High Rollers: Vegas Roundup

Alia Akkam • May 1, 2018

Photos: High Rollers

Las Vegas seems to always be experiencing a rebirth, updating classics while simultaneously bringing in new hotel concepts to lure in revelers. The recent revamp of the Cosmopolitan is only one example of an old favorite receiving a few nips and tucks. Yet, there’s even more brewing off the Strip, too. For instance, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will become, as of fall 2019, part of the music-meets-design Virgin Hotels portfolio. This several hundred-million-dollar redo will cover guestrooms, restaurants, and public spaces, while also making way for new nightlife venues and introducing Virgin’s signature Commons Club. But Las Vegas has even more up its sleeve with new F&B options from revered chefs and one massive project that is setting the tone for Sin City’s luxurious future.

The Bellagio
When Austrian chef Wolfgang Puck opened Spago—the restaurant he made famous in Beverly Hills—at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in 1992, it also signaled the city’s newfound reputation as a gastronomical destination. Twenty-five years later, it was time for a change: Spago left its original home on the Strip, and its debut inside the Bellagio, complete with open-air patio, is set for a summer release. Milan- and New York-based CLS Architetti is sprucing up this incarnation with the likes of glamorous brass, smoked oak, and leather.

The Venetian
New York’s Rockwell Group lent its savvy to the recently opened location of Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer at the Venetian. Its modern luncheonette vibe is achieved by pairing a striped black and white tiled floor and a neon feature wall. A sleek black lounge juxtaposes a crisp white takeout area, glimpsed through the punched-out lens of an enlarged camera mural installation. The restaurant’s signature milkshakes are cranked out at a bar covered in glazed white subway tile, while booths are carved into the speakers of a wall-sized boom box image. This fall, a sunroom with arched pergolas above the booths will open.

Caesars Palace
In January, chef Gordon Ramsay made yet another mark on Vegas with the first Hell’s Kitchen restaurant, a nod to his hit TV show of the same name, at Caesars Palace. “We created an experimental and immersive destination restaurant where guests will feel transported to the studio set of the popular show,” says Jeffrey Beers, founder and CEO of New York-based Jeffrey Beers International. Starring an open kitchen, the restaurant also features a 25-foot-long bar with a Calacatta marble top and inlaid walnut face, as well as glass and brass bar shelving lined with backlit onyx. Overscaled light fixtures help “capture the big and bold personality of Gordon Ramsay. Fire and heat also played an important part in defining the restaurant’s interiors,” says Beers, noting that bespoke lighting combines brass rods with pitchfork features.

The Palazzo
Chicago-based Simeone Deary Design Group, under a consulting agreement with Gensler, also elicited an opulent atmosphere in Rosina, a bar on the casino floor of the Palazzo. “As the hotel is based on an Italian Renaissance theme, we decided to create the persona of a dazzling Sicilian socialite and to really flesh her out. Rosina became so detailed that she truly began to take on a life of her own,” explains co-owner Lisa Simeone. When determining what Rosina would want and do, this translated to luxe materials like velvet, shirred leather, and brass inlaid marble, “all installed in layer upon layer to the point of opulence,” she points out. Sparkling and reflective finishes were key to the firm’s desire to build a true jewel box, so the team turned to faceted glass, beveled antique mirror, shattered crystal chandeliers, and polished marble surfaces. “We made sure that the colors were flattering so that everyone felt and looked gorgeous in the glow,” says Simeone, noting high-backed banquettes and well-placed drapery were among the creative solutions.

The Palms
In 2016, Station Casinos, whose parent company is Red Rock Resorts, acquired the Palms. The resort, which opened in 2001, is currently undergoing a $620 million reboot, with planned restaurants from well-known chefs Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, and Marc Vetri. There’s already a new front desk crafted from onyx, punctuated by a collaborative artwork from light artist Olivia Steele and photographer Keegan Gibbs. Soon, all Fantasy Tower guestrooms and suites, courtesy of Los Angeles-based Avenue Interior Design, will marry floor-to-ceiling windows with striped Zebrino marble and white oak. (Locust Valley, New York architects Bentel & Bentel are handling the swank Sky Villas.) Along with turning the rooftop GhostBar into Apex Social Club, Clique Hospitality is introducing new drinks spot Camden Cocktail Lounge. In the second quarter of 2019, TAO Group—which is recreating chef Chris Santos’ New York restaurant Vandal with a design from Rockwell Group for the Palms—will also unveil the city’s largest dance music venue, spanning some 100,000 square feet.

El Cortez Hotel & Casino
Downtown, the circa-1941 institution El Cortez Hotel & Casino will rejuvenate 73 of its Tower rooms by late summer. Local firm Tandem blended porcelain floor tiles and vinyl wood plank flooring with patterned carpeting complemented by carved wood detailing, velvety fabrics, and rich leather. “We wanted to bring El Cortez a warm and contemporary take on their Spanish Colonial style and heritage while incorporating a few fresh and whimsical elements,” says Tandem principal Kimberly Daoust. Faux wood beams were integrated to add visual “interest to the ceiling and warmth and softness to the overall room.” To give the bathroom a boost, the existing bathtub was removed for a large, tiled shower enclosed in steel-paneled glass, which then transitions into a vanity with a turned wood leg and marble top. Corridors are graced by massive abstract interpretations of the hotel’s vintage sign as well as monochromatic murals layered with pop art graphics that depict a bygone Las Vegas skyline.

Park MGM
Perhaps the most anticipated Vegas transformation is Park MGM. For the $550 million overhaul of the Monte Carlo set to debut this spring, MGM Resorts joined forces with New York-based Sydell Group, known for operating such distinct hotel brands as the NoMad, the Line, Freehand, and the Ned in cities like New York, Los Angeles, and London. By the end of the year, the NoMad, known for its coveted accommodations in New York and LA, is slated to debut as an exclusive 292-room hotel located on the top four floors of Park MGM hotel tower, flaunting the celebrated restaurant of the same name from Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, as well as a design by Paris-based Studio Jacques Garcia, which has handled the NoMad’s interiors since its launch in 2012.

At Park MGM, an element of the extraordinary is encapsulated in the design of the public spaces, spearheaded by London- and New York-based Martin Brudnizki Design Studio. Andrew Zobler, founder and CEO of the Sydell Group, says that establishing a “residential and personal feel,” as the group has done elsewhere, was a priority. A few vestiges of the Monte Carlo, including restored chandeliers and original crown molding in the lobby and other public spaces, now painted an arresting green, pay homage to the past. The rest of the property is new. The 2,700 guestrooms, outfitted with custom tiles, lacquered finishes, and done up in green or red color schemes that call to mind the desert’s cacti and succulents, will “make you feel more like you are staying at a friend’s house than in a vast hotel,” says Zobler.

Big plans are underway in the culinary realm as well, including an outpost of Eataly and a Koreatown-centric restaurant from Los Angeles hitmaker Roy Choi. Already opened is a second location of the Chicago restaurant Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar from Hogsalt Hospitality, where Brudnizki’s team brought to life Gilded Age-era opulence with chandeliers, dark wood, red banquettes, and murals by artist David Plunkert. For the “whimsical and playful” Primrose, Brudnizki chose Calacatta-patterned marble flooring, neutral walls punctuated by green, and doors and windows evocative of the architecture of orangeries and garden conservatories in the lobby, transporting guests “to a different location with an ambiance enhanced by the inclusion of soft foliage, antique stone planters, and brass wall lighting,” he says. Here, mohair velvet melds with terracotta and a whitewashed timber ceiling reminiscent of a French château, while floral-patterned fabric contrasts with leather. A distressed teak pergola with antique mirror detailing on Primrose’s terrace nods to the sculptural tree root suspended from the lobby ceiling. Beyond, a three-pool oasis is awash in a palette of dusty pink and pale green, with glazed tiles and green and white striped cabanas and parasols.

“We created a great sense of intimacy and embraced a lot of things that people love about Vegas. It is intended to make you think and discover a bit more than usual,” says Zobler, “but at the end of the day, it is all about having a good time.”

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