Todd English is back, and he’s going big. The celebrity chef that helped Bellagio make such a big splash in the culinary world with a Vegas version of his legendary Boston eatery Olives is bringing that concept back to life at the upcoming Virgin Hotels Las Vegas and creating something new with the Beast Food Hall at recent arrival Area15.
English’s second tour of duty in the desert in also different because he’s moved to Las Vegas full-time.
“Even back in the Bellagio days, I was always bouncing around,” he said at last month’s Virgin opening announcement. “I would spend at least three months a year in Las Vegas because there was a lot to do. But living here is completely different.”
English, who also opened now-shuttered restaurants Onda at the Mirage and P.U.B. at the Shops at Crystals, will start with the Beast in December before Virgin makes its debut in January. “To be part of these two amazing projects coming out of this weird time we’re in is really exciting,” he said.
The Beast launched as a temporary pop-up experience last week at Area15, the off-Strip experiential entertainment complex, serving a curated menu in an outdoor environment Sunday through Thursday from 5 until 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. until midnight. The menu includes seared salmon with crispy Brussels sprouts and sweet potato puree, tuna tartar wonton tacos, chili-lime watermelon salad, Korean chicken wings and short-rib burger sliders.
The opportunity to reconnect with Vegas locals was a big factor in developing both restaurant projects, said English, who had been looking for a spot to resurrect Olives when he connected with Virgin.
“That is something we really emphasized when we opened Bellagio in 1998, before the reservation systems of today. If you had a 702 number, you got preferred reservations at Olives for lunch,” he said. “A lot of locals don’t like to go to the Strip. But with this new Olives, it’s set up very similar with great valet and parking, easy in and easy out, and you won’t even have to through the main casino to go to our restaurant. I’ve only been a local for six weeks, and I totally understand it. There are a lot of great restaurants, but you don’t necessarily want to go through everything to get there.”
He’s looking forward to modernizing the familiar Olives cuisine for the new location at Virgin, the former Hard Rock Hotel site, but he’ll include favorite dishes from the restaurant’s past.
“We’re going to give them the classics they know, like the carpaccio and the [butternut squash] tortelli, and then launch them into Olives 2.0. There will be a lot more plant-based, Mediterranean-style food. I’m going to do what I always do, try not to pull punches and use common ingredients in uncommon ways to make food that’s approachable and fun with a twist.”
Olives is expected to open with Virgin Las Vegas on January 15.