Wynn Las Vegas and its companion property, Encore, have never had a Mexican restaurant, but the team behind what will be its first are hardly strangers to the resort. Even if the move was somewhat unexpected.
“We’ve been going to Las Vegas and the Wynn, specifically, for over 10 years now,” Santiago Perez said of himself and his partners in ATM Group, chefs Enrique Olvera and Daniela Soto-Innes. “We never really thought about doing something until a couple of years ago, we were celebrating Enrique’s birthday. We said if we ever did something in Las Vegas, it needs to be here.”
What they couldn’t have predicted was that “here” turned out to be the exact space where they were celebrating that birthday dinner. At the time it was Andrea’s, but when Encore opened, it was the shape-shifting Switch. As of March 19, it’ll be Elio, the first Mexican restaurant at the twin resorts since Wynn Las Vegas opened in 2005.
“We explored different opportunities, but Wynn really felt like home,” Perez said. “We felt they shared a lot of the values that we have in our restaurants — not cutting corners, being the best in class, always being themselves.”
Perez said Elio, like the ATM Group’s acclaimed Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme and Atla in New York (and Damia, set to open in Los Angeles in May), won’t be a stereotypical Mexican-American spot.
“We’re doing our own interpretation of Mexican food,” he said. “It’s going to have a contemporary element to it,” with dishes such as stuffed crab, lobster with chorizo, whole snapper, green mole with turnips and creme brulee.
Produce will be a major focus, he said, with some large-format options that can be shared and others designed to pair well with tequila and mezcal drinks.
“We want it to be fun; we want to engage with the Las Vegas diner,” Perez said. “We’re really excited about this. We intend to take a look back at the showmanship of the city. We want it to be a restaurant you can come and visit before going out.”
The contemporary feel will extend to the design, he said.
“We crafted something very specific to the space,” Perez said. “It’s got a few things to consider; it has to share the DNA of the other restaurants that we own, but also blend in to the collection of restaurants that are at the Wynn. One of the main differences with our other restaurants is it’s going to be a bit darker, more sexy.” He said he wanted to keep the details secret for now, but promised “something very special.”
Perez said the trio have some experience in American misconceptions about Mexican culture.
“I think it’s super-important to convey the different elements of our culture that sometimes are misrepresented in the U.S.,” he said. “At the restaurants in New York, we live with these every day. A lot of people come in looking for the typical stereotypes like guacamole and margaritas. I think our culture is much more wide than that.
“It’s a good opportunity to showcase the different flavors, different textures, even Mexican hospitality as we know it. We want to come in not as teachers or preachers — because we don’t think that way — but as guides to show you what we really love. It’s with that spirit that we’ve always done things. That’s why, I think, Las Vegas is really important to us. We really can’t wait to open, not only to do this project and hopefully be successful, but also to have a place to go ourselves.”