In a city absolutely full of them, Laguna Pool House truly is a unique dining destination.
Recently opened in the restaurant space originally home to the second incarnation of Simon Kitchen & Bar, Laguna is part of the portfolio at the Palms, but it’s outside the main resort, at Palms Place. It’s also hiding on the sixth floor with its own pool and lounge, and open all day offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour bites and sips, along with a special poolside menu.
If that sounds like a mighty task for the new Palms team to handle, it is, which is why Luke Palladino was brought on as executive chef. He has done it all, from working with Emeril Lagasse at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans to creating Las Vegas concepts with Clique Hospitality and cooking at Wynn.
“It’s an iconic space, and Kerry [Simon] really carved the way and proved people will come to a place off the Strip if it’s a beautiful space with a wonderful energy about it,” Palladino says. “There’s no other place in the Palms with so much natural light, and that in itself makes it unique.”
To capitalize on that energy and refresh the space—the main dining room has 30-foot ceilings—the art and decor were redone, and the lounge and seating throughout the restaurant were updated. To create new experiences appealing to lots of different clientele, the resort and Palladino’s Meta-Hospitality team are rolling out exciting programming like a rock ’n’ roll karaoke sushi event on Friday nights, a soul-funk Sunday brunch with an hour-long open bar for ladies and a summer pool party launching next month.
If it sounds too clubby for you, don’t fret. “We’re not about girls with bottles or dancing and flashing lightsticks,” Palladino says. “It’s done everywhere, and it’s great, but it’s not our crowd’s jam. We want something different, and something that will resonate with locals.”
The food is also designed with locals in mind as much as Vegas visitors looking for an off-Strip oasis. If you’re having a pool day, you might indulge in a massive sushi boat or “taco shop” platter perfect for party groups, or for a low-key lunch, stick with the traditional chicken tenders and fries ($18), a vegetarian Mediterranean pizza ($20) or the kale-and-quinoa Buddha Bowl ($20).
Inside, get your lunch on with a burger ($22) made with a custom blend of short rib, brisket and chuck, or check out the fire-grilled salmon ($24) with English pea and Meyer lemon risotto. At dinner, start with the Gaia’s Garden salad ($15) of Persian cucumbers, Campari tomatoes, whipped feta and kalamata olives, staying light so you have room for grilled branzino ($32) with curry-spiced couscous, smoked Wagyu short ribs ($54) or Duroc pork chop Milanese ($29). There’s a lot of choices, for not a lot of dough.
“We didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves. It’s a global menu, and it’s a great value,” Palladino says. “We’re using high-quality product and not charging Strip prices. We’re doing amazing 12-inch New York-style pizzas, great sandwiches, an awesome burger.”
And the extra ingredient is fun, exemplified by desserts such as Fruity Pebbles cheesecake ($10) and a cast-iron skillet-baked chocolate chip cookie sundae ($11). “We worked on that cookie dough recipe for months,” says the chef. “It’s a half-pound cookie and then it has ice cream, whipped cream and caramel sauce, and this perfect crunchy-edge texture with big bits of milk and dark chocolate.”
LAGUNA POOL HOUSE & KITCHEN Palms, 702-944-3292, palms.com. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 7 a.m.-1 a.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 a.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
Click HERE to subscribe for free to the Weekly Fix, the digital edition of Las Vegas Weekly! Stay up to date with the latest on Las Vegas concerts, shows, restaurants, bars and more, sent directly to your inbox!