Every dish at Diego captures Latin audacity
By Brock Radke
Photos by Christopher DeVargas
Just as bold, colorful and creative as the legendary artist it’s named for (Diego Rivera), the restaurant Diego at MGM Grand isn’t just a great place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. It’s also one of the city’s finest Mexican eateries, a top spot for tequila and handcrafted cocktails and an electric nightlife venue on Friday and Saturday nights. Essentially, it doesn’t matter if it’s Cinco de Mayo here; there’s an enticing, delicious party happening every night of the year.
There are few restaurants that can compete with Diego’s fiery environment: brilliant shades of pink, orange and lime green splashed about open spaces with high ceilings, flickering candles, cozy booths and intimate nooks. The pre-party begins with happy hour in the bar and lounge area, where pitchers of fruity sangria or classic margaritas are passed around and plates of crisp taquitos of tomato-and-chile-braised beef with fire-roasted salsa are shared among friends.
The Latin-flavored dance party Vida takes over at 11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with Spanish-influenced pop, rock and reggaeton raging into the wee hours of the night. Always focused on high-quality cuisine, Diego features a special pre-club menu of tableside guacamole prepared with unique touches such as serrano chile and sun-dried tomato, quesadillas with lime-marinated grilled chicken and rich queso fundido, a baked cheese dip, flavored with pork carnitas and Negra Modelo black beans.
The powerful dose of fun at Diego is not enough to outshine some of the Strip’s most innovative and refined Mexican food. A meal here is a series of choices between classic dishes and modern twists, with big, bold flavors in abundance. And no meal is complete without the popular starting small plate (it’s actually very big) of barbacoa de chivo, goat braised slowly with guajillo chiles and onions and served with fresh, handmade corn tortillas. The meat is impossibly tender and succulent with a rich flavor not nearly as gamey as expected. Augmented with your favorite of Diego’s signature salsas, it leads to the perfect, authentic taco experience.
On the lighter side, you can begin with tortilla soup dotted with avocado and sour cream, or the restaurant’s namesake salad with romaine lettuce, chayote squash and more veggies in a cilantro-roasted poblano dressing. Several seafood cocktails and ceviches tease the palate with brightness, particularly the artfully prepared ceviche verde with Fiji snapper marinated in lime and orange juices with a smooth avocado mousse.
Does that sound like Mexican food? If you’re looking for more familiar fare, carne asada (upgraded to ribeye steak from the usual skirt steak), enchiladas or chile rellenos will surely satisfy. The slow-cooked, Yucatan-style pork shank dish known as puerco pibil, served with pickled red onions and habanero salsa, will redefine your tastebuds and your expectations.
Another meaty masterpiece is the kitchen’s new beef two-ways dish, dubbed “dueto de carne con huitlacoche.” On one side, a red chile-marinated filet mignon grilled to perfection, decorated with a nopales (cactus) salad and huitlacoche crema, which has a trufflelike flavor. On the other, huitlacoche-braised beef cheek. It’s but one beautiful dish at a beautiful restaurant.
5:30-10 p.m. Sun.-Fri., 5-10 p.m. Sat., bar 4-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 2-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 702.891.3200