Las Vegas

A New Strip Restaurant Delights with French Riviera Flavors for a Steal

It's always tomato girl summer at LPM, which invites guests to create their own tomato appetizer.

Photo courtesy of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Photo courtesy of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Photo courtesy of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

The first thing you notice when sitting down for a meal at LPM Restaurant & Bar is a lemon, a pair of tomatoes, and a bottle of olive oil at the center of the table. They aren’t just decorations. Guests are encouraged to pick up a small serrated knife, slice up the tomatoes in whatever shape or size they like, add a squeeze of lemon, and drizzle some olive oil on top to kick off the dining experience with hand grinders of sea salt and black pepper on standby. The do-it-yourself appetizer is an immediate representation of what LPM is all about: bright, simple, flavors driven by fresh ingredients, interactive hospitality, and an integrated art influence.

“You come to LPM to feel at home and that’s something we do in the south of France,” CEO Nicolas Budzynski explains. “There are tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables on the table, and you prepare a salad for everybody to enjoy.”

LPM opens for dinner service at the Cosmopolitan this week, taking over the space formerly home to Milos Estaitorio, which moved to the Venetian more than two years ago. But make no mistake, the Las Vegas Strip resort didn’t just exchange one Mediterranean restaurant for another. While Milos is built on a foundation of Greek heritage, LPM is inspired by the cuisine and culture of the French Riviera.

That’s not to say there isn’t some overlap. LPM shares its predecessor’s appreciation for fresh seafood, composed of simple, elegant preparations that let individual ingredients shine, but LPM is eager to shape the character of its menu with subtle, inventive touches.

Photo courtesy of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Photo courtesy of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Photo courtesy of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Prawns, for example, are blanched for a few minutes with the shells on, then peeled, sliced, and served with olive oil, lemon juice, rock salt, ground pepper, and basil. A quick broil locks in the temperature without going overboard. “That’s what makes them warm,” Budzynski says. “This is not a hot dish; this is a warm dish, and it’s supposed to be like that.”

Whole branzino is nothing new in Las Vegas, but LPM enhances the recipe in its own way with olive oil, honey, red chili, and garlic for an intriguing mix of flavors. The fish is grilled to a crispy skin and then finished in the oven, keeping the meat tender and juicy for a satisfying blend of textures.

All food items are prepared √† la minute, which means each recipe is brought to the table as soon as it’s ready. LPM is a communal experience with dishes passed around the table to share, whether a delicate yellowtail carpaccio with avocado and citrus juices or soft gnocchi with a traditional potato filling and light tomato sauce.

LPM borrows elements of both French and Italian cuisine but mostly avoids the heavy creams and butter sometimes associated with both. A notable exception is the escargot, served inside the shell, which is the restaurant’s best-selling dish at all locations.

The lamb chops already rank among the best in Las Vegas, grilled with ample meat on the bone and a perfect, robust red center. It’s almost like slicing into a steak. The chops are marinated in black olive paste and served on a bed of shallots with dried cherry tomatoes and a spoonful of aubergine caviar, which to avoid confusion here in the States, is actually an eggplant puree that has nothing to do with fish eggs.LPM isn’t shy about aggressively positioning itself as a cocktail destination. The drink menu-and the overall spirit of the restaurant-is inspired by French artist and playwright Jean Cocteau, retracing his life from birth (beginning with the 1889 Americano, featuring Suze, a bitter aperitif balanced by pineapple and vanilla) to party host (a visit to Room 22, a shareable absinthe fountain with seasonal ingredients served exclusively at the bar) and a friendship with Pablo Picasso (reflected in a herbaceous clarified gimlet named after the Spanish artist with tarragon, mint, and orange).

Yet the signature Tomatini is bound to be the restaurant’s most discussed cocktail, crafted with Ketel One vodka, fresh muddled tomatoes, white balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. A touch of simple syrup (adjusted in volume based on the type of seasonal tomato used) adds a hint of sweetness to counter the acidity of the mix. The drink is shaken, strained, and topped with a cherry tomato garnish and fresh ground pepper.

That said, wines are still very much a priority with a prominent cellar display in view of the dining room and eight sommeliers expected to be on duty by the time LPM introduces a lunch menu in February. The restaurant is focusing on French and Italian varietals but will integrate American options to meet demand. A centralized wine station has dozens of bottles on standby, poured at the table into handmade thin-stem glasses. Ask about the selection of rosé, which the restaurant team believes is an overlooked category in the US.

Whether it’s cocktails or wine glasses, LPM is making a point to have prices that begin at $15 or $16, well under what most fine dining restaurants offer on the Strip these days.

Photo courtesy of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Photo courtesy of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Photo courtesy of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

The kitchen is led by Executive Chef Ravikanth Avaduta, who was brought in from LPM in Dubai. The concept is further represented on a global level with locations in London, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Riyadh, Limassol, and Doha. LPM debuted in the United States with a Miami restaurant in 2017, but the Las Vegas version is designed as a more full-throated announcement of the brand’s arrival in the United States. It’s the largest at 11,500 square feet and the first to have a bar-area lounge and private dining room, which leads to an expansive outdoor patio overlooking the Strip.

The restaurant is bright and open, matching the light and easy characteristics of the food. A long sit-down counter carried over from the Milos layout is now an interactive prep area for seafood and salads. Original art pieces and hand-painted accents decorate the walls, almost like a gallery, while built-in furnishings and antique fixtures add a cozy home-like feel. Brass accents, pastel colors, and pops of red are reminiscent of the Belle √Čpoque era in Paris and wouldn’t look out of place in a Moulin Rouge stage production.

A nice bonus: A small shelf that pulls out from every chair is ideal for safe-keeping a purse or other small items. “It’s about 20-percent more for the cost of the chair,” Budzynski says. “But we feel it’s so well appreciated.”

In case you’re wondering about the name, LPM evolved from a now-expired relationship with a Nice restaurant named La Petite Maison, with the brand long moving beyond the association with an image and identity of its own. “We’re constantly challenging the team,” Budzynski adds. “What can we do that’s different? What can we do that’s new?”

LPM is clearly bringing something new to the table in Las Vegas and already feels at home between two other global dining concepts (STK and Zuma) on the third floor of the Cosmopolitan. The restaurant opens in time to capitalize on F1 madness‚Äďand possibly at the starting line of becoming a welcome long-term culinary presence on the Strip.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on¬†Instagram,¬†TikTok,¬†Twitter,¬†Facebook,¬†Pinterest, and¬†YouTube.

Rob Kachelriess¬†is a full-time freelance writer who covers travel, dining, entertainment, and other fun stuff for Thrillist. He’s based in Las Vegas but enjoys exploring destinations throughout the world, especially in the Southwest United States. Otherwise, he’s happy to hang out at home with his wife Mary and their family of doggies. Follow him on Twitter¬†@rkachelriess.

Las Vegas

A Fresh Take on Italian Dining Opens in Southwest Las Vegas

A first look at Basilico Ristorante Italiano.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

You can’t be all things to all people. Yet a new Italian restaurant strikes an intriguing balance between authenticity and inventive touches while helping to shape the identity of a new community in the booming Southwest Valley of Las Vegas.

Basilico Ristorante Italiano is now open at Evora, a master-planned apartment development still under construction that won’t be finished for at least five years. The 160-seat restaurant follows the vision of chef Francesco Di Caudo, a Sicily native who draws on his heritage and experience throughout Italy to build a compelling menu based on traditional techniques and modern ingenuity.

“I come from a country where farm-to-table is nothing new,” says Di Caudio, while emphasizing the importance of ingredient sourcing and simple, straightforward flavor combinations.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

Just look at the appetizers. Americans are used to eggplant parmesan that’s breaded and fried without restraint. Di Caudo sticks to a traditional Sicilian recipe with the vegetable sliced thin, sizzled in a pan, and layered with tomato and basil. No mozzarella. On the other hand, the Smoked Cigar is destined to be a signature showstopper. Duck, foie gras, and porcini mushrooms are packed inside a thin, cracker-like shell, presented in a box, and dipped into a glass ashtray. The “ash” in the centre is a black sesame and truffle mix. Don’t be shy about double dipping.

The risotto is bound to be another conversation piece. The recipe uses Carnaroli rice, a starchy grain from North Italy that produces a creamy texture, balancing the saltiness of a parmesan broth with a sweet splash of chestnut honey. The real surprise is the inclusion of Lavazza espresso, manipulated to crackle in your mouth like Pop Rocks candy.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

All pastas are made in-house, from a parsnip cavatelli to a lamb and thyme tortellini in a broth filtered from braised prosciutto. Some dishes have a subtle Asian influence, including a hamachi crudo with pomelo (similar to yuzu), Hokkaido scallops with oxtail, and a planned octopus braised in dashi. The flavours come to life inside a sharp, contemporary dining room with deep red chairs and stone, wood, and marble touches. The wine collection is dominated by Italian labels, with a few California and Oregon picks thrown in to round out the list. Bottles are on display near the front entrance and inside illuminated square shelves. “It looks like a fancy restaurant, but when you sit down, I want you to have fun,” adds Di Caudio.

Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano
Photo by Louiie Victa, courtesy of Basilico Ristorante Italiano

The bar is the heart of the restaurant, ready to serve up to 16 people inside and dozens more via accordion-style windows that open wide to a covered patio. The outdoor space, temperature-controlled with overhead fans and heaters, effectively extends Evora’s open-air plaza with dramatic water and fire features. It’s a natural spot for tastings and special events with a covered stage for live music. Evora is rolling out in four phases, with the first 342 apartments ready by fall. There could be as many as 1,400 when it’s all said and done. Rent begins at around $1,800 for studios and one-bedroom units and goes up to $4,000 for two-story top-floor residences with a loft and Strip views. The community will include swimming pools, pickleball courts, a putting green, a dog park, firepits, EV charging stations, and pavilions equipped with audio and video features.

“Basilico matches the demographic for our apartments,” says Danny Sorge of Digital Desert Development, the company behind the community. “The term ‘youthful sophistication’ has been thrown around about the restaurant and Evora as a whole. It brings something new to the area.”

Rendering courtesy of Evora
Rendering courtesy of Evora
Rendering courtesy of Evora

The development follows a deliberate strategy to have the commercial tenants in place before the first residents move in, occupying a stand-alone building that strikes a commanding presence on the corner of Patrick Lane and Buffalo Drive. Lemon Tree Cafe & Market is already open as a European-style grocery store with plenty of room to sit down with a sandwich and glass of wine. Keep your eyes peeled for Taps & Barrels (a self-service beer hall), Tachi Ramen, and EVOQ hair salon in the months ahead, with more businesses to come. The timing couldn’t be better. The Southwest Valley is on fire right now, with the Durango hotel and casino and UnCommons mixed-use development taking shape as new attractions in 2023. The Bend, a long-promised shopping and dining district, has been in a holding pattern for years but holds promise in an area where everything is getting bigger and better.

Meanwhile, the team behind Evora is staking a claim with Di Caudio running the kitchen at Basilico. The chef’s recent collaboration with Chef Oscar Amador helped Anima by EDO score a recent James Beard Award nomination and reputation as one of the best new restaurants in Las Vegas. Di Caudio first came to Las Vegas to work at Zeffirino at the Grand Canal Shoppes-a gig he expected to last about six months before returning home. Instead, he stuck around and continued to build his reputation at culinary destinations like Sinatra at the Wynn and Ferraro’s off the Strip.

Ultimately, Basilico will be a restaurant to keep an eye on as it develops under Di Caudio’s guidance. The menu will shift and evolve based on the chef’s preferences and the availability of seasonal ingredients. Di Caudio is also planning a smaller menu and social hour for the bar area and a reasonably priced tasting menu with around 10 dishes served family style.

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Rob Kachelriess¬†has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than nine years. In addition, his work has appeared in¬†Travel + Leisure, Leafly, Supercall, Modern Luxury, and¬†Luxury Estates International’s seasonal publication. Follow him on Twitter¬†@rkachelriess.

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