challenge has been put down to Las Vegas to change the December economy with the monthlong “Celebrate Las Vegas.” One hundred artists have each already received a guitar that they will turn into a work of art and put on display and sale in 100 restaurants around town each offering a special menu. Preliminary details are at, with the official announcement expected Nov. 3.

A “citywide” art gallery tour will be set up so that each restaurant is a stop. Discount tickets for locals to shows and store gift certificates will go on sale to encourage residents to shop here to boost the December economy.

Chef Enzo Febbraro Prepares Turbot at Allegro

Chef Enzo Febbraro prepares turbot tableside at Allegro in the Wynn. Launch slideshow »

FANTASTIC FISH: Chef Enzo Febbraro of the new Allegro at the Wynn has a secret, off-menu, mind-blowing meal: The Naples, Italy-born chef himself prepares an amazing turbot cooked inside a coat of salt.

It’s a three-hour process, and at tableside he delicately removes the fish from its bones so that all that remains is the skeletal outline. It’s an amazing meal -- and an even more amazing snapshot of an extraordinary meal.

YELLOWTAIL’S 4TH ANNIVERSARY: One night earlier, I joined the Yellowtail 4th anniversary celebration at the Bellagio with new 6-foot-11 Phoenix Suns player Jermaine O’Neal, formerly of the Boston Celtics. He told me that in living closer to Las Vegas, he now intends to be a regular visitor.

Click to enlarge photo

Robin Leach with chef Akira Back at Yellowtail in the Bellagio.

Also there, Light Group chieftains Andrew Sasson and Andy Massi on the outdoor terrace overlooking the Bellagio Fountains. Chef Akira Back served the best walu fish I’ve ever tasted. It’s a butterfish not to be confused with wahoo that also is shipped to the Strip from Hawaii. It was so sweet and delicate, the gorgeous girls at my table and I had to plead for a second serving.

BUFFET AT WYNN TOPS: More than 2,700 connoisseurs of buffets voted the Buffet at Wynn as the best, beating six other Las Vegas all-you-can-eat establishments for the title. The Wynn Buffet features 16 live-action cooking stations and vegan selections unmatched by any other buffet here. This follows Monday’s news that USA Today named the brand-new Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace the best.


Congratulations to beloved former Wynn chef Alex Stratta, who is set to open a restaurant in San Francisco, but I also am hearing that he’s at the forefront of a Las Vegas Food University launching on the Strip in December. Expect the official confirmation next month.

Have initial talks started here about a new food showdown TV series?

Masaharu Morimoto

JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT: I leave you today with a YouTube video of the great Masaharu Morimoto making his singing debut at a Japan tsunami relief benefit concert in Pasadena, Calif. There’s no question that the “Iron Chef” is a giant among his peers, but he also can croon. Now the question is when does he start cooking and singing at the Mirage?

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.

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