Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

August 13, 2005

Wynn Weekend

Posted by detroit1051

Here are some of my notes from last weekend at Wynn. I know some readers get tired of �All Wynn, All The Time�, but Wynn is an important addition to Las Vegas� casino and hotel choices. So, fair warning. If Wynn bores you, don�t read any further.

Wynn had its first slot marketing invitational weekend last Thursday to Sunday. There were 300 attendees who were given Suite Tower accommodations and full RFB. There was an awards banquet Saturday evening at which a Maserati Spyder (from Penske-Wynn dealership) and two Free Credit prizes were awarded. Each of the 300 attendees received one drawing ticket and an additional ticket for each 2,000 slot points earned from Thursday until 6 PM Saturday.

This was my second trip to Wynn, and I have to say it has grown on me. It�s the only place I want to stay. Sorry, Bellagio.

First, a couple of gripes. The self-park garage continues to be a disappointment. It�s too small, and on Saturday evening, spaces could be found only by driving in circles until someone left. Like last trip, I don�t understand why each level�s elevator lobby isn�t enclosed, air conditioned and better decorated. Is Wynn planning to build a new, larger garage to serve both Wynn and Encore?

The entry from the garage lobby into the hotel is congested because of the continuous line of people waiting to pay $10 to get into the Ferrarri dealership. That, plus the railbirds at the poker room which also cause traffic flow problems.

This was my first time in the Suite Tower. It really is like a hotel within a hotel. Registration is in a large lobby overlooking the pools. It has a large seating area with a pianist in the evening. Elevators were prompt, but like all the others, weren�t air conditioned. With Steve Wynn�s attention to detail, how could this happen?

We were in an �Executive Suite� which is not really a suite according to my definition. It is a 933 sq ft room with a sitting area but without a separate bedroom. There are two full baths, one with a large shower and the other with a Jacuzzi tub. The room is very nice, but I�d prefer a smaller entry hall, one bath and then use the extra space for a separate bedroom. The room was on the 21st floor and overlooked the golf course and pools. It is a spectacular, peaceful view, totally different from the high-energy views of the Strip.

All the restaurants at Wynn, and most in Las Vegas for that matter, are very expensive. Since the weekend included all restaurants, we tried Okada, Alex, Tableau and Bartolotta. All were excellent, but I wouldn�t want to pay for the meals. (Well, I did pay for them indirectly, but that�s another story.) Wynn�s website describes all the restaurants and includes menus.

Okada is a very large Asian/Japanese restaurant operated by Takashi Yagahashi who was the foremost chef in Michigan before coming to Wynn. There are three separate dining areas, the sushi bar, a regular dining room with individual tables and the large Teppanyaki room. The latter two have great views of the water, pine trees and waterfalls. You�d never know you were in Las Vegas. We ordered different appetizers and entrees found them all exceptional. Takashi stopped at our table where I gave him greetings from a mutual friend who is Detroit�s most respected restaurant critic. He seemed genuinely pleased that she had sent her regards. When I asked him if Steve Wynn had given him free reign in the restaurant, he replied that Steve had not once given him any direction or �suggestions.� Takashi appeared very happy with his move to Wynn Las Vegas.

Alex is the most formal, French restaurant at Wynn. Alex Stratta, who previously operated Renoir in The Mirage, continues to offer superior food and service. It�s a little too formal for my liking with multiple servers practically tripping over each other, but the meals were excellent, and the room quiet, if a little monochromatic done in dark brown and maroon. There are two tasting menus, one with three courses, the other with five, which can be ordered with wine pairings for each course. In addition, there were multiple tastings, �gifts from the chef�, etc. Alex is the only restaurant which requests that men wear jackets. I dutifully brought my blazer, but half of the men were in dress shirts.

Tableau is a great restaurant off the Suite Tower lobby. It�s supposedly open for breakfast and lunch only for Suite Tower guests and then to everyone for dinner. The chef and most of the staff came from Michael Mina�s Aqua at Bellagio. The food is very good and the far room is at the edge of the Suite pool area. It was enjoyable seeing and talking with several bartenders and servers I had known from Aqua. They also seemed happy with the move to Wynn.

Bartolotta di Mare is a two story seafood/Italian restaurant in the Esplanade shopping area. We had lunch there and ate on the upstairs level. Downstairs, with mountain and water views, is open only at dinner. The fresh fish, pasta and salads were exceptional. Bartolotta has some of the best food in Wynn.

We had drinks one early evening on the patio outside of Parasol Down. This area overlooks the �screen� with the water feature. It was still a little warm, but I could have sworn I was in northern Michigan looking at the water and pine trees. It�s a great place and is next to SW Steakhouse�s patio. There are a huge number of table there for outside dining. What a great place!

I might as well describe the Saturday evening banquet in this restaurant section. With 300 invitees, there must have been close to 600 at the dinner. It was in a large ballroom decorated in a racing theme with the Maserati on a turntable in the center of the room. There were three or four open bars plus the wait staff also took drink orders. A very good group, Synergy, provided dance music which didn�t overpower the table conversations. It always amazes me when pre-prepared banquet dinners for hundreds of people all come out at the same time and are good. The entr�e was a prime filet which was served perfectly cooked and not dried out. The service was excellent as the servers brought out and removed every course as if on cue. It was a lot of fun with the only downside being that I didn�t win anything.

It�s obviously good marketing to invite regular players for a weekend event and wine and dine them. The expense is more than taken care of by the heavy casino play. Many of the attendees were former and current Bellagio customers. It will be interesting to see whether Wynn can win them over exclusively or whether they will split their play between the two properties. My play may not warrant future invitations, but there were many very heavy players there. As an example, one couple casually mentioned that they budget $600,000 each year for gambling. The high limit slot room which had looked very quiet on my first trip was busy all the time with $25, $100 and even $1,000 slot machines getting a lot of play. The largest jackpot I saw was $250,000 on a $1,000 machine.

On my last trip, I had not been impressed with the high limit slot room. I thought it was chopped up looking with it being divided in three areas. Well, I was wrong. The dividers give a sense of privacy, and it looked great. Shows what I (don�t) know! It also helped because it was so busy all weekend. Most of the slots in the high limit room are typical IGT reel machines ranging from $10 to $5,000. Some of the most popular were the IGT/Barcrest Top Dollar machines in $25 and $100 denominations. Since the Top Dollar bonus is fairly frequent, players don�t get burned out, and they keep playing.

The $5 and most $10 slots are across the walkway from the high limit room next to Red 8 noodles restaurant. They also got a lot of play. Wynn has an excellent selection of slots, both reel and video. Many video slots normally associated with pennies or nickels are available in $5 and $10 denominations. That means on a 45 coin max video machine played at $10, each spin costs $450. In the same area, Wynn has a good selection of WMS dollar video slots which require anywhere from $9 to $60 or more per spin at max bet. Wynn�s slot floor puts the MGM Mirage properties to shame, especially Bellagio. I recall in the MGM 2nd Quarter conference call Jim Murren or someone saying slot floors are being upgraded at all the properties. For the time being, Wynn has a huge advantage. Of course, Wynn also has a good selection of 9/6 video poker in dollar and up denominations.

Wynn�s entire casino floor, both tables and slots, is well laid out and easy to navigate. I think it�s the best in town.

We went to Bellagio for a few minutes one day. The �MGM Grand-ization� of the property continues, unfortunately. The Baccarat Bar has been renovated and just re-opened. MGM has taken what was once a beautiful space and turned it into what looks like a 1950�s basement recreation room. I just don�t get it. The new expansion to the high limit table area is still walled off. I�d be interested in other opinions on the Baccarat Bar. Am I off base?

I�m looking forward to a return trip.


Read archived comments (10 so far)
August 13, 2005 12:44 PM Posted by Mike E

I was there Sunday--too bad we missed each other. Wynn does have a way of growing on you and the little things are improving with each visit. The spa finally has trail mix and self-serve tea, there are now thin curtains that significantly cover the lake area's show and do a great job of relieving the congestion near Parasol Up, and the private Baccarat room with its addition of curtains and mirrors was always packed (unlike my first 2 stays when it was completely empty).

Thanks for the write up! Sounds like it was a great time.

August 14, 2005 1:59 AM Posted by Mike C

Maybe Wynn's got a nice floor layout, but I settled in for a Friday's night of gambling and was still underwhelmed. Admittedly, the place was packed (as is the case on Friday) so I wasn't very comfortable, but I still had difficulty finding many fair slot machines, usually just the kinds that put the screws to you.

The weird thing is that I got to try about five of the Double Diamond machines I mentioned last time, and they've got various configurations of them. One I played had three lines but a very low one-coin pay table. It sucked up money like a Hoover (since you'd pay for three lines each spin and sometimes get one line to pay out at a low rate, you'd need to get multiple wins in a spin to really make anything back more than you were spending) and I felt kind of stupid about playing it afterwards.

And, again, a lot of those little machine games where the win/loss luck almost always depends on getting a decent bonus round. Video slots effectively fall in the same category.

However the machines are all brand spankin' new and the Red Club Bingo is a very nice touch.

Bellagio *IS* finally getting some new machines replacing the ones that badly needed to go, but there's still a lot of old machines hanging around that would be fine at the Excalibur but not here. The old VP machines are obvious to spot, their screens are ugly and yellowed and they make no noise. Again, you don't see this even at Excalibur and Monte Carlo has some old machines that don't look so uncared for. So Bellagio still has a lot of work to get done in that regard.

I do not use lounges, so I can not compare the Baccarat Bar of today as to how it used to be, but the interior at Bellagio is still just fine to me even if the Spa Tower decorating seems very different from the original environs. The new signage is kind of cheap, but a lot of the old decorations look kind of cheap nowadays, too. They've kept the WET Design people close at hand for the water attractions and that's been positive (despite the questionable Elvis number).

The new lighting is quite pretty and the orange/pinkish cloth pattern on the walls of the casino is being replaced by a hand-painted vinyl that's more gray and dark reds. The color changes echo for the awnings over the tables, which haven't all been changed yet. Whether or not you like the color or even the awnings (I've heard people say they'd like them removed,) the remaining old ones are sure looking worn and dirty compared to the new.

Keep in mind MGM is also making changes to the casino at Mirage and Luxor, too. All this stuff takes time and money. It does for Wynn, too, but he's got one product built to make alterations to, since Macau is still in concept stages at this point.

August 14, 2005 8:27 AM Posted by Mike P.

When we were in Vegas a few weeks ago we actually paid for a dinner at Tableau and a lunch at Boulud.

The wife thought her filet at Tableau was the best non-Kobe steak she'd ever had. I had a veal chop that was not better than a similar dish at Circo I had the night before. Our waiter displayed the perfect mix of condescenscion and obsequiousness for a high end joint. The place was considerably less than half full, which makes me wonder if Wynn can sustain that many overpriced restaurants.

At Boulud the wife had a Croque Monsieur that she said was excellent, and I had a pizza that was covered in caramelized onions with a decoration of anchovies and peppers. Not bad if you don't care about your breath afterwards. I had a good country pate for an appetizer. I forget what the wife had but she didn't offer to share so I guess it was good. Can't say I was impressed with the water feature. Didn't care at all for the jam of gawkers at the top of the escalator.

I'll reserve judgment on the hotel and casino until we stay there in October. This time we stayed at Bellagio, where we enjoyed our (not comped) Penthouse suite very much thank you. As a low rolling VP player I guess I'm getting a little concerned about the gradually disappearing 9/6 JB machines. Hopefully Wynn will keep the pressure on MGM to maintain a reasonable VP inventory at Bellagio.

Yet another Mike (P.)

August 14, 2005 9:26 AM Posted by detroit1051

>>The place was considerably less than half full, which makes me wonder if Wynn can sustain that many overpriced restaurants.

I wonder about that, too. Corsa Cucina and Boulud are now both closed for lunch. Tableau is hidden away where it doesn't get any walk-by traffic. We'll probably find out after Labor Day when the busier fall season starts.

I believe MGM Mirage has cheapened Bellagio, but MGM knows how to increase revenue. Steve Wynn may be a visionary, but he doesn't watch the bottom line as closely as MGM does. I sure hope Wynn succeeds.

August 14, 2005 9:58 PM Posted by Mike C

>>Steve Wynn may be a visionary, but he doesn't watch the bottom line as closely as MGM does.

Maybe. I still get the occasional feeling that he hasn't put his heart into it as much this time as he did last. Maybe it's because he's also got Encore and Macau on his plate or something. But I see a lot of flat, tan surfaces on the buildings around Wynn wherein at Bellagio there's so many little details. Next time you drive up the driveway at Bellagio and merge left to go to the garage, look to your right and see the taxis go down a steep hill to come up around on the other side. The hole they go down into has an arched frame and little detailed work that makes it look like it's built into a rock wall.

It looks positively Disneylandish and I almost expect to hear a recording telling the drivers to keep their hands and arms inside at all times. :) Treasure Island had a lot of little eye candy like this, too, but MGM was pretty efficient at ripping it all out. :(

Things like this make the place seem like so much more than just a selection of bars and restaurants surrounding a casino. Perhaps when Encore opens and the master plan is complete, they'll give Wynn a nice makeover and get rid of some stuff like that crummy parking structure that dumps traffic straight into the strip.

Speaking of parking, their web site still tells locals to arrive via the Sands Ave entrance. Shock to me when I make my way around from Koval and reach Sands to find out that there's no way to enter your car there unless you're some elite-level guest, and to drive around to the strip for parking. I guess they're talking about foot traffic, but they don't make it clear.

August 14, 2005 10:43 PM Posted by Doug

From the things I've read about Wynn, it seems the biggest problem is bars. - Where's Wynn's Fontana Lounge? Does Wynn Las Vegas have a Baccarat Bar? - Certainly both Lure and la Bete are intended for the under 35 set(probably under 30). And Parasol Up seems like it would be a nice bar, but the crowd lingering at the top of the escalators sounds like a major design flaw. From what I've read here the 'B' bar is being renovated, but to what end? Will they make it a nice jazz club?... Once the fall visitors start reporting back about Wynn I think you'll hear a lot of comments about the bar situation.

August 15, 2005 4:44 AM Posted by detroit1051

Doug, you bring up a great point. There's nothing like Fontana Lounge at Wynn, and although Parasol Up was fine for a drink, it didn't seem like a place to relax and listen to a little music.

B Bar is the closest thing to Bellagio's Baccarat Bar, but it seemed sterile to me, not very inviting. They did have a good jazz trio last weekend, but there weren't many people enjoying it. If you're right that Wynn is going to renovate it, it could become a great place. I only looked into Lure through the closed doors because it doesn't open until 10 PM. Same with Le Bete, but we know it's in for major changes.

Maybe Steve tried too hard not to replicate Bellagio, but he should have put both a Petrossian and Baccarat Bar in Wynn.

August 21, 2005 12:25 PM Posted by cgriff

Mike C. says, "But I see a lot of flat, tan surfaces on the buildings around Wynn wherein at Bellagio there's so many little details."

What Mike C. describes of the exterior of the Bellagio and Wynn is correct --lots of exterior detail at Bellagio, and less so at Wynn --however, this is a known characteristic difference between Baroque style architecture (Bellagio) and Contemporary style architecture(Wynn). Both structures can be good examples of their respective styles without appearing in any way like one another.

August 27, 2005 3:41 PM Posted by Hunter

I'm counting on the 'B Bar' renovation to really expand the casual beverage options.

The current B Bar is just not inviting. They are adding a walk up bar and I think this will *really* help.

Right now, the only walk ups are between Corsa and the sports book and inside Parasol Up and the Terrace Pointe Cafe.

This oversight is my biggest complaint with Wynn Las Vegas.

August 28, 2005 4:53 AM Posted by detroit1051

I put some photos from Wynn on Also included are a couple pics of the renovated Baccarat Bar at Bellagio. You'll recall I was disappointed in the new decor at Bellagio.
You can tell I'm not a photographer. I'll do better next trip.

Note: The Pompano Park photos are there because it is one of the Broward County, FL horse tracks which will get slots if the legislature ever acts. Isle of Capri Casinos owns Pompano Park.