I’ve been to Vegas a lot. Despite these frequent trips, I’ve never considered myself a high roller except maybe by Third World country standards. I’ve never flown to Sin City by helicopter, had afternoon tea with Steve Wynn, nor played blackjack in the high stakes room. I normally stay in whatever hotel I get on sale, run down to Fremont Street at some point, and see a show or two.
This week was different. I wanted to do an article about the more luxurious side of Vegas and a few of my local connections and the PR department of MGM set it up. And... Wow! What a time! I don’t know if I can ever go back to my mediocre Vegas ways.
I was booked into a Tower Suite at ARIA Las Vegas. Since I was staying in a tower suite, I was granted access to the hidden lounge that allows you to check in without having to wait in the casino. It’s a great little getaway with swanky couches, private restrooms, beverages and snacks—a great place to just hang out if you need a break from gambling but don’t want to go back to your room.
When I arrived at my suite, I was blown away. The room—or should I say rooms?—was massive. At the end of the hall was a large living room area with a 180-degree view of the Strip. The curtains and just about everything else were electronically controlled; hit a button and they open for you. Watching them reveal the Las Vegas lights reminded me of the scene in The Wizard of Oz when the film changes from black and white to color. It’s that cool.
The bathroom alone was bigger than most hotel rooms and included a sitting area (for personal assistants or fans, I guess), an enormous counter, a giant shower big enough to accommodate half a dozen people, and the pièce de résistance: the Toto Washlet bidet seat. I’ve never seen this toilet seat outside of Japan. In addition to being heated, it also washes and dries your undercarriage; you couldn’t really ask for much more from a toilet seat. True story sidebar: When I first discovered this appliance at a Tokyo hotel, I ordered one as soon as I got home. The least expensive version is around $700, so know a hotel is nice when the toilets alone cost that much.
I could rave about the soft sheets and the chocolate-covered strawberries waiting for me. I could ramble about the high-tech tablet that allows guests to change TV stations, radio, control lighting, and open and close the curtains in any room, but that would just be bragging. For me, staying in the suite was really about the view—and what a view!
The Vdara Hotel & Spa next door to the ARIA had set up a morning facial for me at their ESPA, the only five-star rated spa in Vegas. I’ll admit it: I'd never had a facial before. I’ve had eyebrows waxed, pedicures, and even an occasional manicure, but had never ever treated myself to this service. As I entered the facility, I was reminded of Logan’s Run…everything was so futuristic and clean. My facial lasted nearly an hour. I don’t need to tell most women about the wonders of having your face scrubbed, cleaned, moisturized, wrapped, and anointed with amazing potions, but alas! Many men have never experienced this. If you’re going to do this, ESPA is one of the best places in the world to do it.
My hour-long facial included other unexpected special touches. You’re given a river stone and asked to write what you want to feel later in the day. Is it a form of self-hypnosis? Does it tell the esthetician what kind of lotion to use? Who knows? They do give you the rock to keep, so you get a souvenir at least. You also get to choose between different fragrances to customize your experience. After you’ve had a few years removed from your face, you have access to an amazing whirlpool, saunas, and a workout room you can use anytime during the day of your appointment. My face felt amazing and it even seemed that a few wrinkles were missing.
Lunch was at Lago at the Bellagio Resort & Casino. It’s an elegant Julian Serrano restaurant overlooking the world-famous fountains of the Bellagio. It’s serving style is touted as small Italian dishes, although many of the dishes aren’t that small. I ordered the signature drink and it was the most beautiful drink I’ve ever seen. The glass was something between a martini glass and margarita goblet with a single, giant, round ice cube floating in the center. And this was no ordinary ice cube. A beautiful flower was frozen in the center and the entire drink was dusted with an edible gold powder that looked like something King Midas would drink. The dishes we feasted on were as beautiful as they were delicious. The carpaccio was covered with arugula and slivers of aged Parmesan cheese. The tiramisu was outstanding, the top wafer covered with little coffee bubbles that had been created through some molecular gastronomy secrets that the server wouldn’t reveal.
We had tickets to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art so we decided to see what kind of art might be on display at a casino. It turns out that gallery is always changing its exhibits and it’s not necessarily “fine art” every time. The Mohammed Ali exhibit was being featured, and it was filled with personal items and information about the famous boxer. The museum is not very large, so it’s easy to get through in less than an hour. It was a nice diversion from the casino and a good opportunity to learn about “The Greatest.”
I usually rent a car and run around to check out other casinos when I’m in Vegas. At the ARIA, with my big fancy room, I couldn’t be bothered to leave. I hit the pool before dinner and enjoyed some cool drinks to take the edge off the Vegas summer sun. It was a lively crowd, with no screaming kids or ridiculously loud electronic dance music to mess up the mood. We had tried not to eat too much at lunch because we had reservations at Jean George’s Steakhouse and it seemed that it might be one of the most interesting places to eat in Sin City.
When we arrived at the restaurant, It was noticeably dark, with rich accents that made me feel like we were in store for a special evening. The service was fantastic, without being obtrusive. The manager introduced himself, as well as the chef and promised to take care of us; they delivered.
You can’t fake high-end service and high-quality food. I knew we were getting pampered, but looking around at the room, I could tell everyone was getting rock star treatment. There were businessmen closing deals, diners celebrating birthdays, and couples enjoying a romantic evening. I ate a lot of deliciousness that night, but I won’t bore you with the details. I will tell you that the Wagyu Beef Carpaccio is one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. It was just one single spoon with some of the best beef in the world atop a black truffle fritter with a touch of lime salt. We shared a tomahawk steak as well that was amazing. If you haven’t heard of this cut, it’s because it’s a recent trend in steakhouses. It’s technically a ribeye with about five extra inches of rib bone that looks like, well, a tomahawk. Even the dinner rolls were the best I’ve ever had in my life. I’m not exaggerating. I could have sat there and eaten them all night.
We decided to really blow it out and added crab legs to our steak. They were fresh and delicious, and I was informed that the seafood is flown in daily. The waiter appeared with a giant serving dish with an 18-inch cow femur posed on top. It was sliced neatly in half and looked like it belonged in a Flintstones cartoon more than a restaurant.
Apparently bone marrow is the latest craze among foodies, but I had never even realized that you could even order such a thing, let alone digest it. It was shockingly huge and got attention from anyone who saw it. At that moment I was very glad I wasn’t eating dinner with a vegetarian or there might have been an issue. I was hesitant to try the marrow because it looked like a little trench of beef fat, but I was pleasantly surprised. It had a buttery consistency, a light flavor and was to be eaten as such: spread on the toast that accompanied it. I’ll admit I couldn’t eat it all, but it made some great photos.
The signature dessert was the gold bar. It looked just like a gold brick you’d find in Fort Knox, but there was a delicious cake hidden under the realistic metallic icing. I can’t say enough great things about this restaurant. It is one of the best dining experiences of my life, which is saying a lot. It was full of interesting surprises and amazing food.
My artist friend Dan Dunn got us tickets to visit the Baz Luhrman show Star Crossed Love. The show is a mix of three of the director's greatest films—Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet, and The Great Gatsby—with all three plots taking place on the stage next to each other. It’s a fantastic dancing and singing spectacular with an intimate setting and great music. It was the one-year anniversary VIP party as it turns out, so once again, we were high rollers, hobnobbing with the cast and enjoying champagne.
Before we left Vegas, we were treated to dinner at the Veranda Four Seasons and drinks at the Skyfall Lounge. The Four Seasons is one of Vegas’s hidden secrets. It’s attached to the Mandalay Bay and caters to those who would like finer service than what most places in Vegas typically offer. The Skyfall Lounge has one of the most breathtaking views in Vegas on the 64th floor of Delano Hotel so it’s an easy walk from Four Seasons. They have a great happy hour, but the place fills up fast. It really is one of the most beautiful places in town to see and be seen.
We only had two days in Vegas, but those days were crammed full with great dining experiences, VIP treatment, and an amazing hotel room. I’ve traveled all over the world and I have never been treated like such a rock star. If you go to the right places, Las Vegas does it like no where else on this planet. After that amazing treatment, getting on my red-eye economy flight seemed like a letdown, but I’ll be coming back for more.