Larrea opened inside the Panorama Towers in mid-December with a lot of buzz surrounding its celebrity chef and master mixologist team-up. The restaurant, which was a collaboration between MasterChef Season 7 winner Shaun O’Neale and master mixologist Benjamin Browning (of Survivor fame), with backing from managing partners Ben Lugar and Keith Waidelich, was billed as O’Neale’s chance to show off his take on modern American cuisine. Less than two months later, Lugar and Waidelich say they’re taking the restaurant in a different direction and O’Neale is no longer with the company.
Lugar and Waidelich declined to share specifics about the separation but said they wish O’Neale the best and have no hard feelings. O’Neale also declined to comment. The kitchen is now being run by Jeff Aspero, a Vegas industry veteran, who is developing new recipes in collaboration with the Lugar and Waidelich.
“In our first trajectory, we didn’t really listen to what guests had to say, so we sent out a bunch of surveys recently and the menu will evolve with what we’re hearing from our consumers,” Lugar said. “We’ve had a lot of questions about lighter meals. When we first opened we were very meat and pork forward, so we’re adding a bunch of salads.”
They’re also adding a cloud kitchen called Panorama Pizza Company which will operate for takeout and delivery only from within Larrea’s kitchen. For now, lots of O’Neale’s dishes are still on the menu, including mafaldine pasta with pork sugo, wild mushroom risotto, and Key lime pie beignets.
Browning’s cocktail menu is still front and center, featuring “fresh, innovative cocktails that are spins on classics,” Waidelich said. Early favorites include the Smokin’ Cloves, a spin on an old fashioned, made with Angel’s Envy, vanilla clove syrup, Angostura bitters, and orange zest and the Panorama Punch, a house punch made with rose, coconut vodka, tequila, house-made cherry strawberry puree, pineapple juice, and fresh lime juice.
“Our real goal is to be the pre-game and post-game spot for people before they go out to a nightclub or lounge on the strip,” Lugar said. To that end, they’ll be introducing promotions around those goals in the coming months, including $50 bottle of wine on certain nights, and other bar specials. Larrea’s menu already has a late-night menu of snacks and pizzas. Lunch and brunch are also on the way.
The airy, 100-seat space was curated by Mexican designer Javier Gracia, who focused on bringing in natural elements like wood, leather, and stone with a mid-century modern bent; the space also includes a small wine retail area called Ralphie’s Wine Shop. The shop, which is named after Brownings daughter, is curated by master sommelier Lindsey Geddes, who also did the restaurant’s wine list. Lugar and Waidelich say the shop is intended to serve the takeout crowd from Panorama Towers and the surrounding high-rises, who might come by to get dinner or lunch, and will have the opportunity to buy a six-pack or bottle of wine to go along with their meal. Waidelich also says they hope to eventually offer wine classes out of Ralphie’s.
Larrea, Panorama Towers, 4515 Dean Martin Dr, 702-463-9777, open Sunday to Monday and Wednesday to Thursday 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. and Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.