Celebrated Picasso marries French cuisine with artistic scene
By Brock Radke
Photos by Peter Harasty
Nearly 15 years ago, Bellagio landed on Las Vegas Boulevard, introducing a new level of luxury and forever changing the way we look at the Las Vegas Strip. We’ve been marveling at this megaresort ever since, allowing ourselves to be repeatedly enchanted by its dancing fountains, garden conservatory and unceasing entertainment.
Bellagio’s initial restaurant collection was a game-changer, too. It was the first Las Vegas casino to bring a large and diverse stable of renowned culinary luminaries to a single Strip property, a template that is now mandatory. The crown jewel of these exquisite dining rooms, then and now, is Picasso. Little has changed at this elegant masterpiece over the years, a 12-time recipient of the AAA Five Diamond Award, nor should it. Perfection is eternal.
As fantastic as the food can be—executive chef Julian Serrano has built a considerable reputation on this menu, inspired by traditional French and Spanish cuisine—it’s hard not to spend much of your time enveloped in the 25 original works of art from the Spanish master from whom the restaurant takes its name. These 11 paintings, plus ceramics and sculpture, lay the foundation for an exclusive, utterly unique experience, infused with a touch of showmanship from the terrace view of those iconic fountains. This is a different side of Las Vegas, as close to a religious experience as dinner can get.
In addition to the spectacular art, the environment feels intimate and relaxed. While ornate and majestic, the restaurant subtly veers away from the stuffy formality of so many fine dining rooms and offers a warm, lived-in vibe. The comfort is amplified by polished service, as the majority of Picasso’s staff has been here since inception—a rarity on the Strip. It would be a shame not to grant master sommelier Robert Smith the honor of some conversation and selective power over the impeccable wine list at his, and your, disposal.
Picasso’s menus do not allow a la carte eating. If you’re looking for options, look no further than its prix fixe, four courses with tantalizing choices at every turn. Seasonality is the name of the game when it comes to Serrano’s style, so dishes change often. Current highlights include a warm quail salad with sautéed artichokes and pine nuts, a filet of black bass with saffron and medallions of fallow deer with caramelized apple. A vegetarian menu also is available, where pristine plates such as a ragout of fava beans, chanterelle mushrooms and pea purée could force even the most devout omnivore to reconsider.
Picasso’s degustation menu is the best way to go, five wondrous courses including amuse bouche and dessert. A recent meal began with a rich, crispy pheasant croquette and creamy potato leek soup, then sweetened the deal with a light Maine lobster salad in apple-champagne vinaigrette. The most heavenly caramelized scallop followed, pan-seared and placed over a delicate potato purée with veal jus to add a deep flavor kick. From there, pure decadence: first, in the form of a sautéed “steak” of foie gras with toasted almonds and plum coulis; then a roasted loin of lean Colorado lamb with mint aioli; and, finally, warm chocolate fondant with a sinful liquid center, offset by tart raspberry gelato. Fair warning: Dining at Picasso may make you forget about what year it is or is about to be. Nothing could be a more special occasion than this quintessential Las Vegas experience.
5:30-9:30 p.m. Wed.-Mon. 702.693.8865