Vegas Dining With a Water View


The Wyatts // (c) 2011 Marche Bacchus

The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 19, 2011
By Bill Ordine

Dining with a water view in Las Vegas generally means nachos and a mojito at a hotel swimming pool. But at Marche Bacchus, a bistro-style restaurant in the northwest part of the city, it's the real deal.

Marche Bacchus is in Desert Shores, a master-planned community about 10 miles from the Vegas Strip that is set around four elongated man-made lakes. The restaurant's dining terrace looks out over one of them.

Owners Jeff and Rhonda Wyatt have been sprucing up the terrace and tweaking the menu since they bought the restaurant four years ago.

"We live right there near the restaurant, and we were customers," Rhonda Wyatt says. "We loved it so much that we would be there three, four times a week. It was our second home."

When the previous owners, a couple from France, put the place up for sale, the Wyatts left their corporate jobs and plunged into the restaurant business, tackling the challenge simply from their perspective as customers.

Marche Bacchus already had a reputation for its extensive selection of wines. The entrance is filled with wooden bins of more than 950 labels of international and American wines.

"We felt we knew what the place needed. It obviously had a great view and this terrific wine program, but we felt the bar needed to be raised on the food," Wyatt says. "It was what Jeff called 'going for the trifecta.'"

Most recently, Marche Bacchus has tried to nudge the culinary bar higher with recommendations from Alex Stratta, a Vegas superstar chef whose restaurants at the Mirage and Wynn Las Vegas casino-hotels regularly collected Michelin stars. And the Wyatts hired Joe Swan, who worked at ALEX, Stratta's now-closed ultra-upscale French restaurant at the Wynn, to take over day-to-day kitchen operations.

"We'd like to move closer to a fresh-market menu, making sure that the ingredients are as absolutely fresh as we can possibly get," Wyatt says.

Marche Bacchus' lunch and dinner selections have a bistro sensibility (think gourmet cheese plates and lobster-salad croissant) with a New Orleans thread (gumbo and pasta jambalaya), which is a reflection of the Wyatts' Crescent City roots.

A signature dish is lobster pot pie, featuring half a pound of lobster, mushrooms, roasted tomato, spinach, lobster cream sauce, and a pop-up pastry topper.

Dinner entrees are generally in the $25 to $40 range, and lunch and Sunday brunch items are between $10 and $19.

Where diners get a break is on the wine. Rather than browse a pricey wine list, customers wander among the restaurant's wine bins, pick a vintage, and pay what amounts to liquor-store retail price, plus a $10 corkage fee. Customers can also chose from among 40 wines by the glass in one-, three-, and five-ounce portions, and sample an $80 or $90 wine for as little as $4.50.

Recognizing that Marche Bacchus' most appealing draw in desert-bound Las Vegas is the contrasting view of placid Lake Jacqueline with its swans and ducks, the Wyatts have enhanced the dining terrace, which seats about 140. State-of-the-art misters tame scorching summer temperatures, and outdoor heaters, plus a couple of fireplaces, take the chill off winter evenings. There is also seating for about 40 inside.

Complementing the visual experience of dining alfresco at Marche Bacchus are jazz artists Wednesday and Friday evenings and a flamenco guitarist Sunday and Monday nights.

"Right now, about 90 percent of our customers are locals," Wyatt says. "But then we do get some tourists who are simply tired of eating in a casino on the Strip. And when they find us, they seem to keep coming back."


The Tropicana in Las Vegas recently completed its transition from what had become an aging Strip property that appeared to be on life support to an upper mid-market resort flashing some style while offering value.

The finishing touch was refurbishing an already expansive swimming-pool area and adding a Nikki Beach component that includes a separate pool, cafe, and nightclub. Nikki Beach is described as a "beach-club concept" with outposts in exotic international locales, such as Saint Barts, Saint-Tropez and Marbella, distinguished by an all-white motif including tepees that serve as cabanas.

The pool area is divided into two sections.

The main free-form pool, which is for hotel guests, has a waterfall and is surrounded by four acres of palm trees, lawn, and red-and-white flora to match the hotel's color scheme. The swim-up blackjack tables are still there.

Nikki Beach, covering almost two acres, has a cover charge: $20 for women, $30 for men. At night, the nightclub, Club Nikki, kicks into gear, featuring visits by Champagne Muses --young women who descend from above bearing magnums of bubbly.

"It's two distinct experiences," says Tom McCartney, the Tropicana's president and chief operating officer. "Nikki Beach and Club Nikki do a great job of attracting Gen X and Gen Y, and the Tropicana pool does an equally good job of appealing to Baby Boomers."

McCartney points out another advantage of the pool: plenty of chaise longues. At many Vegas resorts, getting a chair by the pool is often a headache. Not so at the Trop, which has about 1,400 rooms--almost boutique by Vegas standards.


Bill Ordine: [email protected]


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