Roy Ellamar tried to quit cooking. The chef and co-owner of Downtown Summerlin’s new Fine Company restaurant was burned out on restaurant life when he first arrived in Las Vegas more than 16 years ago. “I thought I could come to Vegas and be a bartender, because that is also a passion,” Ellamar says.
But the Hilo, Hawai’i native, who had already made a name for himself at high-end destinations like Four Seasons Chicago and Polo Lounge at Beverly Hills Hotel, found himself in the kitchen once again, this time at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand. He started at L’Atelier with hopes of learning the bartending world until the infectious determination of his colleagues, Matt Kirkley and Ryan LaRoche, who both later went on to earn Michelin stars, reignited his love of cooking.
Ellamar was embraced by MGM Resorts International and started working at the now closed Sensi at Bellagio. It re-opened in 2015 with his name on the sign, as Harvest by Roy Ellamar. It’s an honor usually reserved for celebrity chefs — Ellamar remembers it as “a big deal.” The farm-to-table restaurant sourced quality ingredients from local suppliers, small farmers, and specialized gatherers, an ambitious move for a Strip restaurant. Ellamar left Harvest in August 2021. “Honestly, I didn’t want to run another restaurant,” he says. “If I ever did, it would have to be something small, special, and different.”
A year later, Ellamar was running a pop-up at Downtown’s Vegas Test Kitchen, which is where he first met the Lev Group’s Jeff Fine, a restaurateur who has partnered with multiple chefs and entrepreneurs to develop other Las Vegas hotspots, including the Golden Tiki, Harlo, and Evel Pie. Fine convinced Ellamar on the former MTO Cafe space in Downtown Summerlin, and after an extensive design overhaul and months of culinary research and development, Fine Company opened its doors on September 13. The name references the presence of good people — though Ellamar says he loves a good pun.
The food can be classified as New American cuisine, but it’s better described as a reflection of Ellamar’s life journey as a Filipino American born in Hawai’i who has worked in, and traveled to, some of the world’s greatest destinations. Each dish is a result of his heritage, experiences, talent, and seasonality. “I want to prepare simple food with quality ingredients,” he says. His banana bread ($8) has sold out daily since the restaurant’s opening. The mini loaf is his mother’s recipe and is baked a second time just before it arrives on the table to develop a crispy edge and warm center. It’s served alongside a wave of Echiré butter pocked with both Maldon and black Hawaiian sea salt, finished with a drizzle of honey. “I know it’s a good recipe, but I’m surprised at how much people enjoy it,” he says.
Ellamar reinterprets classic brunch and dinner dishes with options like a colorful, layered acai bowl ($12), soft, rich-flavored dates stuffed with savory lamb sausage ($16), and a Jidori fried chicken sandwich swathed in a honey cumin glaze ($19). The crispy salt and pepper shrimp ($18) and brown butter pancakes ($13) served with his special blend of three maple syrups are among the most popular dishes — just behind the banana bread.
The restaurant just started serving dinner, and the seasonal menu features flavor combinations and ingredients that you would only expect at an expensive restaurant on the Strip, like the Caviar Papas ($19), daurenki caviar atop crispy beef tallow potatoes served with a swirl of creme fraiche sprinkled with shiso furikake. The ultra tender Spanish Octopus ($22) is massaged for 40 minutes and served with hard-to-find rancho gordo pinquinto beans, a piquillo pepper romesco sauce, and herb salad. Dessert options also balance the fancy and familiar: panna cotta ($12) is served with red wine syrup; a pineapple upside-down sundae goes for brighter notes ($14); and the China Ranch date cake ($12) is made with locally sourced dates and plated with caramelized pumpkin, miso toffee sauce, and ginger ice cream.
The wine list covers all the bases with vintages from top-growing regions in the U.S., France, Italy, Spain, and New Zealand. The beer list is all local, and the cocktails have a tropical touch with flavors like lychee, coconut, and pineapple. The umami Mary ($13) is an Asian-influenced bloody mary with a blend of Haku vodka, tomato juice, tamarind, gochujang, Asian pear, roasted red pepper, bonito flake, and wasabi. Even the mocktails ($10) on the “Fine A.F.” (short for alcohol-free, another Ellamar pun) are as thoughtfully conceived as their alcoholic counterparts. The Rustic is a warming blend of housemade apple cider, fall spices, and vanilla, garnished with a lemon slice and precisely placed clove buds.
Fine Company’s happy hour is Fine Time. Served Wednesday to Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., the rotating menu highlights seasonal small plates and cocktails not offered at brunch or dinner. November’s small plates include Duck Confit Lumpia ($12) and Whip & Dip ($12) with whipped feta, honey nut squash caponata, and cranberry pecan toast. The cocktails also reflect the season, with mulled red wine mixed with bourbon, egg white, and lemon in Ruby Soho ($11) and green apple miso syrup with gin and black pepper curaçao in Bonita Applebum ($11).
In both the 80-seat dining room and the outdoor olive tree-covered 50-seat terrace, Ellamar hopes to create a place where people keep coming back, where he can feature guest chefs like he did at Harvest, and develop the relationships with customers that were difficult to build among the Strip’s transient tourists. “I want a restaurant where I can see the same people all the time to learn what they like and really tailor an experience for them,” he says.