Mike is back with another Strip Walk. This time we venture through TI, Bellagio, PH Towers, Palazzo, Aria, NYNY and more, including a mini-review of the Dal Toro restaurant at Palazzo.
I've been here a few times in the past week or so, including once for dinner at Dal Toro (see below.) Everything was the same in the casino floor, but up by the mall level I don't seem to remember this Cafe Presse, and I certainly don't remember the juncture being filled up with tables for it.
Maintenance alert: Have you ever noticed how slot machines have those lights on top of them that flicker on and off like clockwork? Yeah, well, here's environmental lighting doing it's impression of that. And yes, people in uniform walked by and didn't notice or appear to be bothered by it.
To expand on something from last week, Smokin' Hot Aces is near Barney's and First Food. I'm generally not anywhere on the Strip when clubs are up and running, sorry.
I walked into the Lagasse's Stadium (formerly Sports Book, formerly 40/40) to see what was up. This space, which has long had trouble drawing interest between there being better sports books nearby (particularly at Wynn) and an odd location in the basement near the Lamborghini leftovers. It is now doing very good business compared to how it used to be. It was still a week away from Super Bowl weekend, but the room had warm bodies and looked to be making money.
So what did they do? First, they added a lot of sports memorabilia, which is also up for sale. My eyes were most drawn to the San Jose Sharks jersey that was signed by the team in the 2008-2009 season, but I saw a lot of other sports as well as one other hockey jersey (the Comcast-- I mean, Philadelphia Flyers, boo). They also put in at least one bank of Video Poker machines and two Compu-Blackjack machines. The end result feels sort of like a rec room some sports fan decorated for Guy Activities on a very large budget, or maybe a gambling/sports bar version of a 1980s arcade. Either way, it is clicking, and I see a lot of eating and watching and gambling and here I am talking at length about it. So, uh, success?
Compare this with First Food, which is in a location that is as awkward as the Guy Room outlined above, and also has a bunch of fancy bar food and plasmas running ball games. But is there a crowd there? Nope. It's kind of odd because you'd think First would have just a small advantage between these two awful locations with a lot of walk-by business from Treasure Island, but it just isn't so. People crossing the bridge from TI/Mirage are either walking to the Venetian as they've known to do for all these years, or are going downstairs to Walgreens and a much longer walk to the casino.
When your restaurant is getting it's butt kicked by Walgreens, how much longer can you afford to go?
Outside the hotel and right by the crosswalk to Mirage and the Sands bridge, management has dropped a booze cart. Now there's a couple problems here. First of all, if you're so desperate for a buzz to stand around and drink outside on a particularly bad corner of Treasure Island, in the wintertime, huffing the exhaust of cabs that are coming in and out, you may want to reconsider why you came to Vegas instead of a bar back home. Secondly, with minor interest a small crowd forms and it becomes difficult to just walk around, sending foot traffic into the road. If you're going to open one of these up, fine, but put it where it isn't in everyone's way if it actually draws an audience. Better yet, put it by the front doors, either in this space next to the casino entrance, or over here between casino and registration entrances.
I checked out the coffee shop here, and prices had gone up. since I last checked. Burgers now cost as much as fancier foods, and start at $14, putting them at the same price as Emeril's Table10 across the street (Grand Lux at Palazzo is $9, and Lagasse Stadium is something like $11.) One burger is also called "The Biggest Burger on the Strip." It isn't. It isn't even as big as the 1lb double burger that this exact same place served under MGM Mirage ownership.
And, for the curious, the real biggest burger on the Strip is at the GameWorks Cafe outside MGM Grand. 1.25 pounds. Never tried it, can't comment on quality.
Some time ago, after Serendipity3 opened and my walks across Caesars started getting faster and faster, another Chinese restaurant opened at Caesars. I say "another" because Beijing Noodle No.9 got here first. I don't know when Sea Harbour opened but I can say that it occupies the space that used to be Empress Court in an awkward sorta-kinda 2nd floor dining room, while also food-wise replacing the now-gone 808. I think they actually moved the elevators, since I seem to remember them being further back than where they are (directly behind Rao's instead of 90 degrees to the south), though that would be a LOT of work to do.
All I know is two things: My use of international spelling in words like "harbour" is finally justified in this joint's name, and when I walked up some letters had fallen off the entrance wall. Somebody get maintenance on the phone.
Crystals is taking a bit out of Via Bellagio. Hermes has closed up and moved further south. No mention of what will replace it. My guess is that once rents at Crystals are closer to what they were intended to be, this corridor will become popular again. Even people who don't want to be in expensive stores have to walk through Via Bellagio to get to the casino, whereas Crystals is a bit avoidable, in addition to my feeling that Olives, Prime, and Picasso will draw more people that way than Mastro's and Puck.
I dropped into the Tutto gift shop and noticed that the butterfly shirt I noticed in the last column is just one piece of a butterfly-centric merchandise line for women. Yeah, uhhh, guys, about that...
Bellagio is now selling some of it's furnishings in Tutto and online at bellagioathome.com. The Mirage has been doing this with the renovated rooms at the Impulse store (no online store that I know of), and prices between the two are pretty common although some stand out, and not in the way you'd expect. A Bellagio king pillow is $30, while a Mirage one is $60. Given that I could use a couple pillows, I almost jumped at that except that I was trying to not spend any money that day (guys, please don't raise the prices just on account of this column, ok? I'm giving you a plug. :) Bellagio mattresses and robes and towels cost a bit more. Given how much I liked the towels at Aria (which isn't selling it's rooms, from what I know) I'd like to get some of those too eventually.
Also, Bellagio isn't practically selling everything in the entire room like Mirage is. Sure, I can see buying a Mirage bed or the Mirage soap dish or something, but the hair dryer?
Otherwise, Bellagio was actually the cleanest I've seen it in a year. and employees actually conversed with me and someone with a namebadge seeing me trudging through the convention hallway asked if I was there for a slot tournament. Me! At a slot tournament! In a place like this! I declined but actually thanked her for asking, after so long of being ignored like so much riff-raff that belongs at Ballys or Flamingo.
So yes, Bellagio is beginning to suffer from some material damage that the maintenance team seems incapable of fixing (either due to budget or someone in the chain being unwilling), but if you aren't a frequent visitor looking for signs of stress and abuse, I can say that at least the ground floor is very clean and the people working there seem a bit cheerier and less likely to overlook you if you don't meet a guest profile (no doubt the economy has helped here, and probably CityCenter.)
The walkway to Vdara always has some lights that are gone out (or, if they're meant to be day-parted, some lights that are left on.)
Upon reaching the other side of the bridge I noticed this sign again and remembered that in the last column's comments someone asked why the bridge is closed. I asked at Vdara registration and was told that it was for "security reasons." Probably more the hotel's security than your security, I'm guessing they want to keep drunks from trying to leap to the HVAC system right at level. There is a person in a nice jacket at one side of the bridge both times I've crossed it.
Wandered over just to look at the closed Ah Sin that will soon be ripped up to make room for a major outlet/restaurant, operated by the Sugar Factory entity that's been popping up in shopping districts all over the Strip. This one will supposedly serve more than just junk food, if the press so far is to be believed.
So, here's an awkward shot into the window of Ah Sin, so you can enjoy it before it's gone.
Somebody on Twitter mentioned that you don't see photos of spas very often, and this one has been almost shrouded in secrecy, so I went in to go see why. Short answer: not much to see. Lots of granite (which does look more natural and earth toned than the marble which Wynn's designers like to throw everywhere) with some plants, some small water features, and some illuminated glass blocks that might look a bit 80s in a less modern setting (see: almost any other setting.)
One whole wall of the lobby is glass, and I tried to see what there was of the pool area from here. The hallway to and from the spa has some more brutalist views, with windows set in that sawtooth pattern you can find in the rooms allowing for a lot of different angles.
I don't like to judge my own pictures, but I think this photo defines what kind of experience comes to mind when I think of Bellagio, and this photo is equally adept at describing CityCenter even if it's very different. If you look closely, you'll notice that even though you're looking out over the roof of the ground/casino level, plants have been placed in the roof along skylight panels. The wall to the right is covered with a more earthen looking stone material, which sits juxtaposed against attention-getting glass towers. The kayak piece can be seen at a distance in the middle and a peek of Bellagio can be seen sitting almost uncomfortably between post-modern towers. And though saying this might cause Jim Murren to turn red in the face, the pointy white spires and the white steel overhangs they hold up over the porte cochere is evocative of 1967-era Tomorrowland.
In essence, an element of just about everything that makes CityCenter what it is, at least from the outside, is included there.
But enough navel gazing. This sign has a Self Park arrow that does not match the other arrow. It is larger, sitting on it's own "block", and unlit. I wonder why? Did the arrow originally point in the wrong direction?
Over at Crystals, I found the Mastro's restaurant going through training.
I walked over to the towers. The entrance is in the back of the mall. The lobby is a large space looking out at the pool and cabanas. There's also a bar here, a sundries shop, what looks like a kids space, basically a unique mix of things expected for both a distant second tower, and a condo building.
There's a lot of modern paintings hanging on the wall, some of them are the typical mass-produced Warhol replicas, while others are more unique and they have little plaques with information. I liked how every table had a different design underneath the top.
Nearly all decor is more hip red and white than anything on this side of Richard Branson's ventures. Lone gripe? This material/design behind registration is also in use at M Resort, and was simply painted white.
Out in the Miracle Mile itself, by the Hawaiian Tropic Zone was a big wall for yet another Sugar Factory outlet that should be open (or almost) by the time you read this.
Over by the V Theater and the mall fountain, a "Stripper Bar" is being built. The construction wall warns you, "Hot Girls at Work." I'm not sure if that's a promise or a threat, but I assume they're licensed. Construction means jobs, and if there's one demographic in Las Vegas that is having trouble finding employment in this economy, it's Hot Girls.
Hey, at least I didn't make a stimulus joke.
I still enjoy how well done the exterior theme of this place is, so I stood around and took some photos of some ground level buildings. This plush watermelon hanging in a window is kinda quirky, and a clothes hanger is left in another. Peek through the barriers into the outdoor courtyard for Rok Vegas and in the windows you'll find... Panties on a chair? Well, given the space, I guess you can at least argue that it IS themed.
Bling is a chain. Guess I can't blame Treasure Island too much for their new fake diamond place, or at least it's name. I still think the best name for a zirconium place that I've seen so far is "Las Vegas Diamonds," since it says just as much about the town as it does the product.
((sung to Alicia Keyes' chorus from "Empire State of Mind"))
*At New York, New Yoooorrrrrk* *Nothing new here worth seeing* *Unless you've missed the de-theming* *Oh New York, New Yooorrrrk* *These empty lakes will depress you * *But Excalibur does it, too * *Let's hear it for New York, New York* *Hotel, Casino*
Tram-dalay Bay and Excalibur
The Tramdalay now has much shorter hours than I remember it having before. Service used to begin at 7AM just a month ago, and a year before that it used to run 24/7 since opening. Keep this in mind if you plan on staying at Mandalay and partying the night at MGM Grand or Aria. You can't rely on the tram to carry your staggeringly drunk legs home anymore.
Also, about that northern, Tropicana Ave depot outside Excalibur: Why are some of these signs perfectly centered and some of them aren't? This has always been this way, I think, but I only noticed it now. I guess it's "good enough," especially since in dozens of rides I only just now saw it, but I'd like to think at Bellagio or Aria they wouldn't settle for that.
Inside Excalibur, Marshall-Rousso wasn't really kicked out, it just moved. It's new space is formerly The Octane Store, formerly half of the Excalibur Gift Shop.
StripMunch Mini - Dal Toro
This restaurant, in the basement of Palazzo near Lagasse Stadium and the sports cars, is kind of hard to find and as a result doesn't get a ton of customers.You may have noticed that this is becoming a trend at Palazzo. You would be right. Still, on a floor where Jay-Z and a Bugatti Veyron could not find an audience and gave up completely, Dal Toro soldiers on.
You apparently can sit and eat near some sports cars (not the luxurious variety that was here at opening, but still some pretty expensive models) but that was not offered to us so you may need to inquire about getting one of the tables in the showroom if you desire.
The food is a mix of northern and southern Italian cooking without being too heavy on either seafood or the sauce/cheese mix you find at chains. The food, though sometimes jazzed up with some less common ingredients, was good sustenance but nothing you'll write to your people back home about. In his own review, John Curtas seems to think that the lasagna actually was inherited from the chef's grandmother, although I'll point out that other hotel restaurants from chefs big and small all seem to have dishes "alla nonna" on the menu, so there's either a lot of Italian chefs with Cookin' Grannies in this town, or that's just become a common thing to put on the menu.
In the middle of dinner, the Treasure Island battle started outside. This would be easier seen from the patio (closed for the cold), but from the windows of the dining room you could see the boat move forward, flashes of fire, and the boat sink and a lot of flashes of light when pyro went off. I honestly did not know that the boat actually un-sinks and sails backwards during the events of the new show (seriously, what the heck were they thinking?)
Dining room staff wears black and orange uniforms that say CREW in big letters on the back, as though uniform fashion was patterned after the EVENT SECURITY guys at a rock concert.
This seemed like an okay place, but with so many options in town I don't know if I'd come back here. If you want Italian for lunch, then this place will fit the bill, but people on Yelp seem to dislike breakfast offerings. For dinner there's a lot better options in town. There's now even better options in The Palazzo (which you'd think would have great Italian food with a name like that), since Lavo has ditched it's "Continental Europe" menu to become an Italian-Steakhouse hybrid.
*Dal Toro is in Palazzo and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Bill was handled by another party and so this is a mini-review.*
Well, that's it for now. If you find this update was a bit lacking in content, keep in mind that I poured a lot of stuff into the last one and so this one had less to work with. However, you can find my actual, on-the-scene thoughts live from the Strip on Twitter. Save a search for the #StripWalk tag that I put on all relevant updates. Check it often, though; Twitter is having problems searching old tweets right now, so anything over a few days old won't appear for the immediate future.