After spending a few more nights at Encore in the middle of January, I'm sharing some more of my thoughts after the jump.
Along with this, I am still working on editing some additional audio that was taken during various media tours - a substantial job given the varying quality of the source material.
Continue on for a little bit more about Encore.
Unless the building catches on fire, this will be my last Encore Las Vegas post for awhile.
As many readers know, I was in attendance for Encore Media Week - an expenses paid opportunity to check out all the resort has to offer. I had already sampled Encore on my own dime, along with countless experiences at Wynn Las Vegas - I'm well aware of the 'Wynn Tax', as diminished as it may be these days.
If I was going to sum it up, I'd say that for me, Encore is the only place I want to stay on The Strip if cost was not a concern. Of course, that last bit is hardly ever true but all things being equal, it's where I'd want to be. I'm actually very curious to see how things play out when the pool is in full swing - it could really be something to be seen.
In this post, I wanted to talk a little bit about a couple of restaurants (Botero, Switch and Society), the Encore Spa and a little bit of perspective, having now spent more time on the Encore side of the compound.
* Botero - I ate here twice in January and both experiences were excellent. It's a steakhouse with a bit extra - there are other interesting dishes of the non-beef variety. This is probably the fine-dining restaurant at Encore I could see myself visiting most often, mostly because it has a lot of dishes that a large party of diners could enjoy and it's pretty laid back. I don't usually have dinner with folks that want the more refined and upscale environments you find at Switch and Sinatra so Botero seems like the kind of place I'll end up again and again. Tried the New York and the Porterhouse, both were fantastic. The lentil soup I started with was also a winner. The desert menu is chock full of unique items like cupcakes but I have to admit, I'm not much of a desert guy so I can't really give a good analysis on the sweeter side of Botero.
* Switch - By now everyone knows about the restaurant and its changing environment - walls and ceiling adjust themselves every 20 minutes. As some others have stated, this might be a bit too frequent as most meals here are at least 90 minutes if not more. For this encounter my wife and I had the privilege of dining with Chuck S. Monster and Miss Monkay of VegasTripping.com. A wide variety of cuisine was sampled - the shrimp cocktail was composed of unbelievably large specimens and the braised short ribs I settled on for my entree were prepared to perfection. I really enjoyed Switch but I see this as the type of restaurant I would visit infrequently. Not a reflection on the food but more the whole package. It's for special occasions and even then, I'd probably head back to Sinatra first, where the food literally blew me away. It is a little odd to be having dinner and be watched by the folks that gather to see the walls change. Amazingly, the idea for Switch came after the foundation had been poured, requiring a bunch of concrete to be cut to make way for the machinery.
* Society Cafe Encore - I ate here twice on the first trip and twice again in January - both time for breakfasts and lunches, never dinner. I really enjoyed the food in December but after comparing notes with others who found it uneven, I was curious to try it again. I still really like the food, especially the steak sliders I had the last day. The service though, seems a little uneven. For three of my meals, I had extraordinarily long delays in getting my bill and by that I mean 'did-this-person-leave-for-the-day?' kind of wait times. Society is the only place other than room service to get a complete breakfast at Encore and I do think it has a lot of interesting, tasty food but the restaurant's concept and menu came into being just weeks before the hotel opened and that may be showing a bit as they settle in.
The Spa at Encore is one of the hotel's signature attractions. I had splurged and sent my wife to have a massage here in December but this time I got to try it for myself. The first thing you notice is the architecture and design by Todd Avery-Lenahan - it's one of the more gorgeous spaces in the hotel with large vaulted ceilings and a vaguely Moroccan vibe. Once you go inside, you're greeted with a comfortable lounge area that spills into lockers, then a grooming area, showers, sauna and steam rooms and a wet area with cold plunges and waterfall showers. This is by far the nicest spa in Las Vegas that I have seen - easily tops Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas, Caesars Qua, Palazzo, The Venetian and the new spa at The Mirage.
I did have a bit of a service issue at first - there were literally no attendants anywhere in sight and I had to go back outside to flag someone down. That was an isolated incident though - my second time through, it was swarming with employees. One other thing I didn't like - they decided to vacuum in the middle of the day - not the most relaxing vibe for a spa. Still, it's a great room and one of the hotel's top amenities, though average Encore visitors will never see it.
The treatment rooms themselves are basically upgraded versions of the rooms you'll find at other resorts - very nice but not different enough to really swoon over... does that matter when you're face down on a massage table? Not really. The treatment itself was quite good - of course that varies based on your preference and therapist. I was told that they require all of their folks to have national certification.
This time around I had three nights at Encore so I really got an idea of what it's like to stay there. They kept us busy with behind-the-scenes tours and other media activities but I also spent a lot of time just walking around the resort. It's not all that big so I made the loop about a hundred times, just trying to feel the place out.
I was struck by several things, biggest of which was the light. During the day, Encore is literally flooded with light from the pool area, to the point of wanting to wear sunglasses at the tables closest to the window. Walking back over to Wynn Las Vegas, a casino that I've loved since it opened, almost felt dark and closed in - Encore has changed the way I think about casinos and their design. Beyond that, it's clear that a ton of effort went into the design. Of course, that's always the case with a Wynn property but at Encore it's concentrated across a smaller amount of space, intensifying it's brilliance - from the inverted acoustical domes in the Esplanade to the special glass - reducing glare in the low-rise and reducing noise in the high-rise - it's fun to see what the Wynn Design & Development team can do with laser focus.
Most readers have probably heard the 'Design Roundtable' audio that we posted a few weeks back. The other great design conversation I had was a chance encounter with architecture VP Deruyter Butler one evening in the Eastside Lounge while having a drink with Las Vegas podcaster Scott Whitney. I cornered Butler who graciously shared 20 minutes of his time with us to talk about the building as it lived and breathed around us. I wish I had a recorder because it was amazing to hear what he had to say about the process and what went into the hotel, from late design modifications to 'tricks' used to satisfy building codes, it's the kind of stuff that reminds me why I started this blog in the first place.
On opening night, some folks speculated that it would be a pain to have to walk over to Wynn Las Vegas for several things that aren't replicated at Encore. I still don't think this is a serious issue but there were a few times where I didn't feel like making the hike. Having something more like Sugar and Ice would be great - either expand the Lobby Cafe or replace the 'Swim' store (which seems totally unnecessary - put that upstairs in the Spa Shop). There needs to be something like that on the Encore side, preferably something that's open before 9am.
The service at Encore on both trips was over the top, out of this world. I've heard other people say this too so I don't think I'm alone here. I literally couldn't go ten feet without someone saying 'Hello' or 'Good Morning' - far more than anywhere else I've ever stayed in Las Vegas. After the December trip I assumed this was an opening night thing but it was in full force in January. Hopefully it survives the recent salary and hours reductions that the company has implemented to try to save jobs in the worsening economy.
I can't wait to stay at Encore again. Fortunately for everyone, due to the current state of the economy in Las Vegas, the rates are often quite reasonable. This won't last though - if you want to give the place a try, I suggest you do it now... Everyone deserves to be treated to a nice vacation and in my opinion, this is place to do it in Las Vegas.
Some of my Encore videos, if you haven't seen them: