The NINTH island

Roots run deep from The Strip to Hawaii

All “eyes” are on the hip Andrea’s at Encore Las Vegas. -- BARBARA KRAFT photo

Hawaii boasts eight main islands that are ringed by blue ocean waters and tropical greenery — and Las Vegas is set in the middle of a bone-dry desert, according to Nevada Public Radio.

Yet the roots run deep from the Strip all the way to Hawaii. It has the largest population of Hawaii residents living outside the Aloha State, and the rest of us love to vacation there, so the city is often fondly nicknamed “The Ninth Island.”

“I’ve participated in numerous food and wine festivals and have vacationed in Hawaii many times over the last 20 years. It’s become a tradition and is like a second home for me,” confides celebrated Chef Hubert Keller, owner of Fleur and Burger Bar restaurants at the Mandalay Bay.

“Year after year, I like to get together with my friends, chefs, winemakers and farmers — and we always discover new restaurants, wine bars and lounges each Hawaii visit. It’s a unique experience in a unique place!”

Keller was most recently in Hawaii in October at Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, and he has made chef appearances at the Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort.

Wagyu beef carpaccio is a signature dish on its Asian-inspired menu. -- JEFF GREEN photo

“I absolutely feel the Ninth Island connection,” he emailed The Maui News. “Whether at Fleur or Burger Bar, Hawaii diners are truly making it a point to visit and I’m grateful for the support. Mahalo.”

At Fleur, Hawaii diners go there for gourmet small plates inspired by global cuisine and hopefully to catch a glimpse of the famous chef.

Born in Alsace, France, the superstar Keller was named “One of the 10 Best Chefs in America” by Food & Wine magazine, he co-authored “Eat More, Weigh Less” with Dr. Dean Ornish, has cooked at the White House and has appeared on many TV shows.

Under his expert direction, Fleur Executive Chef Robert Camacho delights diners with maple-glazed pork ribs hidden beneath a smoke-filled glass dome; Keller’s competition-winning “In The Shower” mac ‘n’ cheese made with lobster and brunoise vegetables from an appearance on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters”; FleurBurger 5000 made with Wagyu beef, foie gras and truffle served with a bottle of 1995 Chateau Petrus; and artichoke barigoule trimmed with asparagus, baby carrots and basil.

Fleur is open for lunch and dinner daily. For reservations, call (702) 632-72200.

At Fleur in the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, sink your teeth in to maple-glazed pork ribs and -- Photo courtesy Fleur

Michael Mina first appeared on this island back in the old Maui Prince Hotel days. He’s gone on to much acclaim and now his Mina Group operates 26 restaurants in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Oahu, Seattle and Florida.

His Bardot Brasserie in the Aria Resort & Casino is his newest in Nevada.

“Bardot is a true Parisian brasserie that focuses on classic French cuisines and techniques; it will not disappoint,” he emailed The Maui News. “I love Hawaii — and one day would love to have a concept in Maui!”

His Executive Chef Joshua Smith embraces the culture and feeling of foods served at a Parisian cafe while focusing on the details of a modern craft kitchen.

Savor Burgundian escargot wrapped in puff pastry shells, French onion soup aromatic with fresh Perigord truffle and braised oxtail, and sausage of foie gras and duck.

crunch ahi tuna tacos -- Photo courtesy Fleur

Can’t decide? Opt for the power lunches at a set price. And try not to fill up on the fantastic freshly baked breads. Whole loaves are brought to the table warm and wrapped in parchment paper.

“Bardot offers guests a place to start the evening, celebrate with cocktails, revel in a meal with friends and enjoy long and lively weekend brunches,” says General Manager Roberto Liendo.

For reservations, call Bardot at (702) 690-8610.

At Andrea’s in Encore Las Vegas, diners can’t get enough of hip Asian cuisine in a stylish room by Executive Chef Devin Hashimoto.

Hashimoto “channels” his childhood in Hawaii, training in Japan and classical French technique to offer an energetic Asian menu with distinct and modern twists.

created by Huber Keller, a superstar chef who loves to come to Maui. -- Photo courtesy Fleur

“Accentuating Andrea’s high energy and opulence with a contemporary ‘vibe’ style of dining that’s more fluid and less formatted than the traditional three-course model, Hashimoto’s dishes feature many sharable plates ideal for lively group dining,” states his biography.

A previous winner of “Best Chef on the Strip” by Vegas Seven magazine, Hashimoto previously worked as chef de cuisine of ALEX, the Michelin two-star restaurant at Wynn Las Vegas, and he helmed the kitchen of Mizumi Japanese fine-dining restaurant, also at the Wynn.

“I grew up in Honolulu and at a young age I learned how to appreciate high-quality fresh fish and produce,” he says. “My mom prepared meals that still inspire me.”

When not at the restaurant, Hashimoto enjoys spending quality time in his Las Vegas home with his wife and keiki, where they can sometimes be found cooking together in their kitchen.

The King’s Hawaiian roll is made with top Wagyu beef in King’s Bakery Hawaiian rolls with aged cheddar. Or enjoy seafood on ice, miso black cod with pickled papaya and Jidori chicken breast adobo for a taste of home in Vegas. But don’t wear shorts and slippers as this is a dressy place.

Michael Mina, acclaimed chef/owner of restaurants from Las Vegas to Oahu, shines at Bardot Brasserie in the Aria Resort & Casino. -- ERIC WOLFINGER photo

For Andrea’s reservations, call (702) 770-2120.

Situated in the center of the Las Vegas Strip, Primrose gets inspiration from the South of France with an all-day menu running from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. Its culinary emphasis is on open-fire cooking.

Primrose marks the first phase of a transformation of Monte Carlo Resort and Casino to the much-anticipated Park MGM hotel.

Many of its staff have lived in or visited Hawaii. They show aloha spirit when they serve monster pancakes at breakfast, Provencal fried chicken or a big bowl of bouillabaisse. The craft cocktails utilize the fresh herbs from Primrose’s garden. For further information, visit

* Carla Tracy can be reached at

-- Photo courtesy Bardot Brasserie

Michael Mina’s“mile-high” French toast -- KEVIN McCULLOUGH photo

and eggs Benedict are available Saturdays and Sundays with a range of fine champagnes, wines and craft cocktails and the largest Chartreuse list in Sin City. -- Photo courtesy Bardot Brasserie

Primrose Garden features a custom-built, wood-fired grill using peach, almond and mesquite woods. -- PATRICK MICHAEL CHIN photo