Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

For all the talk about Wynn Las Vegas, let's not forget what some folks regard as Steve Wynn's true masterpiece: Bellagio.

Fortunately, the LA Times hasn't as they compare it to Wynn's namesake. Read it: Bellagio Revisited

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Read archived comments (12 so far)
July 8, 2005 11:18 AM Posted by Mike

Sounds like a favorable review, but for a professional writer working for the LA Times, I would think he'd know the difference between an LCD and a plasma television (and just how big a 42 screen is).

July 8, 2005 12:34 PM Posted by detroit1051

It would be interesting to see how Bellagio would like and feel today had Wynn kept it. I understand the Spa Tower was part of Wynn's original expansion plans. I'm looking forward to returning to Wynn next month because it just feels right to me. That may not be a scientific judgment, but in Las Vegas, how one "feels" at a property is important.

I ran across Bellagio's self-serving press release the other day. Talk about over-the-top self importance:

Bellagio Walkthrough

Las Vegas, Tuesday, June 28, 2005



Bellagio is about things that are good for the soul � fine dining, gardens, flowers, art and fashion. The goal, from the outset, was to create a hotel that would exemplify absolute quality while emphasizing romance and elegance � romance in the literary sense � a place of ideal beauty and comfort; the world everyone hopes for, as it might be if everything were just right.

A dreamy notion, to say the least, but a notion compelled by today's extremely competitive world leisure market. People just expect more these days. The old concepts of resort attractions are just that, old.

In order to become synonymous with beauty and elegance, Bellagio addressed its guests' higher sensibilities. Bellagio had to be distinctive enough to surpass the expectations of discerning individuals not easily fooled by advertising or hype. In a cynical world, creating a place of special elegance, quality and distinction is a difficult feat.

There are few places in the world so exceptional they don't require superlatives. Such places are best described with the simplest of words. Bellagio is such a place.


Well-built hotels in Las Vegas have prospered in good times and in bad. The question was how to advance to the next level? Gaming as a unique or special kind of attraction to support tourism is a historical fact, but not a current dynamic. The hotels on the Strip are among the most exciting, dynamic and expensive structures on earth.

Still, Las Vegas lacked another dimension � exquisite and sophisticated elegance and beauty.

Bellagio is aimed, both in scope and presentation, to impress everyone, both the well traveled and the not so well traveled, without being pretentious. The most difficult task of all was keeping Bellagio from looking like the Victoria and Albert Museum or an old mansion with lots of gilt and fretwork.

The challenge became building a place so preemptive, so overwhelmingly attractive, that it would attract people who did not visit Las Vegas before � people who are not impressed with just gaming. Put another way, the challenge was making Las Vegas a successful competitor to London, Rome or Paris.

So began the long, difficult evolutionary process of developing an idea that, when turned into an enterprise, would fire the imaginations of the public, regardless of language, economic or ethnic background.

Bellagio captures the romantic symbolism and classical imagery of Italian architecture. It represents the softer side of the human soul.


Guests will realize that Bellagio is distinctive as soon as they arrive. Along the entire street in front of Bellagio is a tree-lined boulevard � so much so that it hides parts of the hotel including its own marquee -- historical heresy in Las Vegas.

With its Tuscan architecture along an eight-acre lake, Bellagio stands out as something completely out of character with what people know or expect in Las Vegas.

The initial impression of Bellagio begins as visitors approach the hotel along the water�s edge traveling along its winding driveway. The drive rises some two or three stories and then curves into the beautiful glass and metal Porte Cochere. The arrival statement on this cobblestone driveway is so striking that guests� initial reactions is usually one of spirited curiosity.

Bellagio�s best elements are not revealed right away. People are taken on a journey. They are put off balance. They are surprised. Bellagio exceeds their expectations, even when they expect a lot. After all, this is Las Vegas. The vision was a fanciful environment without extreme formality. Bellagio is a study in informal elegance.

The Front Lobby

The lobby is, in a word, grand, both in scale and in design. Above the 18-foot ceiling is a coffer filled with the most extraordinary glass sculpture, a chandelier called Fiori di Como, by glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, whose work has been exhibited in every major museum in the world. The flower petals are in every rich and vibrant color hanging in an explosive three-dimensional glass sculpture lit from behind.

Guests are treated immediately to this sensory use of color and natural shapes like flowers. By this time, having driven up the driveway, having experienced the garden adjacent to the Porte Cochere and witnessed the lobby, Bellagio has begun to establish its unmistakable personality. It is clearly a place unlike any that people have seen before. It's show business in a way. Bellagio aims to dazzle arriving guests by making the most powerful initial impression possible.

The traditional front desk has been abandoned. At Bellagio, the front desk is bordered by a thriving garden filled with trees, plants, flowers and fountains. Just beyond that garden � 40 or 50 feet away � is the front of a building resembling an Italian villa, two stories tall. When employees check a reservation or go to the office, they walk through the gardens, through a door, into the villa, which is actually an office behind the scenes.

Throughout Bellagio, living plants, flowers and gardens have been integrated into the surroundings to soothe the soul and make a wonderful impression on people. Utilizing the quiet elegance of flowers and gardens is not the kind of sensual stimulation that one would consider mainstream Las Vegas technique. It's more subtle. It's far more profound. Who doesn't enjoy the tranquility or beauty of a lush, colorful, properly organized garden?

Combining this natural sensuality with the high energy of a Las Vegas resort creates a counterpoint or tension. Transfixing or compelling environmental experiences cannot occur without conflict. The conflict happens when what people expect and what they see don't match. It's not enough just to surprise people, to be discordant. It isn�t enough just to be different. That moment of conflict has to be exceptional.

The Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Across the lobby from the front desk is an opening through which a glass ceiling rises up 50 feet. This is the beautiful conservatory. The ceiling framework and beams are the sculpted green metal of oxidized copper, called verde, set in floral patterns.

The Conservatory and Botanical Gardens� pathways lead to Caf� Bellagio, the 24-hour dining room; MICHAEL MINA Bellagio, a wonderful gourmet seafood restaurant; the Chihuly Gallery, the first and only shop featuring the work of Seattle artist Dale Chihuly, Giardini Garden Store, a shop displaying garden-oriented gifts, fountains and decorative items for the home; the newly expanded Spa & Salon Bellagio; Jean-Philippe P�tisserie, the first truly European-style pastry shop in Las Vegas and Via Fiore (�flower way�), the promenade which leads to the new Spa Tower.

These amenities were placed in the front, rather than the gaming, so that guests coming and going through this space will be treated to the soothing and exciting dance of color that is only available in nature.

The entire personality of Bellagio changes with each of the four seasons. The Conservatory has different trees, different flowers and an entirely different theatrical presentation with the changing seasons.

Renowned lighting designer David Hersey oversaw the lighting of Bellagio�s exterior as well as its botanical gardens. David has won seven Tony Awards for Cats, Evita, Starlight Express, Les Mis�rables and Miss Saigon. He also has done the lighting for The Mirage volcano and the exterior village at Treasure Island. Specialized light fixtures were designed for Bellagio allowing for every flower to be specially lit. Each time the set-up is changed, the conservatory has theatrical control over every spot in the area.

A horticulture staff of 140 maintains the botanical garden and a 90,000-square foot greenhouse located behind the resort. The staff has the ability to achieve seasonal designs by selecting flowers that complement the trees, gazebos, bridges and ponds and can add or remove water features to enhance the seasonal effect.

For starters, orange and yellow, brown and gold are used to match the fall foliage. Following Thanksgiving weekend, the gardens are transformed for the Christmas season. Bellagio�s holiday display is one of extraordinary beauty. Chinese New Year follows with its distinctive pagoda and Feng Shui design. Spring brings cherry blossoms, while the summer offers flora equally as fragrant. The wonderful fragrances and magnificent colors of the seasons take over the entire arrival experience.

This ever-changing natural display is the single most significant component of Bellagio�s design, fulfilling the promise of creating the most extraordinary hotel in the world.

Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art

Las Vegas' premier exhibition venue, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art presents exhibitions of paintings, sculpture and works on paper by the world's most influential artists. These museum-caliber exhibitions offer visitors a rare opportunity to view legendary works of art carefully selected from prestigious international collections. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is a cultural destination in which visitors of all backgrounds and interests can experience exceptional art in an unrivaled setting.

The adjacent Gallery Store offers unique, exhibition-related products including a wide selection of books, stationery, note cards, desk accessories, prints, umbrellas and totes. The Gallery Store also carries a full line of limited edition and unique gift items including Faberg� jewelry and accessories, Goebel porcelain, fine prints and original works of art. The gallery and Gallery Store are available for special events such as private viewings and receptions.

The Pool and Courtyards

Divided into five distinctive pool courtyard settings, Bellagio's pool area captures the romance of the Old World in the classical setting of a Mediterranean villa.

Relaxing pools, soothing spas, a garden vista caf� and private cabanas are accented by artfully formed citrus and parterre gardens. The formal use of plantings along with groupings of Italian cypresses, olive trees and climbing vines appointed with large unique Mediterranean urns define the gardens' unique characteristics. For added distinction, several pools are enhanced by hand-carved Italianesque stone fountains in their centers.

The five pools and surrounding courtyards were planned with an emphasis on elegance and convenience. The setting is easily viewed from Caf� Bellagio and the elegant MICHAEL MINA restaurants, the charming al fresco terraces off private meeting rooms, the Fitness Center and the Via Fiore promenade.

Symmetrically elegant parterre gardens banded by hedges complement the artistically tiled pools that are reminiscent of the Mediterranean designs evident elsewhere at Bellagio.

For complete relaxation, poolside massage treatments are available in private cabanas.

Cirque du Soleil�s Production of �O�

Bellagio started out as an extraordinarily ambitious project. But ultimately, for the resort to keep its promise, the entertainment had to be as spectacular as Bellagio itself. It had to produce an entertainment experience that people would talk about in Singapore, Rome, Hong Kong, London, New York and Buenos Aires.

Bellagio had the performance, the money and the ingenuity to create a theatre and a stage with every kind of technology. With a great piece of entertainment in this environment, the audience is taken to a place they�ve never been before. It is a journey that�s not about thrill rides or motion simulators or virtual reality. It�s about something far more powerful and deep. It�s about the movement of the spirit and soul. It�s about imagination.

Bellagio turned to colleagues from Montreal, the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil. Just as with the hotel, it wouldn�t be enough to simply put a new costume on a previous concept � even if that concept was heralded as one of the best shows in America, as is the case with Myst�re at Treasure Island. Cirque du Soleil had to create its most ambitious project to date.

An international cast of synchronized swimmers, divers, acrobats, aerialists and characters was assembled to dazzle audiences in a magnificent theatre reminiscent of the Paris Opera House. �O� is a spectacle that astonishes audiences with its fusion of circus acts, modern theatrical effects, live music, dance and most of all, water.

The Restaurants of Bellagio

In order to fulfill its goals, Bellagio�s restaurants had to run the gamut from gourmet

Five Diamond dining to easy informal meals. Food lovers no longer have to go to Paris for the best meals. Several of the finest restaurateurs were invited to bring their chefs and managers along with their invaluable expertise to the Bellagio experience.

Sensi, located within Bellagio�s new Spa Tower, invites guests on a sensual journey through an innovative approach to dining drama. Executive Chef Martin Heierling drew on his vast international experience to devise a menu based on four complementary cuisines � Italian, Asian, Grilled and Seafood classics � all prepared simply and focused with pure, balanced flavors. To spotlight Chef Heierling�s straightforward approach, Japanese design firm Super Potato crafted a unique, interactive �stage� setup through minimalist, earthy d�cor. Together they created culinary theater destined to satisfy the personal inclinations of every guest.

With the opulence and reverent air of a lavish jewelry salon, award-winning pastry chef Jean-Philippe Maury introduces the first, truly European-style pastry shop to Las Vegas. Located within Bellagio�s luxurious new Spa Tower, the pastry shop features a first-of-its-kind, 27-foot chocolate fountain, circulating nearly two tons of dark, milk and white melted chocolate. Jean-Philippe P�tisserie whets the imagination as much as the appetite, with an incredible selection of sweet and savory items including chocolates, cookies, cakes, crepes, salads, sandwiches and much more.

Bellagio features one James Beard award-winning restaurant, two AAA Five Diamond restaurants, Picasso and Le Cirque, and four James Beard award-winning chefs including Nevada�s first James Beard award recipient, Julian Serrano. Never before has such an exceptional collection of chefs and restaurants been assembled under one roof.

When looking at the finest dining establishments in America, the number one restaurant in New York City is Le Cirque owned by the Maccioni family whose patriarch is Sirio Maccioni. Sirio, his sons and his wife agreed to join Bellagio. Once the Maccioni family joined in, the restaurant community knew Bellagio was serious.

One of the finest restaurants in Boston is Todd English�s Olives, the talk of San Francisco is the seafood restaurant MICHAEL MINA, and the versatile Jean-Georges Vongerichten is internationally known for his work in New York, London and Hong Kong. They all were invited to Bellagio. Some of the finest executive chefs and pastry chefs in the world were also sought out including Julian Serrano and Jean-Philippe Maury.

Whether guests are interested in a pre-show dinner or a lively late night-dining experience, FIX is the ideal destination. After dazzling Las Vegas with Light, Caramel and Mist, Andrew Sasson�s Light Group launched their first restaurant venture. FIX is an intimate and beautifully designed restaurant inviting guests to experience an approachable, high-quality menu with professional, detailed service in a fun, energetic environment.

With the approval of his family, one of Bellagio�s premier restaurants was named for the greatest painter of the twentieth century, Pablo Picasso. It had to be a totally unique experience, reflective of his preeminence.

Taking its inspiration from the villages of the Mediterranean, Picasso is a rough-hewn restaurant with a beam and brick ceiling and gesso-covered burlap walls. Some of the great master�s colorful and delightful paintings, as well as his ceramics, tiles and sculpture were incorporated into the restaurant�s d�cor. Claude Picasso, the son of Pablo, designed the carpet and the furniture for the restaurant. This environment is the perfect setting to enhance the experience of renowned chef Julian Serrano�s magnificent Mediterranean food.

The wonder of Picasso has been internationally recognized. The restaurant received the prestigious AAA Five Diamond Award in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005, one of only two Nevada restaurants to receive this coveted award.

At Picasso, guests eat indoors surrounded by the works of Pablo Picasso or enjoy a cocktail on the outdoor patio along the water�s edge. There is no other place in the world where people can do that unless they go to the Picasso museum in Paris with a box lunch and sit down on the floor. And they probably can't do that. The security guards might object. Besides, there are no windows in the Picasso museum.

Lounges at Bellagio

While Las Vegas has a long and colorful history of lounge entertainment, Bellagio�s vision for the lounges was to define a new era. This concept included not only the performances themselves but also the designed spaces. Bellagio has strived to offer a wide range of sensorial approaches to lounges; from fast-paced excitement to elegant relaxation.

Among the highlights is the Fontana Bar at center stage on Bellagio�s casino level where guests enjoy live entertainment and expansive views of the lake.

Caramel Bar & Lounge introduces a new taste to the Las Vegas nightlife scene. With no line or wait to get in, Caramel Bar & Lounge is a great choice for enjoying a cocktail before dinner or after an evening show or just as a late-night destination. Caramel Bar & Lounge�s environment comes alive with music ranging from the Rolling Stones to the Beatles.

Then, there is the Petrossian Bar that was designed to become the ultimate meeting place. Here, guests may choose from an array of offerings from afternoon tea to the finest champagnes, Petrossian caviar and smoked salmon. Its lavish d�cor transports guests to another era marked by fantasy and indulgence.

Light at Bellagio

Light provides an energetic, exceptionally service-oriented club environment. State-of-the-art lighting, sound and technology, combined with world-class design merge gracefully to create an exciting and sophisticated nightlife venue. Light offers reserved table seating in the tradition of classic European bottle service.

Shopping at Bellagio

Bellagio is like a symphony. It has movements. The secret to a great symphony is the texture, the variety, the depth of the movements of which it is made. Each of the movements has its own personality and wonderful moments within the framework of the symphony. But even though there are differences in those movements, what makes it a symphony is that all of them are part of the same score.

Retail shopping is part of Bellagio�s symphonic production. Via Bellagio, a unique collection of upscale boutiques and shops, combines the timeless with the avant-garde, the simple with the extravagant.

The retailers located along Via Bellagio have never before been located together. These designers can�t be found in malls across the country. Giorgio Armani always puts his primary Armani line in a stand-alone store. Chanel and the great fashion designs of Karl Lagerfeld go in freestanding stores. Herm�s, the great French designer of sportswear and leather goods goes in freestanding stores. So does Prada, the designer.

Yet Bellagio managed to bring them together for the first time. A stroll along Via Bellagio allows guests to browse through exquisite collections at Fendi, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, Herm�s, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., Dior, Chanel and the rare and extraordinary jewelry of Fred Leighton.

Given the popularity of shopping in Las Vegas, Bellagio offers a complete shopping experience. Superb jewelry, watches, gifts, works of art, elegant evening fashions and fine sportswear all are available in the shops at Bellagio.

The Fountains of Bellagio

Throughout the world great public spaces have been accented with wonderful fountains. When thinking of the many romantic places in Paris or Rome, London or Madrid, fountains immediately come to mind. The Fountains of Bellagio express the romantic spirit of the resort.

The result of collaboration with WET Design is the most ambitious water feature ever conceived in terms of choreographic complexity and scale.

At Bellagio, more than a thousand fountains dance in front of the hotel, enhanced by music and light. The display spans more than 1,000 feet with water soaring as high as 460 feet into the air.

A wide range of musical works has been selected for the fountain�s shows, from classical and operatic pieces to popular music and songs from Broadway shows. Designers, musicians and performance artists were invited to choreograph the fountains to these differing musical selections.

The result is a rich, dynamic collection of performances in water, each uniquely expressive in its interpretation. The performances range from delicate and whimsical to grand and commanding.

Guest Rooms and Suites

Bellagio�s rooms and suites feature sweeping vistas of the resort's lake, surrounding mountains and Las Vegas skyline. An additional 928 rooms and suites were added in December 2004 with the opening of the new Spa Tower for a total of 3,933 rooms. To provide the same quality throughout the resort, the existing rooms were remodeled to offer the same spectacular and elegant design as those in the Spa Tower. Each room is elegantly appointed with custom contemporary-style furnishings, fine art and conveniences such as high-speed Internet access, multiple telephone lines and a convenient mini bar.

Special attention was paid to the guest room bathroom design. Italian marble floors and surfaces along with plush robes and soaking tubs were incorporated into the bathroom design as bathroom amenities truly enhance a vacation. From the moment a guest enters their accommodations, they feel wrapped in comfort and luxury.

Spa & Salon Bellagio (Opened December 2004)

The recent opening of the Spa Tower included a significant expansion of Spa & Salon Bellagio allowing the resort to better meet guests� needs. An international array of innovative treatments and specially trained therapists provide the ultimate indulgent experience. Spa Bellagio�s menu incorporates a fusion of treatments discovered around the world and perfected at the resort. Some of the more distinct services include: Gem Therapy; Thai Yoga Massage; Indian Head Massage; Ashiatsu Massage, Shiatsu Massage performed with the feet; and Balinese Massage, which combines Hindu, Chinese and European techniques.

The Salon�s artistic directors, well-known Las Vegas stylist Stuart Matthew and Chicago stylist Lucie Ventura, are joined by Los Angeles� elite colorist Sandra Koven in this dynamic new salon expanded to 18 stylist stations. New features include a Barber Room with Straight Razor Shaves using steamed towels and Art of Shaving products, a waxing and facial room, a Private Mani/Pedi Room for guests who like that extra special treatment and a Bridal/Bachelorette area for those wanting a pamper party. Among the many special packages, Bellagio�s Champagne and Caviar Salon Experience is sure to create lasting memories. Other services include airbrush makeup, hair extensions, a microdermabrasion foot treatment and a luminous pearl manicure incorporating crushed pearl powder.

For guests focused on maintaining their fitness regime when traveling, Spa Bellagio makes it easy with a 6,000-square-foot Fitness Center overlooking the pool and Mediterranean gardens. A separate check-in and state-of-the-art treadmills, bikes, elliptical trainers and Pilates equipment are among the new amenities. Flat-screen televisions located within mirrored walls help create an environment that makes getting in shape feel almost effortless. The Bamboo Studio, a 1,000-square-foot exercise room complete with bamboo flooring, is designed for classes ranging from Pilates and kickboxing to yoga and individual activities.

Business and Convention Travel

Las Vegas is the largest convention market in the world, and growing. Attending a convention or business function at Bellagio is just as elegant and comfortable as the experience of those traveling on vacation.

With the December 2004 opening of Bellagio�s Spa Tower, the resort added 60,000 additional square feet of meeting space for a total of 200,000 square feet. The new convention space seamlessly connects with the existing meeting area and offers a similar but more contemporary design.

Within this new space is the Tuscany Kitchen, the first exhibition kitchen of its kind in Las Vegas. Designed with meeting and convention groups in mind, flexible packages have been created to accommodate 15-60 guests and offer attendees a customized experience utilizing Bellagio�s culinary talent.

For occasions that require an imaginative touch, MGM MIRAGE Events � a fully integrated event-planning company � is available to assist with props, graphic design, invitations, floral fashions and entertainment.

Meeting planners who choose the AAA Five Diamond Bellagio for their function will benefit from an unrivaled standard of service. Bellagio�s convention concierge program provides an additional level of support, above and beyond the resort�s acknowledged award-winning service. Acting as a liaison between the meeting planner and the convention service manager, as well as other departments within the resort, these convention concierge are on the floor and visible at all times, readily available to assist with last minute needs. The concierge make reservations for VIP clients, create signage, pick up keys, accommodate rooming changes, audio/visual needs, menu adjustments and any other requests that arise. In essence, catering to meeting planners� every need is an integral part of the Bellagio experience, delivering on its promise to provide unparalleled service.

Impeccable service in the most exquisite of surroundings ensures that business at Bellagio is anything but usual.

The Wedding Chapels and Terrace of Dreams at Bellagio

The Wedding Chapels and Terrace of Dreams at Bellagio offer intimate settings for couples wishing to be married in an atmosphere of elegance and romance.

The two chapels were created in an effort to provide couples with elegant surroundings in which to share their wedding with family and friends. Both chapels are beautifully inspired by timeless European design with colorful stained glass windows that adorn the wall behind each altar. Ornate lamps and chandeliers of amethyst Venetian glass complement the gentle hues of cream, rose, peach, antique green and bride�s blue found throughout the tapestries and fabrics of the chapels.

Terrazza di Sogno (Terrace of Dreams), an Italian balcony with toasted marble flooring and walls tinted a warm golden patina, is available for couples wanting the perfect outdoor wedding. Couples overlook stunning views of a Tuscan landscape and a Mediterranean-blue lake with the Fountains of Bellagio soaring to the sky at the moment of the long-awaited first kiss.

A professional wedding coordinator is appointed to each couple and can assist them in making arrangements including dinner reservations at Bellagio�s gourmet restaurants, guest room reservations for the wedding party and assistance with the wedding reception.


Bellagio is about gardens, flowers, fine dining, fashion and extraordinary service. It is a place about music and things that are good for the soul. Bellagio is a pointed departure from all that has preceded it in Las Vegas.

Dozens of wonderfully creative people have made cameo appearances. Guest designers who are famous in the world did sections, a restaurant here, a lounge there, a fountain show up front, to add a dimension to Bellagio�s personality.

The test of a wonderful place that can truly be called the greatest resort in the world is not the presence of gaming or the ability to make money. It is that people can go there and have experiences that seem to happen just in the right time and place to suit their moods.

Bellagio has drawn the very best work from thousands of talented and energetic people and, as such, is a source of creative satisfaction for all involved. Everybody feels they have taken their best shot. Bellagio put its best foot forward and allows its guests to be the judge of the endeavor.

When people look back as they depart, they think, �it wasn�t like anything I�ve seen before�it was better than I expected� truly incredible�in every respect, lovely and just right.�

# # #

Media Contact:

Jenn Michaels

MGM MIRAGE Public Relations

(702) 891-7272

Back to Press Releases List

July 8, 2005 12:41 PM Posted by detroit1051

Hunter, I just went through the Wynn photos at

They are magnificent. I'd like to See Wynn create a first class photo album for its website. I believe it would convert a lot of indifferent opinions. For example, the full page photo of The Buffet in Wine Spectator should be a marketing piece for Wynn. It shows the detail and luxury that went into the property.

July 8, 2005 2:01 PM Posted by detroit1051

One more comment on Bellagio. When I read the review of Picasso in Friday's Review Journal, it reminded me of a trip to Bellagio last year or the year before. I wanted to stop at Picasso for a drink because it is an oasis of peace and serenity in Las Vegas. The bartender said the restaurant would be closed for a few days because the carpeting was going to be replaced. I expressed concern that MGM Mirage would replace Steve Wynn's specially loomed Picasso carpet with something more corporate. He responded that Steve Wynn always planned ahead and had enough original carpet loomed when Bellagio was built to recarpet Picasso twice. That always exemplified to me Steve Wynn's pursuit of perfection and attention to detail.

Here's the review:

Work of Art: The menu at Picasso is a winning balance of old and new


There are many reasons why the restaurant business is a precarious proposition, and here's just one: The tightrope-level balancing act between continually presenting something new and novel and providing just enough signature dishes for those who crave the old favorites.

A top-notch chef once told me he's had customers who in 20 years have never eaten the same dish in his restaurant. That's truly laudable; there's nothing like making a repeat visit and feeling like, as Yogi Berra said, it's deja vu all over again. But what about those of us sufficiently impressed with something that we'd like to give it another go?

The challenge grows when a restaurant's menu is by definition somewhat limited, as is the case at Picasso. Picasso offers two basic options -- the four-course tasting menu ($90), which offers a number of choices for its various courses, and the more directed five-course degustation menu ($100).

Scanning the tasting menu, I saw a number of chef Julian Serrano's old favorites, and I was somewhat disappointed because I was in the mood for new and novel. No problem: The degustation menu delivered quite nicely. And since my husband was in an uncharacteristically old favorites mood, we both were satisfied -- quite, as it turned out.

First, there'd be a lagniappe -- little cups of white-asparagus vichyssoise accompanied by a crisply fried won ton topped with smoked salmon and a sprinkling of oscetra caviar. It was a nice combination of flavors (as well as a combination of old and new), and a good start. Then, on to the main act.

For me: a Jonah crab salad with apple champagne vinaigrette, the description of which omitted such astoundingly complementary details as the pink peppercorns and tiny balls of melon that accompanied it.

And almond-crusted sauteed foie gras with lemon pound cake and confit of cherries -- not a combination of textures and flavors I'd imagine, but then I'm not Julian Serrano. It was spectacular.

And a large sea scallop -- the simple searing of which belied the deft hand required to caramelize the surface so perfectly -- with green asparagus and oh-so-ethereal Hollandaise mousseline.

And a center-cut fillet of swordfish -- not a cut commonly seen -- with a light herbed court bouillon treatment that put the fish at center stage.

For him: Serrano's classic warm-quail salad, in which the little birds are quickly sauteed with artichokes and pine nuts.

And the chef's signature boudin, or sausage, of lobster, shrimp and scallops, moist and delicate and just right with the tomato coulis that accompanied it.

And a tenderloin of veal with curried Israeli couscous that was so delicious in its mellow complexity that I kept swiping forkfuls from his plate. ("Oh, look! There's the fountain show again!" "Look! There's another Picasso!")

We decided to split a dessert. I'll never understand why people complain about too-small course sizes; we were about to burst when the after-dinner lagniappe of perfect little confections arrived. Maybe it was all the bread we'd eaten -- crackly-crusted French, black olive, and raisin-walnut.

The wine list pleased, as well. I generally think that a list with only high-end bottles shows a lack of imagination on the part of the wine director, but that wasn't the case here. Yes, there were plenty of expense-account French and California offerings, but we paged back to the New World list and found a 2002 Cape Mentelle Shiraz ($52) from the Margaret River region of Australia and were quite impressed.

Quite impressed, as well, with Picasso, which I last reviewed in 2000. Serrano isn't relying on all the awards he's racked up, but continues to stretch. And more importantly, he strikes a winning balance of the old and the new.

Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are unannounced and done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Rinella at 383-0474 or e-mail her at hrinella@reviewjournal. com.

Find this article at:

July 8, 2005 3:12 PM Posted by Brian

The review pretty much is in concert with my thoughts, although I didn't see Le Reve, but its nice to see the show getting generally better reviews and that Dragone is still tinkering with it. I just feel like Steve, by keeping the golf course, really boxed himself in, and could've made this place more grand. I don't see why making the place seem more "intimate" was such a concern....the only place that I've heard people complain about the size is the MGM.

July 8, 2005 3:20 PM Posted by Hunter

Well, according to Marc Schorr and DeRuyter Butler, the customers they talked to complained about Bellagio's size... Who are those customers? No doubt they are the highest end players - the only guys these guys have a lot of direct contact with.

July 8, 2005 3:38 PM Posted by A

Does anyone know how Encore is going to look?

July 8, 2005 3:42 PM Posted by Hunter

A lot like Wynn Las Vegas.

A curved bronzed glass tower. It will be closer to the street with more of the space between the tower and the golf course being used for public areas (pool, restaurants, casino, etc...).

July 8, 2005 7:31 PM Posted by tom

As I've said Bellagio is my favorite resort. However, I question whether a resort of the size typical of the strip hotels deserve the AAA 5 diamond rating. I just don't believe that they give the same level of service as a 500 room or less first class city/resort hotel. Can anyone compare this hotel to the Four Seasons at Mandalay Bay?

Also, Hunter are you going to do a write up on the convention you just attended? Would love to hear your overall impressions and results of backroom tours at Wynn.

July 9, 2005 2:01 AM Posted by Michael

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who feels the Wynn coffee shop is costly. Cheeseburgers, with drink and associated costs accounted for, tally up to about $25 a burger.

Someone else can pay that rate, I'd go to the Buffet and have prime rib instead.

And that Bellagio press release above is completely over-the-top, but I can hear Wynn's voice saying a lot of that stuff in a promotional tape if he still had it today.

July 9, 2005 2:10 AM Posted by A

Will in be a "revolutionary" hotel or will it just be like Wynn Las Vegas.

July 9, 2005 8:50 AM Posted by Hunter

Regarding Encore: It will be related but not exactly the same.

Regarding the convention: We did blog on it a bit back in June: