By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, November 4, 2001

Las Vegas, Nevada

Forget casinos and show girls. Tourists are now flocking to Sin City for great food, too. The odds are in the diners' favor at these three restaurants.

AUREOLE (Mandalay Bay Resort, 702-632-7401):

Talk about star power: Adam Tihany designed the rooms and Charlie Palmer created the menu. Half the fun is watching one of the graceful "wine angels," suspended by invisible cables, pluck your bottle from a glass-enclosed "cellar" that soars four stories in the air. The other half is sampling contemporary American cooking -- lobster minestrone, truffle-strewn duck -- served by waiters who treat everyone like a high roller. Fixed price dinners $55, $75 or $95.

BORDER GRILL (Mandalay Bay Resort, 702-632-7403):

Much as we applaud the cliche-free interior of this colorful Mexican oasis, a table on the lively outdoor patio feels like a day at the beach, thanks to an 11-acre lagoon just steps away. The food helps fuel the illusion, too. Look for scrumptious fish tacos, plantain empanadas, cumin-scented skirt steak and green corn tamales -- bold cooking from chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger of Food Network fame. Dinner entrees $14-$27.

RENOIR (Mirage, 702-791-7353):

The work of the French painter actually graces the walls of the dining room, pretty in yellow silks and dark woods. But Renoir isn't the only artist on display. Alessandro Stratta, who has apprenticed at some of the best restaurants in the world, is pulling in food lovers with a menu that weaves regional French and Italian flavors. Seek out roasted scallops with corn crepes, winey beef short ribs with candied shallots, and wild turbot lavished with fresh hearts of palm, toasted almonds and black truffles. Dinner entrees $35-$44.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company