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? Experts are weighing in on entertainment, food and beverage and spa trends across the iconic Las Vegas Strip.
Springboarding into Sports
Although an NHL team in Las Vegas has yet to be confirmed, discussions are progressing and the anticipation continues to grow. If a Las Vegas professional hockey team is approved, not only would it mean the first major professional sports team for Las Vegas, according to Mark Prows, Senior Vice President of the T-Mobile Arena, “It would be a springboard for other entertainment and sports in the city.” More specifically, Prows says “the NBA will be watching with intense interest.”
It’s not just about sports. With the April 2016 opening of the T-Mobile Arena and the announcement of the new Monte Carlo theater, Las Vegas will host more stellar entertainment than ever.
For the 20,000-seat arena, major touring acts such as George Strait (April 22-23, September 9-10, December 2-3), Janet Jackson (May 14), Garth Brooks (July 2-4) and the Dixie Chicks (July 16) already have been announced. And the 5,000-seat theater at Monte Carlo, opening at the end of 2016, is certain to bring even more exciting entertainment content to a city already renowned for its offerings.
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 Steakhouse features 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.
Mezcal Cocktails Kick Up Beverage Menus
According to Ricardo Murcia, Assistant Director of Beverage at Bellagio, Mezcal cocktails will have a strong presence on beverage menus this year. A distilled alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant and native to Mexico, Mezcal has found its way into libations on The Strip, such as Lago by Julian Serrano’s Smoked Peach Margarita, made with El Silencia Joven Mezcal. Hecho en Vegas at MGM Grand presents a variety of Mezcal, including its Diablo Rojo cocktail. Hakkasan at MGM Grand’s Bird’s Eye Margarita offers Bird’s Eye chili-infused Alipus San Andres Mezcal.
Tableside Beverage Service
Under the supervision of Schoettler, ARIA has launched a collection of spirit carts featuring rare and high-end bottles for guests’ perusal. The cognac cart at BARDOT Brasserie boasts a Maison Surrene 1946, a Hardy Noces de Perle, Louis XIII and more. The rum selection on Carbone’s cart spotlights rare vintages from around the world, including the Black Tot British Royal Naval Rum; or Jamaica’s sought-after Appleton 50-Year Rum. Daring drinkers can make a selection from Sage at ARIA’s Absinthe cart – such as Pernod, Obsello and St. Georges Absinthe – complete with the traditional flaming sugar cube.
Technology-driven treatments continue to become more significant in the spa landscape. Look for LED and tech-savvy treatments in 2016 to focus more on skin protection and maintenance via cell therapy and machine-based techniques, targeting the younger generation. Jane Cox, Director of The Spa & Salon at ARIA, is excited about introducing an LED bed for full body treatments that will aid in anti-aging, toning, brightening and cell preservation and renewal.
LED technology currently is utilized for repair and anti-aging treatments like ARIA’s Advanced Hydrafacial, which utilizes special equipment and LED-light therapy for vitamin massages and collagen masks. Spa Mandalay also integrates LED into its anti-aging treatments as well as micro-current technology to stimulate, lift and tone facial muscles for an immediate youthful appearance. Overall, ARIA will continue to incorporate LED light treatments and machines into facial services as well as expand its offerings for stem cell treatments and stronger serums.
Expect to see an increase in wellness offerings that encompass the body, mind and spirit. This will be accomplished through physical touch, exercise, diet and meditation, with spa programs marrying treatment and relaxation into a total wellness experience. For instance, Cox encourages guests to use the Ganbanyoku heated stone beds to improve circulation, Shio Salt Room for improved upper respiratory health, and heated outdoor pool for water therapy before and after sessions to enhance the benefits of their treatments – a unique alternative to typical steam rooms and saunas.
According to Spa Bellagio’s Director of Operations Tammi Furce, wellness from within also will be a focal point of this trend with treatments heavy on cellular restoration and deep stretching, such as Spa Bellagio’s Watsu and AquaStretch therapies – the only treatments of their kind on The Strip. Guests also can take advantage of Bellagio’s Next Level Wellness Sessions, which include personalized experiences tailored to their specific physical, health and wellness goals.
The spa doesn’t just have to be about the individual experience. According to Cox, ARIA has noted a rise in group spa experiences such as birthday parties, bachelorettes and friend getaways. Cox also has seen spa treatments offered as part of corporate events, special events and at golf courses. Furce echoes the same sentiment as Spa Bellagio will look to introduce more group fitness classes with options for spa treatments afterward for recovery and relaxation.
Taking the spa outside the traditional arena and supplanting it in a social setting will be prevalent in 2016 as well, with most hotels now offering poolside massages and treatments for both individuals and large groups.