Fontainebleau Las Vegas will open in December 2023 on a 25-acre site at the north end of the Strip, and it wants to be nothing less than a dining juggernaut. The massive 67-story, 3,644-room hotel and casino will house 36 food-and-beverage concepts, all of which are new to Vegas. Several high-profile chefs are set to make their Vegas debuts, including international superstars Gabriela Cámara and Alan Yau, as well as Los Angeles pasta king Evan Funke.
Cámara will open Contramar Cantina, a sister restaurant to beloved Mexico City seafood spot Contramar. The prolific Yau, who founded Wagamama and Hakkasan, will continue to put his stamp on modern Asian food at two Fontainebleau restaurants; Chyna Club (a Chinese spot with a clubby atmosphere) and Washing Potato (a “whimsical” eatery that will focus on dim sum). Funke will unveil a Vegas outpost of Mother Wolf, his popular, celebrity-laden Roman restaurant in Hollywood. Other prominent Fontainebleau restaurants will include David Grutman’s Papi Steak and Komodo, and Masa Ito and Kevin Kim’s Ito Omakase. Josh Capon will open Capon’s Burgers, Fries & Shakes.
Fontainebleau Las Vegas, the first expansion of the iconic Fontainebleau Miami Beach brand, was initially conceived in 2004 and resurrected when developer Jeffrey Soffer reacquired the property in 2021.
Observer spoke to Cámara and Funke about their plans at Fontainebleau, and it’s clear that Vegas is about giving top-tier chefs an opportunity to expand their repertoire in an outsized and over-the-top setting.
In Mexico City, Contramar focuses on seafood (including its signature red-and-green snapper) and vegetables, and doesn’t serve meat. In Las Vegas, Contramar Cantina will offer meaty taco options alongside raw seafood and extravagant dishes that might include caviar-topped sopes.
“We’ve been working on sourcing a great variety of ingredients from the ocean on the West Coast,” Cámara told Observer. “And we are super happy with what we’ve also been finding in terms of meat options and poultry and pork, and just expanding the menu a bit so that it has something for everybody. I think we’re going to make it more easily attractive to big crowds and to families with people who are not necessarily into only eating fish. With the term cantina, I want to add a more relaxed environment.”
You can expect tequila-fueled evenings at Contramar Cantina, where Cámara has partnered with Casa Dragones founder Bertha González Nieves. The way Cámara sees it, Mexico is festive every day, so the vibe of Las Vegas suits her well.
“What I want to do is celebrate Mexican culture, Mexican food, Mexican ingredients, the Mexican way of eating,” Cámara said. “One of the wonderful things that happens at Contramar is we have a lively atmosphere. It’s loud and busy and packed with people who want to have a great meal, but also want to have a great time and great drinks. I think Vegas is the perfect environment to replicate that aspect of Contramar.”
Funke, meanwhile, sees parallels between Vegas and the original Mother Wolf in Hollywood.
“Obviously, Vegas is extravagant and big and luxurious and people come to come to party, but I don’t think that that’s too far of an extension from what we already do in Los Angeles,” Funke told Observer. “When we opened Mother Wolf in L.A., it provided a big, grand, luxurious, opulent setting for people to have a really good time, and we really hit the mark. So in a sense, I think Mother Wolf was kind of always built for Vegas because of its stature, because of its grandeur.”
But Mother Wolf isn’t just about extravagance.
“I want to make sure that the restaurant that we open is accessible to local clientele, not just casino-goers and convention-goers and game-players,” Funke said. “I really want this to be very much a neighborhood restaurant, just like it is in Los Angeles. So, will there be caviar? Absolutely. Will there be lobster and big steaks? Absolutely. But for the most part, I think Mother Wolf as a concept, as an ethos and as a vibe plays very, very well in Vegas.”
As always, Funke will focus on Roman food and have a dedicated area for making pasta. Like at Hollywood’s Mother Wolf, he’ll serve the four iconic Roman pasta preparations (cacio e pepe, amatriciana, carbonara and alla gricia) and also offer pizza and focaccia.
“Mother Wolf is a purely Roman restaurant,” Funke said. “Our goal is to craft on a nightly basis the most authentic version possible, the most respectful version possible, of the Roman dining experience, minus the bacchanalia and lying down and vomiting and whatnot. The consistency, the almost dogmatic approach of the Roman kitchen, speaks to the consistency that you need in restaurants.”
Funke will use flour and cheese from Italy, but he also clearly understands that the ethos of Italian food is cooking with what’s nearby, so he’s set up a network of vendors that can supply his Las Vegas restaurant with the same vegetables he uses in Los Angeles.
“And like I said, there will be caviar, which is not Roman, but it is Vegas,” Funke said. “It will be presented in a tasteful way, making sure that we have a firm footing in tradition, but also not allowing the tradition to stand in the way of respectful progress.”
For Funke and the other chefs at Fontainebleau, opening in Vegas is about amplifying what they already do well. If you’re already known for being big and grand, it totally makes sense to come to Las Vegas and go even bigger and grander.