Sin City is home to plenty of restaurants and bars, but there are tons of hidden gems that the majority of Las Vegans don’t find. To help guide readers to these potential discoveries, Eater Vegas asked some of the city’s food players to share their recommendations for a feature dubbed Confidential Dinner.
Chef Luis Montesinos began his culinary career working at his family’s restaurants in Washington, DC. After working as a house manager for many years, he came to join the ThinkFoodGroup family as a waiter at Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, where he later became a sous chef. In 2008, he moved to Las Vegas to open and run the kitchen of China Poblano, which debuted at the opening of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. After nearly three years at China Poblano, Montesinos moved to Jaleo by JosÃ© AndrÃ©s, of which he is currently the chef. Here he shares some of his favorite restaurants in Las Vegas.
Do you remember your first trip to Vegas?
I came for a bachelor party, shocking right? It was tame; dinner at Mesa Grill, then we went to Hard Rock to hang out and play.
What has happened that is memorable?
I remember walking in Hard Rock. It was loud and had an electric feel. MÃ¶tley CrÃ¼e was playing. It was like something out of a movie. I was addicted!
What made you decide to move to Las Vegas?
I moved here from Washington, DC to open China Poblano. I had never opened a restaurant before and wanted to experience it, and it was in a brand new hotel. I gave myself three years to live in Vegas, then JosÃ© AndrÃ©s asked me to transfer to Jaleo. I never saw it coming, because I didn’t know anything about Spanish cuisine. Nine years later, I’m still here and I fell in love with Spain via Las Vegas. Kind of a unique trip, right? I would do it again.
Where do you like to have breakfast in Las Vegas?
I like going to the Cracked Egg, the one on Rainbow and the 215. It’s a solid breakfast spot. I take big for breakfast: pancakes, eggs, sausage, English muffin, hash browns and a side of the coffee cake. All that and a newspaper and I’m nice and full for a few hours.
What about lunch?
Cugino’s Italian Deli in Maryland by UNLV. Growing up in Washington, we had an amazing sandwich shop called The Italian Store. They had the best sandwiches. Cugino fills this place in my heart. I get the Donnie’s Special. It contains chicken cutlets, fresh mozzarella, grilled pepper, balsamic vinegar and oil. I add prosciutto because, why not? That’s all a sandwich should be. Cugino’s is a family business which makes me happy as I grew up in a family restaurant.
If you are going out to dinner, which restaurants do you like to frequent?
Recently I went to Best Friend at The Park. We all avoid the Strip on our days off, but it’s definitely worth a visit.
What makes them special?
He has a soul.
Any dishes you can recommend?
I would recommend the spicy pork with thinly sliced ââbelly and shoulders, kochujang, sesame and kori short rib tacos with Korean barbecue, salsa roja, cilantro-onion-lime and chili soy coleslaw. I remember going to LA just to find a Kogi truck so I could get my hands on that taco. It was worth following Twitter just to eat it! Now I can have one any day of the week. In addition, the staff and management are always attentive. Engaging with their customers shows that their staff believe in what they are doing. It’s not just about selling food; they create experiences.
Where do you like to dine for a special occasion?
Bardot Brewery in Aria. Food and service are always top notch. I order a steak tartare and the orange duck with a pan-seared duck breast from the Hudson Valley, Dutch white asparagus, wild ramps, a turnip fondant and seasonal citrus, and a macaroni grantine sauce and mimolette. So good!
Are there any brunches in town that you like to go to?
Chevrons in Aria. Make sure you have a table outside. This is the best patio on the Strip. The brunch menu is everything a brunch place should be; loco moco, sculpture and egg stations, oysters, and they make a Negroni killer. The perfect addition is having DJ Rubble on my iPad for my seven month old Maverick to listen to while we eat.
Let’s say you want to hang out with your friends after work. Where would you like to go?
This is the best part about being in Las Vegas. It doesn’t have to be one place. Start in one place, then work your way up. For example, start at Blue Ribbon for oysters and fried chicken, then go to Momofuku for other snacks and drinks. Then head to The Barbershop Cuts & Cocktails for cocktails or whiskey and a cool cup. Be sure to ask for Fidel. It gives the freshest cuts. At this point of the night, you will have the impression that MÃ¶tley CrÃ¼e is playing in your head; like something straight out of a movie.
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