The Daily Meal's Top 7 Southwest Restaurants Slideshow
7) Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, Las Vegas
When two-time James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Bartolotta, who'd made his name at Spiaggia in Chicago, was approached by Las Vegas hotelier and casino mogul Steve Wynn about opening a showplace restaurant at Wynn Las Vegas, he agreed on the condition that he could fly in the freshest possible fish and shellfish daily, directly from the Mediterranean. Wynn agreed — which is why, today, some of the freshest seafood it is possible to enjoy in America is found in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The choices in this cool, multi-level restaurant include not just the expected sea scallops, mussels, swordfish, and such, but also real Italian vongole (clams), Mediterranean spiny lobster, wild turbot, red mullet, and more. Of course, there's good meat and poultry and plenty of pasta, too (the simple homemade square-cut spaghetti with tomatoes and basil may sound boring, but is a must-have).
6) Jaleo, Las Vegas
After opening the original Jaleo in Washington, D.C., in 1993, chef José Andrés expanded to the suburbs of the city before turning his attention from Spanish cuisine to other cuisines like Mediterranean and Mexican and opening Jaleo in Sin City. As Spain's unofficial culinary ambassador for both traditional cooking and Ferran Adrià’s brand of avant-garde, Andrés keeps the Jaleo menu packed with traditional tapas and paellas (the best and most authentic in America, made on a wood-burning paella grill), using the finest ingredients and time-honored techniques with measured modern flourishes.
5) Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix
Bronx native Chris Bianco opened this Phoenix pizza spot almost 20 years ago and is still collecting accolades. Bianco was featured in a New York Times article, where he said, "There’s no mystery to my pizza. Sicilian oregano, organic flour, San Marzano tomatoes, purified water, mozzarella I learned to make at Mike’s Deli in the Bronx, sea salt, fresh yeast cake, and a little bit of yesterday’s dough. In the end great pizza, like anything else, is all about balance. It’s that simple." Says him! The restaurant serves not only addictive thin-crust pizzas, but also fantastic antipasto (involving wood-oven-roasted vegetables), perfect salads, and homemade country bread. Reservations are accepted only for six or more, so be prepared to wait (though the wait is slightly more bearable now that they’re open for lunch).
4) Frasca Food & Wine, Boulder, Colo.
In the Friuli region of northeastern Italy, a frasca is a roadside farm restaurant, serving simple regional food. Frasca Food and Wine captures the spirit of these places while also championing the vast diversity of Colorado’s unique culinary resources. Owners Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson have created a warm and inviting space that can accommodate a casual, impromptu dinner or an evening of fine dining, and offer a unique menu that includes salumi and cheeses along with pastas like stuffed casoncelli and entrées like rabbit and veal top round with polenta and romanesco. Whatever you do, don’t miss the frico caldo, a crispy pancake of potatoes, onions, and Piave cheese — a Friulian specialty.
3) é by José Andrés, Las Vegas
The ceaselessly inventive — hell, the ceaseless — Señor Andrés is the king of Spanish food (among other things) in America, bringing us authentic ingredients and preparations in the traditional mode but also giving us a made-in-America taste of avant-garde Spanish cooking as invented by his mentor, Ferran Adrià. é is a kind of sibling to Andrés' minibar (number 95 on this list) in Washington, D.C. — though he has called it more conservative than that hotbed of creativity. That's "conservative" like truffle-flavored cotton candy, crispy chicken skin en escabeche, turbot with crispy bone marrow and coffee grounds, and cocoa paper with dried strawberries…
2) Guy Savoy, Las Vegas
The original Paris version of this restaurant, which merits three Michelin stars, is elegant and consistently wonderful. The Las Vegas clone (there is also one in Singapore) offers a menu that closely resembles the Parisian one, with such Savoy modern classics as "colors of caviar," artichoke and black truffle soup, and salmon iceberg. A few years back, a writer for Gourmetate the same food at the Paris and Las Vegas restaurants and found them pretty much equal in quality. And at the Las Vegas one, you can even see the Eiffel Tower out the window (the one at the Paris Hotel), which the Parisian Guy Savoy can't match.
1) Joël Robuchon, Las Vegas
The cooking is simply exquisite in this opulently furnished dining room in the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. As the first restaurant opened in America by the famed, award-winning Robuchon, commonly considered the greatest of modern French chefs, it maintains the highest standards, from its superb service and impressive (and impressively pricey) wine list to such finely crafted dishes as truffled langoustine ravioli and French hen with roasted foie gras and confit potatoes for two. The 16-course tasting menu is a truly memorable experience — as well it ought to be at $425 a head, wine not included.