Las Vegas chef Kim Canteenwalla has come a long way since cooking school in Montreal.
He’s worked in top hotel kitchens around the world and alongside his wife, restaurant maven Elizabeth Blau, has reworked culinary offerings at a string of top-end properties, including The Plaza Hotel in New York and the Trump International Hotel in Toronto. But it’s Vegas he now calls home. It’s here that he led Society Café at Wynn Encore to critical acclaim (named one of Esquire’s best new restaurants), ran the kitchens at MGM Grand (that’s 14 food and drink outlets), opened Honey Salt off the Strip last year (with a menu inspired by the couple’s dinner parties) and partnered with the just-opened Buddy V’s at the Venetian, the first restaurant of the Cake Boss star.
“You get used to living in this city that is a continuous entertainment venue for everyone. You’re feeding the very high end. You’re feeding the family that comes in on a budget weekend. Everyone melds together.” Canteenwalla shares his favourite places to eat out, and chill out.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
“Red Rock, the national park, is unbelievable. There’s a 13-mile loop in there. There’s hiking and waterfalls. You can take a car. You can take a bike. There are multiple places to get off and hike. There are wild mules and the further out you go, coyotes. It’s probably 40 to 45 minutes max from the Strip. I just love getting out doors, hiking, hanging out with family.” redrockcanyonlv.org
“Bartolotta at Wynn has been a favourite of mine and my wife’s. My wife brought chef Paul Bartolotta into the city for Wynn. That’s an amazing restaurant and it’s been open for seven or eight years now. They’re redesigning this year. It’s the freshest seafood. He brings a lot of the seafood in from the Mediterranean. He does pasta. The venue itself is phenomenal. There’s a lagoon outside with seating and it’s pretty special when you’re out there. And Paul is a very, very talented chef.” 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South, wynnlasvegas.com
“It’s a place I go after I’m leaving the Strip. For $12 or $13 you get a bowl of noodles and you’re set. The pork broth is so rich, and so clean. They do kimchi rice phenomenally well. They do takana rice as well, which is a little spicy. They do some great dumplings. And it’s just fun watching these guys work. It’s a small open kitchen, 26 seats. It’s two woks in the whole place.” 5030 Spring Mountain Rd., montaramen.com
Las Vegas 51s
“The Las Vegas 51s Triple-A ball team: It’s really a family scene. It’s small. It’s intimate. You can take the kids out just beyond the outfield area where there’s grass and they’re roaming around but watching the game at the same time. These guys are the next generation. They’re on the verge of going to the major leagues. You see them at this point and they end up becoming superstars. It’s kind of cool.” Cashman Field, 850 Las Vegas Blvd. North, milb.com
“One of the old standbys is Spago, Wolfgang Puck’s place at Caesars Forum Shops. They just celebrated their 20th anniversary last year. They’ve been doing it so well for so long. Eric Klein is the chef there. You’ve got to take your hat off to anyone who has been 20 years in one spot. When Wolfgang came in the celebrity chef thing was in its infancy. He’s got multiple restaurants here and Spago is one of the mainstays. What I like is it’s got two parts: the front, which is casual, and the back that is more fine dining. There’s always a good buzz.” 3500 Las Vegas Blvd. South, wolfgangpuck.com