Following an Eater tradition, we asked a group of restaurant critics, journalists, bloggers, and friends of the site to weigh in on the year in food. Their answers to the annual Year in Eater survey will be revealed in several posts. Next up, the dining experts share the restaurants that permanently closed in 2020 that they will miss the most.
What was 2020’s saddest restaurant closure?
Emmy Kasten, freelance writer: I was heartbroken to see Estiatorio Milos say farewell to their prime location at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Though the restaurant will soon reopen at the Venetian, I will miss enjoying Milos’ signature lunchtime menu while taking in the views from the sunlit patio.
Philip Tzeng, food blogger at Las Vegas Fill: It has got to be Pamplemousse. One of the oldest, most iconic restaurants in the city, I have very fond memories of every dinner over the years, but with conventions gone and in-room dining capacities being what they are, there was no way it was going to last in the current situation. It is a Vegas landmark that should have been here forever.
Krista Diamond, freelance writer at Eater Vegas: Losing Pamplemousse is losing a piece of Las Vegas history. I drove by there the other day and longed for one last meal in that wonderful, intimate dining room. Alas.
Rob Kachelriess, Las Vegas writer at Thrillist: I was disappointed to hear Maui Exiles closed in Henderson. It opened at the onset of the pandemic by a couple who just moved here from Hawaii. The chef was making exceptional cuisine that far outpaced the casual nature of the dining room. I understand Pamplemousse is an emotional loss for a lot of longtime Las Vegans. Sage was a Strip restaurant that had everything going for it — food, atmosphere, absinthe — yet seemed to get lost in the shuffle between all the restaurants at the Aria. Now that it’s closed, I regret not eating there more often.
Louiie Victa, Eater Vegas photographer and co-host of Two Sharp Chefs and a Microphone: There’s so many restaurants I will miss but if I had to name my top three, it would be Pok Pok Wing, Pamplemousse, and Sage. Damn you, COVID!!!
Nina King, Las Vegas Magazine managing editor: Sage
Melinda Sheckells, editor OffTheStrip.com, OnTheStrip.com: Elio! I hope it is only temporary … they never even had a proper opening and I am major fan of Enrique Olvera. One of my top non Las Vegas based meals of 2020 was at Manta, his restaurant in Cabo.
Scott Roeben, Vital Vegas: This year has been just brutal for everyone, but restaurants have taken an especially hard hit, including recent restrictions limiting capacity to 25 percent. A number of restaurants closed, or are currently on the verge of closing, permanently. For some, it was just time to go. The departure of Flock & Fowl, Mesa Grill at Caesars, Hamptons and Brio at Tivoli are worth a mention, and Estiatorio Milos at Cosmo was another notable closure. Of course, some of the biggest closure news is related to buffets. Those closures marked a cultural change in the casino world, and it’s likely to make the end of an era, for better or worse.
Melanie Lee, Eater Vegas: There have been too many. Watching the local businesses struggle and shutter has been so heartbreaking. I also think it’s really sad to see so many of the buffets disappear. I completely understand the reasoning but it’s still sad to see! When I was a tourist in Vegas and under 21, the buffets were my favorite part of visiting!
Bob Barnes, editor of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional and Las Vegas writer for Gayot: I was sad to see chef James Trees’ Ada’s in Tivoli Village close. I loved the cool “trees” décor, chef’s designer pizza creations enhanced with non-traditional ingredients like foie gras, quail eggs, salt cod, clams, white asparagus, and charred fennel; and unique ice cream flavors utilizing ingredients one would not normally find in ice cream (like peach and ricotta or balsamic strawberry and buttermilk!). I also miss Shiraz. Chef Jainine Jaffer, the 2020 Silver State Award recipient for “Best Female Chef,” introduced me to flavors I’d never experienced before, serving up the best of Indian, Pakistani, Persian, and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, with the likes of goat korma slow simmered in a rich sauce of yogurt, spices and nuts; and kheer, her grandmother’s recipe, which is Indian rice pudding with rose-infused milk.
Susan Stapleton, editor of Eater Vegas: Ricardo Zarate’s Once. I miss every bite of Zarate’s Japanese-influenced Peruvian Nikkei cuisine, including big eye tuna sashimi ceviche with black truffle and kizami tigers milk; arroz chaufa with snow crab, yuzu aioli, and crispy calamari; oxtail bibimbap with black mint stew, tacu tacu rice, fried egg, and plantains; and nasu panka miso with braised eggplant, blue cheese, and kiwicha. The brunch at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill was one of my favorites. That burger. The goat cheese queso fundido. Both chefs promise to find new homes in Las Vegas for their restaurants, and I hope that’s true.
• All Year in Eater Coverage [ELV]