It may have been a whole year in the works, but it felt like only yesterday that I had booked my flight as I was sitting impatiently at the airport. This was to be my last hoorah with Vegas until Encore's opening in December. Who knows if I'll hold true to that promise, but I planned this trip to the fullest knowing all too well that these rare opportunities don't come around very often.
(More after the jump...)
Rare opportunities indeed. The stars had aligned almost too perfectly. For one, it was the fifth year of VegasMessageBoard.com's huge March Madness meet and after the blast I had last year having only attended a fraction of the festivities, I wasn't going to miss a moment of this year's. On top of that, my buddy Jake, a concierge I've known from the day he started working at Wynn, was getting married. Among those in town for his last bash was my good friend Matt who used to work the Wynn Tower Suites front desk but now lives in Philly. I rarely see these guys anymore but I think the most ridiculous, not-suitable-for-public-trip-report Vegas stories have been with them. So in short, the vast majority of all the friends I have outside of California (and even a few Californians) were in my favorite city for one hell of a weekend.
Just before leaving, news came out that Tom Breitling, one of the former owners of the Golden Nugget, was doing a signing at the Borders inside McCarran to promote his new book, Double or Nothing. After the uneventful flight, it took every last ounce of discipline in me to stick around for an hour and a half just to meet him. It was definitely worth it though even if, as you'll read, I totally embarrassed myself...
Having been a major character on the old Fox reality show, The Casino, I thought I'd be rushed by the crowds behind me lining outside the door in hopes to meet this guy. Instead, I found Tom sitting patiently alone. As I approached, he had an ear-to-ear smile happy to see that I already owned a copy of his book. He really knows how to put people at ease and is about as down to earth as one can get. We talked for a bit about casino design, his friendship with the Fertittas, and his brief stint with reality television. When I asked him for a picture, he took my camera and found some random (or so I thought) person to take a shot of us two. The lady holding my camera had the lens facing towards her own face. Uh... awkward. Should I tell her now and embarrass her or let her learn the hard way getting blinded by a flash some six inches away from her eyes? There was no way to save face. I went with the former option: "Uh... excuse me... you might not want to take the picture holding the camera that way." She fumbled with the camera and I knew she felt embarrassed, but then Tom said something that made my heart sink and my face turn bright red:
"Gosh Mom, and you're a photographer, too!"
I had just corrected and embarrassed Tom Breitling's mom. Congrats Mike for being a total asshole.
After the signing, I rushed out to grab a sedan. I used Executive Limo to get me to Wynn. The driver really knew his Vegas info. Not that most drivers don't, but when he started bringing up theories as to why Fontainebleau appears to have so many elevator cores or why Elad may never get the new Plaza off the ground, I knew I'd be in for an interesting ride. It's the dork in me, but I love that stuff.
Arriving at the Tower Suites on a weekend is always something. When at any moment there's two million plus dollars worth of cars hanging around the porte cochere, you know you're in for a treat. Check-in took only a few minutes and I was on my way to my Tower suite on the 15th floor. I was surprised to see them renovated. Everything except the bed, wallpaper, and marble was redone. Different carpeting with better, higher quality furnishings, a much larger Sharp LCD set that I'd estimate at 42 inches (a significant improvement over the tiny Gateways in there previously), and generally a much more upscale feel. I asked the bellhop about it and he said that they were redone so that someone who reserves a Salon Suite with an attached Tower Suite will get the sense of a true two-bedroom unit.
After settling in, I headed over to the box office to pick up my VIP tickets to Le Reve for the night and then went to Red 8 for lunch since I hadn't eaten there in a while. It might be a little too casual for dinner when such awesome restaurants surround you, but it's really a fantastic lunch spot. Sitting next to me was a tall gentleman with a thick French accent. He was dining with two young teenagers who kept teasing him that he's way old and doesn't understand the younger generation. I couldn't help but laugh at this because the older gentleman was actually movie producer, restaurateur, and nightclub guru Victor Drai (responsible for the success of Tryst as well as, of course, Drai's over at Bill's). If there were ever a middle-aged guy that understood the younger generation, it was him. My chuckle set him off on the fact that I knew who he was. As he got up to leave, he approached me and we chatted very briefly. Nice guy.
I ordered the crispy chicken and chili which was fantastic. "Jack21" (Eric) was also staying in the Tower Suites and stopped by Red 8 to say hi before heading over to Maggiano's. We caught up for a bit and just as he was about to say good-bye, I bit down on a rock, or so I thought...
"Okay Mike, I'll see you tonight for drinks and... oh... looks like you bit on a jalapeno there."
"Uh... I'm pretty sure that was some kind of rock... *cough* *cough*"
"Well anyway, see ya' later!" and Eric jammed outta' there late for Maggiano's as I realized it was indeed a red chili pepper I bit straight down on. My cough escalated into wheezing accompanied by sneezing and tears. The other diners watched hysterically as I stuffed the entire side of rice in my mouth to alleviate the burn.
With a full stomach, I went out to finally see Palazzo for myself. The arrival and area where the waterfall is, like all other reports have attested, are truly stunning. But why oh why would they put that much effort in creating an elegant lobby only to smother it with fake shrubbery? It's literally everywhere and it's not even good fake shrubbery. With its plastic sheen reflecting the light of the dramatic domed glass ceiling overhead, I wanted to wear shades just to observe them. And then there's the shoddy work in general, most especially with the mosaic tiles near Table 10 restaurant. They are abundant but installed so poorly and unlevel that you can see obvious grooves in them. While all the photos I've seen seem to do the place justice, I must say that the casino looks way better in person. It really wasn't as bad as I thought and while it lacks intimacy, I do appreciate the wide hallways. The baccarat salon is a total afterthought, though. It seems Adelson's definition of elegance is to put as many faux marble columns into as little square feet as possible which makes the space downright tacky. Plus, it's simply too vast; the whole point of a high limit room is to feel small and secluded. Design and architecture-wise, the resort is nothing spectacular. Guests staying in the top Villas enter from the same porte cochere and doors as the frat party who scored a $99 deal from Priceline. If I were ever a player large enough to justify those kinds of suites and regularly walked around with six-figures of cash in my pocket, safety and privacy would be a definite concern and I'd rule out Palazzo as my resort choice for those reasons alone.
On some very positive experiences, service personnel were genuinely friendly. Also, in a city where there are no less than five Louis Vuitton boutiques within a two-mile stretch of the strip, I found most stores at Palazzo to be fresh and inviting. The 40/40 club, though it's probably the complete antithesis of what I would enjoy in Vegas, has a really neat outdoor area with a great sense of intimacy. Oh, and finally, I ran into Siegfried Fischbacher (with no Roy in sight) which was really cool; my third celebrity sighting in less than four hours since landing.
After Palazzo, I tried to check out the progress at Encore. The top floor of Wynn's parking garage has always been the secret spot for the best views, but now the low-rise portion of the building is higher than the garage itself and blocks everything. I decided to go around out front to see if I could catch a glimpse of anything, but other than the tiny construction entrance, the project is well hidden. If anybody reading this will have a Resort room at Wynn with a golf course view, there are many, many people I know who would appreciate overhead shots of Encore.
I had some time to kill before Eric's cocktail party in his Parlor suite so I headed to Maggiano's to meet most of the gang. While there, I got a call from Matt around 6pm or so. I wasn't expecting his plane to touch down until around 12am, but sure enough, he took the earlier flight and was on his way to Wynn to meet Amanda, a host who is a good friend of his and whose house he'd be staying at during his week in town.
I rushed off to Wynn to say hello but while looking for Matt, Eric and the gang of 20 or so from Maggiano's ran into me and were heading up to the Parlor suite. Security is tight in the Tower Suites, but I knew saving all my old room keys would do me good some day. I gave the keys away amongst the crowd and we were let up without issues. I ditched down to find Matt in the baccarat salon talking to Amanda. She introduced herself, asked what my room number was, and said she'd look after me--a friendly gesture since she probably already knew that my play wouldn't warrant her services. Still, the kinds of connections Matt throws at me are priceless as it becomes more and more evident throughout the report.
Matt began talking up Eric to Amanda telling her that he was RFB at Mandalay and was trying Wynn for the first time. She gave us her card and told us to make sure he calls her. Before heading up to the party though, Matt was starving and I had a lot of food credits at Wynn so he grabbed a bite to eat. It's hard not to talk with your mouth full when you haven't seen each other for nine months so Matt apologizes: "Sorry, I'm Italian. I talk with my mouth full," to which I responded, "It's okay. I'm Persian. I smell funny." It became the running joke of the trip. Every time he'd speak with his mouth full, I'd sniff under my armpits with a disgusted look on my face. For the record, I wear Clinique Happy during the day and switch to Jean Paul Gaultier at night; I always smell lovely.
After being gone from the party for a short time, the door to Eric's suite opened to reveal a warm welcoming. Clearly, the alcohol traveled fast and the party was in full swing. We needed to catch up and the atrocious "martini" I made using plastic cups as shakers sure as hell did the trick. I got to meet "angel81chick" (Sandra) at last having conversed with her for so long, caught up with "doctor_al", and met "DonD" and his wife Jennifer who is probably one of the sweetest people I've ever come across. We shared old Vegas stories, plans for the weekend, etc. It was really good times and Eric was a great host. As the party dwindled down, I wished everyone good-bye and headed up to my room to get ready for Le Reve. Before heading out to Amanda's house, Matt told me to see if I could catch Jake, our man of honor for the trip, since he'd be at the same performance.
I opted for the VIP tickets to Le Reve which came out to $178 after tax. They are really designed for couples but I did it on my own which actually turned out to be an awesome experience. First of all, the best way I can describe the VIP package versus regular seating is to relate it to flying first class versus coach. For many people, first class is worth the 300%-400% or even more increase in ticket cost. But Le Reve's VIP package isn't marked up that significantly--maybe around $50 more than a regular ticket and definitely worth the extra cost. You get champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, behind-the-scenes monitors (which are really a joke), and huge seats with more legroom than I'd ever need. The waitress came around and said that since I'm alone, the entire bottle of champagne would not be included, but only a half bottle. I knew this was coming so I slipped her $10 and told her not to worry about switching it. True, the champagne itself probably costs Wynn about the same as what I tipped her, but I didn't care--I'm on vacation. Sure enough, she left the whole bottle. Well, after a few beers before Eric's party, two stiff drinks while in his suite, and only half the bottle of champagne finished thus far, I was damn near gone. It was then that I discovered that the armrest between my seat and the empty seat next to me retracted completely. It's on. I lifted the armrest and spread across the two chairs sipping the rest of the bottle. The waitress got a real kick out of this.
The show itself was spectacular. Like other reviews have said, it doesn't really rely on acrobatics as much as similar shows though some impressive stunts were performed. The music is really the strongest aspect in my opinion. I know the show has changed a lot over the years and I was hoping for something a little darker. The comic relief was funny enough, but done too abruptly after more serious scenes. Still, I would see Le Reve again and wouldn't hesitate to splurge for the VIP experience.
As the theater began to empty, I stood off to the side near the exit to see if I could catch Jake and give him his wedding present. Somehow I missed him so I texted him as the crowds coming out of the theater died down. He immediately called me back and told me to meet him outside of Corsa. Sure enough, there he was with his fiancée, mom, and aunt--not exactly the people you want to meet for the first time when you're totally plastered. I kept my composure as best as I could though and pulled it off. At least I think so, anyway.
Jake had to leave and I started calling Matt to see if he'd answer and would want to hang out. It was only 11pm, but I guess I forgot he was still on Philly time (and a wuss who's totally reading this) and was probably in bed by 10pm. So I headed over to Blush, the reincarnation of the old Lure ultralounge, to see the new space. There was a small line and a lot of cocky kids out in front acting like asses and giving the bouncers a hard time for not letting them in. I flashed my room key since it says "Tower Suites" on the bottom left and that carries a bit more weight around the hotel along with an obvious $20 bill folded underneath. Worked like a charm with no wait and no cover, either. For a place that's already going to milk you on $12 drinks in a hotel with $8 bags of chips, I can't understand why a $20 tip is so difficult for some people.
Anyway, I really liked Blush since it manages to keep some of the old elegance of Lure with the edgier décor. Also, it's the only place of its kind where you can have a drink and comfortably people watch in one spot without a bouncer telling you to keep moving. After a $15 glass of cabernet, I aimlessly trekked the strip drunk dialing friends. I decided to give Palazzo another walk through to catch any redeeming qualities that I may have missed but my opinion of the place didn't change.
They had a piano near the walkway where you enter from Wynn's pedestrian bridge so I took a seat on the bench, lifted up the keyboard lid (surprised that there wasn't a lock on it) and started ripping playing about as well as a guy who couldn't walk ten feet without losing his balance could. Still, it was impressive enough for anyone who didn't know any better and the beginnings of a small crowd began to brew. The moment I noticed this, I stopped abruptly, closed the keyboard lid, and ran knowing all too well that endless requests for Beethoven's nauseating Fur Elise were on the horizon. I walked back to Wynn and got ready for bed. It killed me to call it such an early night by Vegas standards, especially on my first day in town, but tomorrow I'd be trekking through the Valley of Fire on ATVs and had to be up by 7am.
My excitement had me awake by 6:30 though. I slowly got ready and called Matt around 7:15 since he would be picking me up in about 15 minutes to go to Flamingo and meet the rest of the gang. It was my phone call that awoke him and there was no way he could get ready, drive from Amanda's house in Southern Highlands to Wynn to pick me up, park at Flamingo, and find the North Entrance where the shuttle was meeting the rest of the gang. I grabbed a coffee from Tableau (they offer free coffee, tea, and small fare before 8am for Tower Suites guests only), went to the café near the drugstore to grab some muffins and a croissant to go, and took a cab instead. While on my way from the café to the Tower Suites cab stand, I noticed a tall, lanky gentleman wearing sunglasses indoors with a tiny, unleashed poodle running amuck some 20 feet ahead of him--definitely the eccentric type. I figured he must have been an NBA player and/or maybe some kind of ultra high roller that his dog was allowed free reign of Wynn. Sure enough, as I followed behind him to get to the cab stand, I noticed the dog turned the corner into the Villa Atrium and started drinking water out of the koi pond as his owner followed and they headed towards the southern Apartment Villa elevators (the same villas Steve Wynn calls home). When I met Matt at Flamingo, I told him about it and he said that was Steve Wynn's driver just giving Wynn's dog, Loopy Loo, her morning walk. Too cool.
Before giving details of our ATV excursion, I must say, I can't recommend Adventure Las Vegas highly enough. For $189 (not $149--the site needs updating), you get shuttled door to door, lunch, bottled water, and a solid two and a half hours of ride time on the ATVs. Plus, the operators were really chill offering tours of Valley of Fire State Park as well as grocery store runs on the way back. We got in the shuttle and made the scenic drive north seeing the motor speedway and various other sights I had never seen. After about an hour, we finally arrived, got a bathroom break, our helmets fitted, an initial orientation, and we were off.
Getting used to operating an ATV takes about 20 seconds and then it's all natural from there. They told us not to go beyond 25 miles per hour, but I pushed it to 33 a couple times. About a third of the way through the trail, we stopped to take in the stunning scenery. These pictures or even the video won't do it any justice--it really was incredible.
As Eric described it best, the piles of junk including trailers, cars, and even boats scattered throughout the site left by the owners of the land added a post-apocalyptic surrealness to some of the scenery. Call me a weirdo, but I actually liked the whole vibe. After the break, the tour leaders told us that everything up to this point was child's play and that we'd be in for some real challenges. Sure enough, the rest of the tour was chock-full of steep hills, sharp turns, various terrain, and even a few straightaways that really let you open the puppies up. No trip report could really describe how much fun it was. Go with a few friends and have a blast; you'll be talking about it for years to come.
So Eric and I were dropped off at the Tower Suites entrance after our excursion with dust caked all over our faces and clothes. I may have been the most repulsive-looking person to walk through those doors wearing a wife beater, jeans, a backpack, and a ratty old pair of Converse. The spa at this point was just beckoning me. I spent a good hour using the facilities until my 4pm massage appointment. My therapist was exceptional. Despite the deep pressure, I was actually able to fall half asleep for a brief moment while face down on the table. As she kept working her way up my back, she unexpectedly asked, "You're a musician, aren't you?" My eyes opened from my half-asleep state suddenly thinking, "How the hell would she know?!" I thought that maybe she was pulling tricks that so-called psychics do posing questions that have a higher likelihood of "yes" answers. But then before I could respond she said, "Yes, you play piano. I can sense it in your spirit." Um, wow. Now how about some advice on when the baccarat shoe is set for 16 bankers in a row?
After the spa, I leisurely spent my time getting ready for Alex. It was the only restaurant at Wynn I had left to try simply because nobody would agree to go with me until this trip. Let's just say that the expression of saving the best for last could not have been more applicable than now. I met Eric just outside the restaurant and we headed in taking the grand staircase down to our table. Alex is a gorgeous space with lush fabrics, intricate woodworking, cozy outdoor spaces, and unbelievable private tables. I ordered from the prix fixe menu, my selections of which, happened to be exactly what Eric was craving as well. I wish I'd be able to give the full formal names of the dishes, but it looks like Alex's menu on Wynn's site is a little outdated since I can't see anything I ordered. We had the tuna and caviar for appetizers, the veal as the main entrée, and some chocolate creation for dessert (the only chocolate selection on the dessert list). The food was outstanding with the pairings of flavors absolutely phenomenal. Service was never intruding, but always attentive with perfectly timed courses. With the various breads and several amuse-bouche, I felt the meal was quite filling. As an extra bonus to the evening, Eric expressed that it would really make his night to see a celebrity and within mere seconds, he noticed Kathy Bates sitting in a corner with a date. Too cool. In total, two prix fixe menus, a bottle of sparkling water, one glass of Sterling Three Palms Merlot, two espressos, tax, tip, and Kathy Bates came out to $433. Expensive, yes, but a deal compared to any other two-star rated Michelin restaurants.
Eric shot some craps at Wynn's cold tables for a short while and then we headed off to "Beach Crazy's" (Angy's) annual party at Penthouse 14 of the Imperial Palace. Matt called me and told me he was at Carnival Court. I told him to come on up to the party and he joined us a few minutes later. It was great to meet and greet so many new faces, especially those I've conversed with since joining the boards in 2003 and had yet to meet in person. Familiar faces abounded too and I think I got, quite frankly, the best hug of my life from "vegasdrea" (Andrea) just as I walked through the door. I had to pee and as I was standing above the toilet, I felt my phone vibrating in my pocket. Who the hell would be texting me now when practically everyone I knew in town was at this party? It was as though Al was trying to get me to pee all over myself when he texted, "Glad you could make it, bitch!" as he was standing mere feet from me outside the doorway. Fortunately, no spillage occurred, but it was a formidable attempt nevertheless.
As the party began winding down a bit, Matt and I thought it might be the only opportunity we'd get to squeeze in a trip to Red Square at Mandalay Bay since he had started collecting vodka and had never been. We said our good-byes and went towards the elevators only to notice something we'd never seen in a hotel before. You know those metal doors they have in front of store fronts of most seedy areas that you pull, roll down, and lock to the ground so that nothing about the store including its merchandise is visible? Well apparently, Imperial Palace has one of these things tucked in the ceiling separating the elevator corridor from its penthouses and we couldn't resist pulling it down. It's easy to roll back up to get to the elevators or find your room and be on your merry way, but I swear, turning the corner and seeing your path blocked by this giant metal wall would freak anyone out and have you calling for help before doing the most logical thing of trying to lift it up first.
Kramer meets Mike E at the IP's penthouse floor...
Once down, we made our way to Mandalay and hit Red Square which was packed but we were lucky enough to score two seats at the center table of the bar area. I really love this place. Great food, drinks, and overall vibe. The center table may find you sitting directly across complete strangers so it's easy to strike up a conversation. We wanted to sample all kinds of vodka so we ordered the "USSR" and "Around the World" flights along with a serving of American caviar. Matt, the self-proclaimed "vodka expert", couldn't handle the burn of the USSR selections before him so I suggested we switch around. Then he started bitching that the Around the World selections weren't smooth enough either. I personally liked all eight vodkas and over the course of the night, had the vast majority of all the flights. We naturally met some people from Arizona sitting across the table since they were obviously curious about our caviar and vodka while we were pondering the strange black liquid in their shot glasses. We offered to share everything and discovered the black shots were a libation called Vincent van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka. I need to seek out a bottle it was so damn good.
So our friends began asking how Matt and I met considering that we now live on opposite coasts. It's always tough to talk about it though because our friendship basically grew around Wynn Tower Suites, weekly bottle service, hook ups at every corner, and lavish Skyloft parties. So yeah, while it's been a while since I've done anything like that, it's still a little hard to make it all sound modest. I got the feeling they thought we were full of it and I can't blame them, but they did ask us where we recommended after Red Square and we suggested MIX. Matt took the bill (something like $170 but he didn't let me get a good look at it) justifying it because I was considerate enough to buy his late ass breakfast that morning. I buy him $18 muffins and he buys me $170 caviar--his drunken logic was clearly in my favor. Thanks man!
We also decided to head to MIX and to my surprise, there was a line to get in. Matt worked his magic with the doorman in front. I don't think this guy has ever waited in line in his life and the doorman asked, "Just the two of you?" when I remembered that our friends from Red Square were probably way in the back of the line. I found them and pulled them out front before we headed up. I guess whatever doubt they had about connections around town or the stories we shared vanished at that moment when they started asking for our numbers on the elevator ride up. After they dragged their jaws off the floor from the view, they offered to buy us drinks. I was pretty much finished for the night and asked for water only and they actually came back with VOSS which was truly appreciated. Some time passed and a few pictures later they called it a night while we headed to Foundation Room.
Friday night at Foundation was packed, but I really appreciate the fact that this lounge is one of the few still remaining where you can easily find a seat without bottle service. I grabbed a glass of The Macallan 12 which I just couldn't finish because the thought of the bathroom floor being the most comfortable place to retire instead of Wynn's heavenly beds wasn't very appealing. Before leaving, I gave Matt the tour of Foundation Room since he'd never been showing him all the private rooms and exquisite detailing while proceeding to unholy all that was holy among its prized artifacts:
It was about 3am now and we were ready to crash, but Matt wanted me to teach him baccarat so off we went to Mandalay's Crystal Room where I've always had good luck. Even with red underwear and sitting on position eight, superstitions which have always come through, I had my ass handed to me. Matt, on the other hand, was on a streak and had $100 spread across several numbers on a roulette wheel that kept hitting. He took Mandalay for $700 in seconds; the man was invincible! I convinced him to walk and we went to the buffet in the back of the high limit salon for some snacks, but he wasn't ready to call it quits. Sure enough, after we ate, he lost that $700 just as quickly as he made it. He was a good sport about it though even when I jokingly irked him with gamblers anonymous brochures from the player's club desk. Then again, after promising myself that I wouldn't play baccarat at all this trip, maybe I should be the one reading those brochures.
As we walked to the taxi stand, I called in a roll away before getting to the hotel and let Matt pass out in my room. He was so drunk/tired that he didn't even bother lugging the bed away from the foyer.
The next morning we did breakfast at Tableau which, as every review you'll ever read will tell you, is a must-do. I had the much talked-about braised kobe short ribs, coffee, and orange juice. It definitely met the hype. I can't even recall what Matt had, but I'm sure it wasn't as good. As we ate, he was busy leaving scary messages on the voicemails of the girls working the pools saying that a certain someone they used to work with was stalking them on the patio of Tableau. This resulted in lots of hot girls stopping by giving Matt the whole "I can't believe you're here!" spiel and sitting alongside us. Yes, I felt like the Hef one himself, only these bunnies could guarantee me any cabana at any time without the usual "casino guests have priority" runaround simply because I'm the dude treating Matt to breakfast. Nice.
We parted ways and I caught some time at the pool before heading out towards Flamingo for the forum's annual poker tournament. It was my first time playing and I was knocked out before I ever really got the hang of it having never played real poker in a real casino in my life. But with all the smack talking and drinks, I really enjoyed myself. I was the favorite against "mikenhe" (Mike) when I went all in and he knocked me out by catching a much-needed two on the river. He was a real gentleman about it and good times were had by all. I hung around a little while longer to catch the action, play a little video poker at the nearby bar, and had a few more drinks.
After the tourney, I made my way back to Wynn to take a much needed nap and then again spent some more time at the pool towards the early evening to have a little more space. I headed back up to the room to get ready for my 8pm reservations at Okada with Eric, Sandra, and "Baby Cougar" (Haidy). I met the three of them at the bar and our hostess seated us in the teppanyaki room shortly afterwards. I had eaten at Okada three times before, but never in the teppanyaki room. It's an incredible space with one dramatic wall of glass looking out over Tryst's waterfall and lagoon. I ordered a $60 bottle of sake, but our waiter recommended a $48 bottle that was also larger and the most inexpensive on the list. A $12 difference isn't much when you're working out a tip for him, but it's nice to know he was more interested that we have a great experience than padding the bill with pricey items. Needless to say, the sake was fantastic.
Since teppanyaki is a community table where you might find yourself sitting across complete strangers, we were joined by a couple from Michigan who were kind enough to offer us their sushi that they previously ordered at the bar. I returned the gesture by offering them our sake, but they weren't drinkers. The teppanyaki menu is very limited where your appetizers and dessert are set and you only choose a main entrée plus one side dish if you wish. I went with the shrimp as my main entrée along with the beef tenderloin as a side. The salad was fresh and flavorful and the miso soup delicious (but then again, I don't think you can really mess up miso soup). The fried scallops, onions, and rice that followed were outstanding and up to this point, we had only had appetizers. Just when you'd think your dessert was on its way, more and more food was shoved in front of you. Before I could finish all the appetizers, my shrimp was on my plate. Succulent and juicy, I thought the food couldn't get much better until I had my side of beef tenderloin--unbelievably good. Dessert was some kind of lemon and white chocolate pie that was a perfect ending for the dinner. As for price, dinner for four, a bottle of sake, tax, and tip came out to just under $600, which I must admit, I wasn't expecting considering that I've walked out of Okada for well under $60 per person when dining at the sushi bar. Then again, I wasn't anticipating that much food either; not often does one walk out of a fine dining restaurant feeling completely stuffed.
Us gentlemen decided to take the check and Eric charged it to his room telling me he'd figure out what I owed him at the end of his stay after Amanda reviewed his play. We hit the craps tables for a bit longer and then parted ways as Eric, Sandra, and Haidy were heading towards downtown and I was on my way to Bellagio to meet Matt and the gang for Jake's last-minute bachelor party.
The strip and even the side streets were jammed and I needed to get to Bellagio quick. Fortunately, I had a pretty ridiculous cab driver that never wore his seatbelt, actually ran a red on a left turn, sped through parking lots, and did other things I'd never seen. Oddly enough though, I actually felt safer with him behind the wheel than other cab drivers I've had. With a line of cars backed up to enter Bellagio, I offered he drop me off at Paris since I wouldn't mind walking across the street. He was cool with that and I tipped him nicely for it.
I ran into Bellagio and met the gang at the sports book bar. Jake was already looking pretty trashed early in the evening and kept getting water from the bartender but I had just arrived and we were barely getting started. After a few more drinks, we headed out towards Spearmint Rhino where upon exiting the cab, Jake totally blew chunks. Well, it looked like the party was over really early... or so we thought. Like a real trooper, Jake pulled his head out from the side of the curb and lead the way to the front of the Rhino's line with more energy than the rest of us claiming that throwing up was, to quote him, "The best feeling in the world." I couldn't agree more. I actually have some graphic video and pictures of all this (because that's what friends are for), but I think the boundaries of good taste have already been surpassed with this report (and we've yet to set foot in the club).
Matt and Jake talked to the bouncer up front. Because Jake is a concierge at Wynn and Matt is, well... Matt, we cut through the line that was wrapped around the building without cover or anything. Like true friends, we didn't let Jake bother us and kept sending him off to private rooms with various strippers while we enjoyed the scenery. After a few drinks, I wanted more than just scenery and pinched a stripper's ass to get her attention. Before I knew it, she shoved me down on the seat and went to work. I was, admittedly, a little nervous with this being my second strip club experience ever and kept my hands to myself but she whispered in my ear, "'Look but don't touch' doesn't apply here." We'll leave it at that.
After we cleared our wallets, I suggested we go back to Mandalay for drinks at MIX again considering that we probably knew the people working the front anyway. We headed out there without thinking that a few in our party were wearing shorts and sneakers and sure enough, they wouldn't let us in even though it was the same door personnel from the night before. Not to worry though as we had a good time at Eyecandy Sound Lounge at the center of the casino--another hip lounge where some of the best seats in the house don't require purchase of overpriced bottles. A few more pictures and a few more drinks later and we inevitably wore thin parting ways until next time. Ugh, it sucks not knowing when your paths in Vegas will cross again. I headed back to Wynn and crashed hard.
Eric's phone call had me up at around 9am and he stopped by my room where we settled up on the food bills and said our good-byes until next year. Check-out wasn't until 4pm for me so I had plenty of time to relax until my 7:45pm flight. I freshened up, packed most of my stuff, and headed down milking Wynn's penny Gems Wild-Tiles machine for three Bailey's and coffees. Damn that machine is addictive and my $20 lasted me three hours even while playing all the lines at once. Two guys took a seat next to me and just wouldn't shut up. Now, as most of you already know, I can be sociable at the tables, but am really reserved and quite frankly annoyed when a drunken player wants to know my life story. These two were just as I described and I can't even imagine how annoying they'd be if they were actually sitting at a table game. And never--not at a hot dice table or not even when pulling two face cards after splitting aces on a huge bet--have I seen two people get so excited after winning. They were high-fiving and would get off the chairs and "frat boy hug" each other after each win. All this at the penny slots, no less! So much excitement over $3 wins. You should have seen it when one of them hit the bonus and they both got up off their chairs:
"You the man!!"
"No man, it's all you! You the man!"
"No, no dude. YOU. Is... Theman!"
They made their way out after the big win and I took a peek over to their machine to see what they hit to be that excited. It read just a little over 1000 credits which in penny slot language is an astounding $10 and something cents. Awesome.
I then made my way over to the Country Club to lunch with Steve Friess. He's a real character and a lot of fun. There's something to be said about dining with one of Vegas' top journalists who has interviewed the likes of Steve Wynn (several times), Terry Lanni, and Sheldon Adelson among many, many others. I could have picked his brain the whole day, but check-out was approaching and I had to meet with "ken2v" (Ken), Al, "Coaster Kikky" (Becky), and "Coaster Hubby" (John) over at Isla for more drinks.
I checked out, left my luggage at the Tower Suites bell desk, and headed towards Treasure Island. At Isla, we had several drinks and ran them dry of mint leaves since they make some amazing mojitos. By this point in the trip though, I had a hard time staying awake and needed to walk around. Al suggested I give him a tour of Wynn, which for someone already as knowledgeable as him, basically means a walk through that includes the phrases, "Here's the door to Steve Wynn's office," and "There's the elevator to his villa." Al and I said our good-byes and parted ways until next time. I grabbed my luggage and took a cab to the airport where I sent my final text messages wishing everyone good-bye while waiting for my flight to depart.
Leaving Las Vegas always hurts, but this time it killed me to a point where I couldn't even look out the window and watch the strip grow smaller as the plane left the runway. I won't be back for a long time and even then, I don't think there'll ever be another trip packed with the good times and memories I had this time around.
Thank you Vegas, but most especially, thank you to all of my friends new and old. In a city that's lively 24/7, it's really lifeless without you all to share the experiences with.