In the last few years, Las Vegas has gone from debauched adult playground to kid-friendly Disneyland and back. More recently, it’s become the adopted home of several of the country’s most lauded chefs. José Andrés, Scott Conant, and the Bromberg brothers are among a group of transplants opening restaurants in the new Cosmopolitan Las Vegas hotel, making its debut today. Eric and Bruce Bromberg of the mini Blue Ribbon empire in New York sat down with Fork in the Road to talk about re-creating the Big Apple in Sin City.
What will the Vegas restaurant be like?
Bruce: We are doing a Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar and Grill, which is the restaurant that we opened up on 58th Street near Columbus Circle a few years ago. It’s a combination of our sushi restaurant downtown and some of our favorite dishes from the other Blue Ribbon restaurants, but all still served in a traditional Japanese style.
Does the place in Vegas have a New York vibe?
Bruce: Everything we do has the same vibe. One of the really alluring parts of the Vegas project was that the Cosmopolitan wanted us to do exactly what we do. They didn’t want us to adapt to the Vegas scene or try to be something we aren’t. I think the restaurant, though it’s a bit bigger than what we’ve done in New York, is similar. It’s still the same guys designing it. Eric and I are really hands on in that process. We’ve been working with the same architects for the past 20 years, so the restaurant really does come across as a Blue Ribbon. I think anyone who walks into it gets the same feel they would get in one of the restaurants in New York.
Is it difficult to establish an identity when you’re setting up in a big, flashy place like a Vegas hotel?
Eric: I don’t think so. We have nine places in New York, and they’re all Blue Ribbon restaurants. They come from Bruce’s and my head and heart, so it doesn’t matter who’s next to us or what’s going on around us. Our focus is what’s within our four walls. We’ve been approached about other projects over the past 14 or 15 years — theme projects and other things in Las Vegas, all of which we chose not to do. This is an extraordinarily different project and everything really clicks for us here.
Why are chefs and restaurateurs attracted to Vegas these days?
Bruce: Specifically to this project, we’re all first-time Vegas restaurateurs. I think there was this allure of being able to make what we wanted and being able to create that neighborhoody, local vibe that we all have. It’s just a great opportunity, being a part of the new direction of Vegas, which is I think what the Cosmopolitan is.
Are there any other restaurants in the hotel you’re excited to try?
We’ve tried everything already. That was part of the interest in the project, that everybody who was doing it were first-timers to Vegas and had the same passion for making customers happy that we did.
What are some of your favorite places to eat in New York?
Bruce: We definitely go out to a lot of ethnic, hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I’m a big fan of Barbuto on Washington Street. It’s super-casual, and always fresh and good. It’s kind of a cool way to eat. Jonathan [Waxman] is a good friend and such a good chef, so that’s a definitely a fun place to go.
Eric: Benihana is where we go when we eat somewhere that’s not our own place. That’s where we go to think and return to our roots.
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 15, 2010