In his first day of opening Sage, his new Las Vegas restaurant, Chef Shawn McClain stood outside his restaurant and affably welcomed many diners in person. McClain opened in Vegas’s City Center last Thursday, it’s his fourth eatery and his first outside Chicago. (At City Center, he joins Vegas veterans like Michael Mina and Sirrio Maccione.) Two months ago, McClain abruptly and mysteriously left the kitchen Custom House (although he remains a partner in it), turning over executive chef duties to Aaron Deal. He rented a home in Las Vegas and has been there working on Sage since - “I’m focused on doing a great job,” on making it a “signature” restaurant, he says.
But it was Custom House that got him to Vegas, he adds, since MGM Mirage invited him to open at City Center after Bill McBeath, president of the Aria Resort and Casino where Sage is located, read about the Chicago restaurant. “Las Vegas is the mecca,” says the 2006 James Beard winner of Best Chef, Midwest. “The mindset of a diner out here is perhaps more, I don’t want to say experimental, but the enthusiasm” is great.
McClain imported very few dishes from his existing eateries to Las Vegas, but will serve his miniature foie gras brulee. Opening-night tastes at Sage included beef tartare over a slow poached egg, Kusshi oysters marinated in aged tequila, and escargot and pork belly agnolotti. But, in sharp contrast to much Las Vegas dining, the menu offers several vegetarian options (similar to what’s on the menu at Green Zebra.) He hopes Chicago fans will follow him West and says he aimed for “more of a modest price point, but out here that means” something different than it does in Chicago, he notes. Charred bone-in rib eye tops the menu with a current pricetag of $45 (pricing are still in flux).
So, has McClain been bitten by the star-chef expansion bug? Right now, his plans for another restaurant are “zero,” he says. “Six months from now, we’ll see.”