I stayed at MGM Grand, Venetian and Wynn during September.
To read part one, MGM Grand:
Las Vegas, September 14-18, 2005
I was in Las Vegas for business and pleasure the week of September 14. I stayed at the MGM Grand for the first time in four or five years. I chose it because of its convenient access to the monorail to take me to the Las Vegas Convention Center.
I still prefer Bellagio and Wynn, but MGM Grand is unique in its appeal to different market segments. It attracts convention/meeting business attendees, especially those with smaller meetings who use the MGM Grand Conference Center. It attracts mid-market free and independent travelers with its down to earth atmosphere, and it successfully attracts high rollers. The Mansion at MGM Grand is still the gold standard for ultra-high end villas in Las Vegas, and the Mansion Casino offers a totally sophisticated environment to high limit table players. The new Sky Villas, which replaced the former two-story suites on the 28th and 29th floors, are designed to appeal to younger, upscale players such as those who frequent the Palms. And, who said you can�t make a silk purse out of a sow�s ear? The new West Wing, formerly the small, low-end Marina Tower, is designed to be chic, in the vein of TheHotel at Mandalay Bay. Entry into West Wing is by card key only.
Cirque�s new show at MGM Grand, �Ka�, is considered by many to be the best of these ubiquitous extravaganzas.
MGM Grand�s transformation was completed by the addition of high-end restaurants and bars, in addition to upgrading the buffet and coffee shop, while at the same time continuing to provide a food court with McDonald�s and other inexpensive fast food outlets.
I�ve often found that bartenders can be the source of much information, so I stopped for a drink at most restaurants to see what I could learn. One bartender confirmed what I had been told several months ago at Bellagio, that MGM Mirage is taking back control of its hotel restaurants from their operators. At MGM Grand, Emeril�s is the only room not owned and controlled by MGM Mirage. The others have all become corporate outlets. A few comments on each:
Emeril�s has been renovated since I was last there. It is much more open looking, and based on my lunch, the food and service are still excellent. The front area, surrounding the bar, used to be suitable for drinks or appetizers. It is now a full-fledged dining area. The back room is still the place for a quiet dinner.
Shibuya, the new Japanese restaurant, is huge but very well laid out which makes it seem more intimate. I sat at the Sushi Bar and found the food nearly as good as at Okada in Wynn.
Craftsteak, which is in the former Hollywood Brown Derby space, is not my kind of steakhouse, but the reviews have mostly been favorable. It is very expensive, has one of the most extensive wine lists I�ve ever seen as well as more than 100 single malt whiskeys. I was told Craftsteak is the highest grossing restaurant at MGM Grand and brings in $1 million a day. This seems high to me, but it�s a large room. The checks are probably over $100 per person for food, many drinks are $13, and three and four digit bottle prices for wine are common. Tables are likely turned over two and three times in the course of a night, so maybe the bartender was right.
Fiamma reminds me of Fix at Bellagio, an under-decorated, nondescript restaurant with high prices.
Nob Hill is the most formal, quiet high-end room. It is operated by Michael Mina who also operates SeaBlue at MGM Grand as well as his namesake restaurant at Bellagio, formerly Aqua and soon, a new restaurant in Mandalay Bay. Nob Hill leaves me cold. It is a dull, monochromatic beige or gray with servers who seem to be detached and just going through the motions. I did learn something of MGM Mirage�s business philosophy at Nob Hill�s bar. I ordered a glass of good Cabernet. The bartender poured a healthy amount just as the manager or maitre de walked by. He chewed out the bartender as if I weren�t even there for giving me too much wine. He told the bartender to line up all the different types of wine glasses and measure five ounces of water in each so he could use them as templates when pouring wine. When the manager left, I told the two bartenders that six ounce pours are standard, not five. The agreed and one shrugged his shoulders and said, �Some new guy from New York came in and said we were wasting money by giving six ounce pours, and to cut them all back to five.� That�s a 16.6% reduction! When I got ready to leave, the manager walked by and asked if I was staying for dinner. I told him I had planned to, but changed my mind when he criticized the bartender in front of a customer. He said, �Huh?� I said if he wanted to counsel an employee, he should do it in private, away from the guests. He looked dumfounded, then said, �My apologies�, turned on his heel and left. What a dope.
Joel Robuchon is opening two restaurants this weekend, next to the Mansion Casino. One is very formal and will be one of the top restaurants (at least based on price) in Las Vegas. The other will be more casual but also expensive.
One of MGM Grand�s casino strengths is its employees. They have always impressed me with their friendliness and efficiency. When I walked into the high limit slot area for the first time in years, a housekeeping attendant came up to me and welcomed me back. When I won my first (and almost only) jackpot, I got out my ID. The slot attendant said she didn�t need any ID, she�d get it from the computer. I don�t know if this satisfies all regulations, but they sure make it easy on the customers. The slot floor is behind the times compared to new properties such as Wynn. Some old slots still only take tokens and bills and pay with tokens. Newer ones are either cash or TITO, but it means that all machines still are stocked with tokens. Casino play was moderate mid week.