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Wynn Las Vegas and Steve Wynn are Great Bets
Through the 1980’s not much changed, so at least for us, no matter how many shows we saw, or how much money we risked, we tired of the same old same old and sought other destinations for a while. Then came the next wave of hotels that everyone wanted to see, and where they wanted to be seen. Us, too. Each hotel would add glitter and creativity to the Strip. The Mirage, in 1989, was the first to start attracting the most chic, and for the next 10 years the boom of new hotel/resorts (each seemingly bigger and better than the other) continued. Hello Rio, Excalibur, new MGM, and Luxor in the early 90’s, and welcome Monte Carlo, Paris, and New York, New York as the decade moved on. And then at the close of the 90’s the world saw the creation of the Mandalay Bay, the Venetian, and what would be hailed as the best, Steve Wynn’s Bellagio.
Sophisticated and gorgeous, Mr. Wynn created the now famous waters that move to music, and also began his flirtation with the nation’s finest chefs, bringing some of the best known restaurants in New York to his hotel. And we headed back more frequently.
With this new generation of hotels in the late 90’s, Las Vegas saw an influx of truly fine dining establishments. Yes, each hotel always had a couple of fine rooms (think of the Palace Court at Caesar’s, Gigi’s at the MGM, the Sultan’s Table at the Dunes, and Michael’s at the Barbary Coast), but they were not on a level with the finest rooms in San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, or Chicago, where the culinary arts were undergoing a transformation that would make the United States, if not the world’s best country in which to dine, a world power in that area. The new hotel/resorts offered names like Emeril’s, Del Monico (owned by Emeril), Le Cirque, Picasso (with Chef Julian Serano) Prime Steakhouse (with Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten), Charlie Palmer’s Aureole, Cindy Hutson’s Ortanique, Todd English’s Olive’s, etc., etc., etc.
Yet, there was a small problem. In the realm of great restaurant names, none of the celebrity chefs were on site full time, and some not very often at all. The exceptions were Alex Strata at the Mirage, and Andre Rochat at the Monte Carlo. And you know what? Even though they were not as well known as many of the aforementioned chefs of note, as a rule their restaurants were better on a night by night basis. It’s just that way when the chief is around. So after a few years of enjoying the new Las Vegas, we again stopped going as often.
And then came Wynn Las Vegas, which solved many of our problems. Long ago having sold Bellagio, Steve Wynn had boasted that he would again create the hotel to best all hotels. Of course, when Steve Wynn says such things, they really aren’t a boast, since he has the resources on all levels to follow through.
It did not take us 48 hours before we were again hooked on the City, but mostly on the Wynn, which is perfect in almost every category. And so even though we have already given away the conclusion, which might under other circumstances diminish the fun of the balance of the article, we don’t believe such will be the case here. Read on, and vicariously experience luxury at prices that certainly are not cheap, but on weekdays for most of the year are surprisingly affordable for an experience such as this.
[Note: If you are sensitive to smoke, the casinos in Las Vegas can be uncomfortable. It seems to us they are worse than ever, with cigarettes and frequent cigars pervading the gaming floor. Nevada, however, may be trying to help, as it passed a new law in November, 2006 allowing smoking only in bars, on the casino floor, and in nightclubs. You can no longer smoke at main registration, in the ballroom hallways, in the shopping promenade, etc. This may keep the odor down a bit. But we think perhaps we perceive it as worse because we don’t smoke and are not used to being at places where it is permitted. Well, it still exists in all the casino gaming areas, and it’s not pleasant to many people. It keeps us off the old tables (gambling) more often than not, and sends us to the new tables (dining).] We’re not sure which costs us more money.
Smoking aside, which is, as we mentioned, in all the hotels, Wynn Las Vegas is a thing of magnificence. Let’s examine:
Rooms: Of course there are different categories of accommodations, but don’t hesitate to stay in the standard room, which is plenty large at 640 sq. ft., and is appointed with luxury amenities, offers full TV and movies (unlike many hotels that skimp in this area since they want you on the casino floor), a large bathroom, and for our money, the world’s most comfortable bed. Think that is hyperbole? No way. We bought it. Well, not the actual bed in which we slept, but the same kind. Yes, right off the lobby is a store where you can purchase almost every item you use at Wynn. Take advantage of it.
Beyond the standard rooms are the larger suites, and if you are in the mood or have the means to ask for the best, a separate hotel experience (with private entrance) is on premises. Some of these “apartments” have their own pools. This may also be the best place to mention that the hotel’s general pool area is huge, and offers a number of closed cabanas of all types. There is also an adult area for those who enjoy bathing in the more European mode.
Staff: At every level the finest we have ever been around. While it may not be politically correct to say so, we more than appreciate it when our service staff are English speakers. At Wynn, we believe that every person with whom we have conversed is skilled in the language Beyond that, no matter what question we ask about the hotel, or what we need to find, the staff has been trained to know the answer. If you have been to Las Vegas hotels and know the maze each offers, you also know how terrific it is to be able to ask anyone working there for help, and actually get it in a language you understand.
Entertainment: Always an innovator, Mr. Wynn built a theatre for Broadway shows, and immediately booked one of the best, the hilarious Avenue Q. The theatre was renovated to host another Tony winner – Spamalot, which officially opened on March 31st, 2007. Though it is not a The Cirque du Soleil production, La Reve was created by Franco Dragone (Cirque’s creator), and has received rave notices. The Wynn Las Vegas nightclub, Tryst, is the hottest such ticket in town. Is there anything not perfect? We miss a piano lounge in the romantic and elegant lobby, but who knows for the future?
Restaurants: So here is where Mr. Wynn has showcased his true genius once again. Whereas the best establishments throughout the city bear the chef’s name or advertise his or her affiliation, at Wynn the chef is on premises (with one exception). As we said above, our belief and experience is that great dining experiences usually occur in places where the chef is in the kitchen. At Wynn, you will not only find the executive chef in each room (Wynn maintains ownership of the restaurants, unlike some other hotels where the room is independently owned), but a qualified sommelier overseeing a wine list that is chosen to match the cuisine being served (again unlike so many other hotels where there in one central list). The advantages behind all of this is obvious.
We have not had anything but excellent meals at the hotel (we have hardly left it when we have been in town), yet we are enamored more by some restaurants than others. We haven’t dined at them all, but many have had our company. In order of our favorites (because we can) we give you our thoughts.
Wing Lei: You can’t have gourmet dining at a Chinese restaurant, you say? Well, we would disagree, as Wing Lei has become our favorite Chinese room anywhere. Overseen by Chef Richard Chen and lucky to have John Paddon as its sommelier, the food here is simply delicious and unique, with an old Shanghai atmosphere. We recommend at least the Peking Duck for two, but you’ll go back more than once, we bet.
Bartolotta: In a country where Italian restaurants of quality seem to be everywhere these days, we have never experienced the taste sensations put before us by Chef Paul Bartolotta. Of course, he has plenty to work with since the fish are flown in daily from markets throughout Europe, and every pasta dish is a masterpiece.
Alex: We first met Alessandro (Alex) Stratta at the Mirage, where we wrote that his restaurant was the best in town. Steve Wynn was fortunate to lure Alex to the Wynn where he creates world class cuisine in an aura of elegance. Other critics agree with us, as Alex has been named the best new restaurant in Las Vegas, and Alex himself the best chef in the Southwest. Not surprisingly, be sure your credit card has plenty of room.
Red 8: Open most of the day, Red 8 and Chef Hisham Johari set the bar for Pan-Asian cuisine. When we are here we just order a little, and then some more, and then some more again. Well, you get the picture.
Okada: Chef Masa Ishizawa has created perhaps the hottest restaurant in Las Vegas. With authentic teppanyaki and robata cooking, modern Japanese creations, and top grade sushi, he expertly marries fresh produce with a variety of fish selections to create innovative pairings. The cold sake menu is a thing of beauty.
SW Steakhouse: A three time nominee for the James Beard Rising Chef Award, Chef David Walzog prepares meats in a classic steakhouse atmosphere. As part time residents of Napa, we can tell you that this is a place where every Napa vintner wants to brag that his or her Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot is served.
Daniel Boulud: This is the one restaurant in the hotel where the executive chef is not in residence. We have enjoyed Chef Daniel Boulud’s fare in numerous cities and know how wonderful his food can be. At the Wynn, he has teamed up with Chef Philippe Rispoli to bring a modern flair to this French Brasserie. Though we have not been, reviews are uniformly in the rave category.
And The Rest: It’s almost misleading to place the hotel’s casino and spa in a final section of the article, but we can assure you that both offer the highest standards. We can say the same about the various other restaurants, shopping, and bars scattered throughout the property.
We know available funds are different for every person, but consider taking some of those dollars you have set aside for the tables and use them to enjoy all of Wynn Las Vegas. You won’t be risking very much when you make that selection – a wonderful time is almost a sure bet.
Along with his wife Sara, Monty's (Nightlawyer12@aol.com) weekly wine articles are published by Wine on Line International and by Sallys-Place, and are taken electronically by many in the wine industry. The Preisers are wine columnists for the Boca News, and are contributors to various magazines and newsletters throughout the country. They judge the annual Hilton Head Winefest and Monty is the founder of the Hilton Head chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food. Sara and Monty are also founders of Creative Professional Programs, Inc., a company specializing on a world wide basis in the education of business professionals in conjunction with learning about, and enjoying, fine wine and dining. In March of this year the Preisers published The Preiser Key to Napa Valley, the only comprehensive guide to wineries and restaurants in the Napa Valley.