EAT YOUR HEART OUT › As we all know from elementary school, Thanksgiving has its origin in the specter of starvation and deprivation staved off by Native Americans arriving to show the colonists a thing or two about surviving in the New World. The pilgrims were so grateful for the help that they threw a three-day party in the fall of 1621 to celebrate the harvest.
But Las Vegas isn’t a very thankful town. There is no harvest to speak of — Mojave Desert, remember? Winter amounts to a few cool, cloudy days, and providence has more to do with the luck of the draw than any spiritual benefactor repaying you for living a moral life.The obsession with food, though, is where the city and the holiday are of one mind. As one well-traveled professional who recently moved to Las Vegas told me, the best restaurants in the world are no longer in New York, Paris or Rome; they’re in Las Vegas. You can dine with superstar chefs including Gordon Ramsay, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Rick Moonen and Joël Rubochon — each has a restaurant or restaurants in Las Vegas. You can have African fusion one day, down-home barbecue the next and French bistro cooking the day after. There are so many good restaurants in the city’s Chinatown, it would take months to work through them all — and that’s if you are diligent about it.
And those are just the “typical” offerings — fare available pretty much all day, every day. (It really is possible to get almost anything at any time here.) At Thanksgiving, restaurants all over town show off their culinary moxie with menus unlike anything Mom used to make back in Wichita. Prix fixe feasts are big. In fact, there are dozens of them, ranging in price from about $30 to more than $200 a person, and the choices are overwhelming. A few samples from last year’s Thanksgiving menus around town will give you an idea of the variety on offer: How do lobster bisque, sweetbreads and oysters with wasabi-basil cream at Jean Georges Steakhouse sound as an opener? For the main course? Perhaps wild turkey with chestnuts, cabbage and sage gravy at Bartolotta, Ristorante di Mare. Or maybe foie gras stuffing, which is a combination of all things wonderful, at Comme Ça at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Then again, across town, Gonzalez Y Gonzalez could be preparing chipotle turkey barbacoa enchiladas with roasted poblano and mashed sweet potatoes. Don’t like turkey? At home, you just suck it up and eat it. In Vegas, you have options, from veal (SW Steakhouse) to venison (Aureole at Mandalay Bay) to bourbon-barrel-aged ham (Table 10 at The Palazzo).
Thanks to the rise of high-end dining, buffets, from the traditional to the opulent, aren’t the center of the dining scene anymore, but they’re still popular with the load-your-plate crowd. The Buffet Bellagio is widely acknowledged as one of the best in town and costs around $45 per person.
So many choices, such a short holiday. Vegas is an argument to return to the original Thanksgiving schedule and stretch the party to three days. (Insider tip: Look for the comprehensive list of menus and prices published each November at www.lasvegassun.com by the Las Vegas Sun.)