Ocean Prime, a $20 million steakhouse, will open atop Project 63 on the Las Vegas Strip

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At a desert crossroads four floors up, it’s a journey through pastures and a dip into the brackish depths. For $20 million.

Ocean Prime, the first Las Vegas location for the luxury steak and seafood restaurant brand, is taking shape atop Project 63 at the corner of West Harmon Avenue and the Strip. It’s a particularly upscale stretch of the souk, a central part also populated by The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Aria, The Shops at Crystals, and the Waldorf Astoria.

The $20 million construction features a main dining room, two bars, three private dining rooms, double-height ceilings, and more than 400 seats across 14,500 square feet. A curved glass wall — Ocean Prime is shaped in an oval — separates the restaurant from a 2,500-square-foot terrace overlooking the Strip.

Ocean Prime currently has 17 locations, including Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and New York. The Vegas restaurant’s $20 million cost tops the second most expensive Ocean Prime (NYC) at $7 million and the third most expensive (LA) at $10 million.

But big bucks — exceptionally big — are part and parcel of being in Vegas, said Cameron Mitchell, founder and CEO of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, parent company of Ocean Prime, in an exclusive interview with the Review-Journal.

“In Vegas, everything is overdone to some degree, and we wanted to make sure this restaurant matched that. This will be our flagship restaurant, our most expensive, our largest restaurant to date. It’s the most glamorous restaurant we’ve ever built. At one of the busiest and best known intersections in the United States.

“It’s an iconic location in this iconic city for what we think is an iconic brand. We think it’s a perfect match.

Lots of beef around here

This match took a while to prepare, Mitchell said. “We’ve wanted to be in Vegas for years and years.” Meetings in the summer of 2021 with the Project 63 developers led to the deal which will see Ocean Prime open in the spring of 2023.

When it debuts, the restaurant will have plenty of competition, including the $10 million Toca Madera steakhouse that recently opened almost next door. The Strip (and Vegas in general) has no shortage of places brimming with steak, seafood, and loaded cocktails.

“I love competition,” Mitchell said. “It’s as if the sun rises every morning: it will come. We can’t stop it, so we spend time focusing on what we’re doing within our own four walls. I think a great competition around you creates a better atmosphere. I prefer to be around more successful restaurants; we like to be in the mix.

Another important aspect of Ocean Prime’s approach is to harness the power of the brand without being stupidly stereotypical.

“We think of ourselves as a collection of independent restaurants,” Mitchell said. “We are particularly careful about where we go and how we design restaurants. We want them to fit into every city. We don’t want 100 Ocean Primes nationwide. It’s a nightmare for us to be a cookie cutter.

Menu standards; The spice of Vegas

As part of its exclusive chat with the RJ, the restaurant shared several signature dishes from the menu:

— Berries & Bubbles cocktail made with organic lemon and basil vodka, marinated blackberries, lemon, sparkling wine and swirls of carbonic smoke.

— Ahi tartare with avocado, ponzu ginger and sesame seeds.

— An Ocean Roll, from the sushi menu, combining tuna, salmon, hamachi, avocado and jabs of spicy garlic oil.

— Chilean sea bass with truffle sauce.

— USDA Prime Grade steaks (tenderloin, bone-in tenderloin, New York striploin, rib eye, etc.) accessorized with béarnaise, black truffle butter, Maytag blue cheese, Oscar garnish, garlic shrimp scampi and lobster tail.

— 10-layer carrot cake coming off the plate.

“We’re also adding a few bells and whistles here in Vegas,” Mitchell said, like caviar service, an upgraded sushi menu, and a hot seafood tower (a twist on the usual chilled assembly).

The terrace will be a perch of choice for eating and drinking.

“You can be seen everywhere,” Mitchell said. “You have the view, but it’s close enough to the street to feel the street vibe, energy and action. The Las Vegas Grand Prix passes right by us. These are the catbird seats on our patio to watch this.

Best CEO

Mitchell started washing dishes in a restaurant at age 16. At 18, he knew he wanted to be president of a restaurant company, he said. Mitchell attended the Culinary Institute of America, one of the top culinary schools in the world. He founded Cameron Mitchell Restaurants in 1993. The Ocean Prime brand started in 2006.

Today, the company, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, operates 40 restaurants (Ocean Prime and other concepts) across the country, and this year Mitchell was named one of the CEOs of nation’s most influential restaurants by Nation’s Restaurant News, the leading trade publication.

Mitchell prides himself on the independence of his business, the fact that it is still private.

“We are not owned by a private equity firm,” he said. “We don’t belong on the stock exchange.”

Shake up hospitality

The Vegas Ocean Prime will generate about 160 full-time positions, Mitchell said. These new employees, like new employees across the country, will be served a chocolate milkshake during orientation.

The milkshake recalls the time Mitchell, years ago, ordered a chocolate milkshake for his son at a restaurant. The item was not on the menu, and several staff members told Mitchell that the milkshake could not be prepared, even though the restaurant had the ingredients and equipment. Eventually, he convinced the restaurant to honor the order.

Mitchell swore his restaurants would make that milkshake — and other customer requests. “If we can do it, we will,” he said. “It is a major element of our corporate culture. This defines our hospitality.

Call it the milkshake method.

Contact Johnathan L. Wright at [email protected] Follow @ItsJLW on Twitter.

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