With more than 42 million annual visitors, Las Vegas regularly reinvents itself better than any destination around the globe. So what does 2016 have in store for food trends?
Mastering the Classics
Gone are the days of molecular gastronomy and chemically altered food. In 2016, it’s all about a refreshed implementation of classical food and service. “Restaurants are beginning to resurrect the ‘classic’ dining experience that has been seen in the past,” ARIA Executive Chef Anthony Amoroso said.
Celebrity Chef Rick Moonen suggests that plating will become a pivotal focus for restaurants in 2016. As social media steadily becomes a large part of the food industry, guests will seek dishes that are visually appealing. Along with plating, guests are turning away from the “fine” dining experience and moving toward comfortable design, as seen in restaurants such as Alain Ducasse’s Rivea at Delano Las Vegas.
Rather than focusing on passé gimmicks and all the bells and whistles of out-of-the-box techniques, chefs and restaurants are looking to elevate the dining experience by mastering the core elements of service and cuisine. For example, the recently opened Italian-American restaurant Carbone at ARIA offers a table-side cut of veal parmesan and presentation of the banana flambé, while BARDOT Brasserie at ARIA features a classic roast chicken.
Joshua Smith, Executive Chef at BARDOT Brasserie, agrees that restaurants are returning to the basics. “Guests just want honest food – no tasting menus, no micro herbs, no ‘deconstructed’ – just an authentic dining experience.”
Vegetables Take Center Stage
People are more in tune with what they are eating today than ever before, and as a result they are making more meaningful food choices. According to Amoroso, a result of this trend will be vegetables taking center plate in place of traditional main meat courses.
Chef Moonen agrees, saying, “Not only are we seeing trends in how chefs present their food, but we are seeing trends in spices, types of food, and what is being put in the food people are eating. People are looking to go back to the basics with cleaner and healthier food. Artificial flavoring will be the enemy in 2016. Guests will start to see bold flavors and spices used in African and Indian cuisines, and many other diverse cultures. Along with these bold flavors, restaurants will begin to offer guests more alternatives, vegetarian options, and even more gluten free options. 2016 will be a year of trying new things along with dining at restaurants with cleaner menus.”
In line with this trend, ARIA’s BARDOT Brasserie offers a Parisian gnocchi with black trumpet mushrooms and celery root; Jean Georges Steakhousefeatures a cauliflower steak; Rivea serves the roasted panisse and confit sweet bell peppers; and Lago by Julian Serrano at Bellagio has an extensive list of veggie-based shareable plates for vegetarian and meat-eaters alike. “It’s become increasingly important for chefs to cook cleaner, nutrient-dense food,” Amoroso said.
Per Amoroso, in 2016 cauliflower, broccoli and chickpeas will be among the most popular selections, while kale, avocado, Greek yogurt and macadamia nuts will contribute to cleaner ingredient options.
Chef Moonen also sees traditional side dishes such as mashed potatoes and bread being replaced with healthier veggie dishes. RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay will turn its natural vegetables into many of its side dishes. Based on the season, RM Seafood and Rx Boiler Room will use different vegetables in the fall and spring to provide guests with a variety of options throughout the year.
Chicken Sandwich Bonanza
As travelers become more and more health food conscious, many are requesting alternatives to the traditional beef burger. In response, chefs are vamping up the chicken sandwich options on their menus. “In the next few years we will see a significant rise in popularity of the chicken sandwich in Las Vegas,” Amoroso predicts. “Restaurants know that this is becoming a menu item that is high in demand and will influence the burger-heavy culture that we currently see in the city.”
Mandalay Bay’s Burger Bar offers the Marinated Chicken Breast sandwich, while FIVE50 Pizza Bar at ARIA features the Chicken Saltimbocca sandwich. In 2016, Amoroso expects the chicken sandwich to be a popular staple on in-room dining menus across The Strip. Even burger powerhouse Shake Shack at New York-New York claimed the name Chicken Shack for its poultry offering.