What It's Like to Dine Inside the Bellagio Conservatory
The Garden Table is one of the most exclusive dining experiences in Las Vegas, with just one party seated at a time.
A hot ticket can mean a lot of things in Las Vegas. An Adele residency, the grandstand at the upcoming Formula 1 Grand Prix, or whatever's going on inside the Sphere. However, Las Vegas is also a place where dinner is an experience and often comes with an air of exclusivity. Bucket-list restaurants like é by Jose Andres and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea serve extravagant multi-course tastings with seating limited to one communal table twice a night. Sometimes price is a barrier, especially at French fine dining spots like Joёl Robuchon and Restaurant Guy Savoy, where the quality is sky-high, but so is the check.
Yet there couldn't be a more experiential, quintessential Las Vegas dinner than a full meal inside the iconic Conservatory and Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio. The resort made it possible with the debut of the Garden Table last year, but the concept has only become more enchanting, captivating, and interactive with seasonal updates. Just one party is seated at a time, adding up to one of the most in-demand reservations on the Strip.
The latest version is the best yet, fully immersed within "Majesty: The Grandeur of Nature," the Conservatory's summer exhibit by Ed Libby and the Bellagio horticulture team. The Garden Table offers the right balance of spectacle and privacy, sitting underneath a mossy canopy of weeping willow branches with spiral stone steps and a bridge-like walkway in a vibrant, jungle-themed design that wouldn't look out of place in an Indiana Jones movie. Think Temple of Doom more than Dial of Destiny. Artificial mist rises above a nearby lagoon, and grassy 28-foot-tall hands stretch toward the atrium ceiling with a floral offering for the heavens. It's a spectacular, serene destination, even with packed crowds testing the limits of phone storage with endless photo snapping.
The Michael Mina restaurant, one of the best for seafood in Las Vegas, seizes on the summer harvest theme with an exclusive three-course menu for up to six guests at the Garden Table. It's an amazing array of flavors built on seasonal ingredients with limited dairy and lighter recipes.
"If you look at the floral arrangements of the Conservatory, the colors, and the spirit of abundance, it's like a revival," says Michael Mina executive chef Raj Dixit.
The menu is expertly crafted with taste and timing in mind. Brentwood corn, for example, peaks in the summer with a bright, sweet flavor profile. It's used as both a side dish with the main course and in an amuse-bouche to begin the meal: a small churro topped with avocado and plump, golden Petrossian Tsar Imperial Daurenki caviar. "Brentwood corn is probably the best tasting yellow corn I've ever had, so whenever it's around, I try to use it," Dixit says. "It's very, very sweet."
Puffed Peruvian corn appears as concha nuts in the seafood starter course, adding texture to the amberjack crudo–a Hawaiian Kona Kampachi marinated for six hours, seared, and brought to life with the acidity of finger limes and sweetness of deep red Sequoia cherries. It's served alongside a New Jersey soft-shell crab, sauteed in flour instead of deep-fried, so you can still taste the ocean-fresh brininess. The crab plate includes basil aioli in place of classic tartar sauce and a selection of stone fruit, usually a combination of yellow peaches, white nectarines, plums, and apricots or apriums, which are like a cross between an apricot and plum.
Just like the previous course, the main entrees are fashioned for the table to share. The restaurant used Alaskan halibut when the summer menu launched in late May but recently shifted to a catch from Maine with a firmer texture. "It's some of the best halibut in the world in my opinion," Dixit says. The fish is sauteed until golden, served with squash blossoms stuffed with ratatouille, and presented alongside grilled lamb chops and peperonata (pepper stew).
It's worth the splurge to opt for a serving of A5 Miyazaki Wagyu, triple-seared with a technique inspired by the late Charlie Trotter. The beef is seasoned in coarse salt, grilled, dipped in sake, grilled, and finally drenched in soy sauce before the final touch on the grill. "It's layers of flavor," according to Dixit. "It takes the Wagyu to a different level."
The meal wraps up with a Grand Marnier souffle of fresh berries with a canal of strawberry sorbet on top. "We try to encapsulate the seasonality of three months into a menu," the chef adds, noting the meal is exclusively available at the Garden Table and nowhere else. Guests can try alternative tasting menus in the main Michael Mina dining room near the northwest corner of the Conservatory.
The Garden Table dinner is $225 per person (with additional charges for the Wagyu and wine pairings) from 6 to 8:30 pm, Wednesday through Sunday through September 9, which is the final day of the Conservatory's summer exhibit. The Garden Table also accepts bookings daily from 7 am to 1 pm for brunch by Sadelle's, featuring a salmon, bagel, and caviar tower for $125 per person.
Enjoy the experience while you can. When September 16 comes around, the Bellagio will start all over again with a new autumn display and fully revised menus to match the season at the Garden Table.