Vegas hits the jackpot

The city's new restaurants offer a big payout

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Seablue

Michael Mina's newest (and coolest) Vegas venture opened in fall 2003. Build the beginning of your meal from a priced-by-the-piece assortment of shellfish; a salad bar on paper that enables you to make checks next to your choices (snow peas, shaved crimini mushrooms, teardrop tomatoes, olive focaccia croutons); and sets of appetizers categorized by cooking method: raw, steamed, or fried (don't miss the delicious, ridiculous lobster corn dog ― a delicate seafood sausage encased in sweet, crunchy cornmeal).

For entrées, stick with the jet-fresh "surf" list from the grill or the tagines, prepared using the Moroccan clay-pot cooking method adapted by Mina for his quick-braised seafood.

Seablue's wine list is boldly white-heavy, with Rieslings, Gewürztraminers, Viogniers, and Grüner Veltliners from their respective sources all over the world. $$$$. MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; www.mgmgrand.com or 702/891-3486.

Bouchon

In the vein of "just like Mom used to make ― only better," Thomas Keller's Bouchon offers every classic French comfort dish the way it should be done: steamed mussels in a tangy wine and mustard broth; deeply flavored onion soup; rosy slices of roast leg of lamb on a ragout of artichoke bottoms, niçoise olives, and tomato confit; steak and perfect frites. No muddled flavors here (a common vice of comfort foods) ― just pure ingredients and great technique.

Keller's Napa base, along with the menu's heritage, is reflected in the wines; the chef's special French selection can offer a great value and a lesson in French wines. And breakfast on the patio ― coddled eggs, almond-topped brioche, oversize lattes ― is a French treat. $$$. Venezia Tower at the Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; www.bouchonbistro.com or 702/414-6200.

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