Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

September 18, 2006

Bellagio, CityCenter, Japonais

Posted by detroit1051

I attended a casino function at Bellagio last week. A few notes I made appear after the break.

Bellagio, September 13-17, 2006

Spa Tower:
I requested a Bellagio Suite in the Spa Tower because previously, I have always stayed in the main tower and wanted to see how the new tower, built entirely on the watch of MGM Mirage, compared to Wynn�s original. The suites are about the same size in both towers, but the d�cor is totally different. I didn�t care for the furnishings or decorating, but Bellagio�s service was first rate from Housekeeping to the casino to restaurants. Unlike trips to Wynn where they skipped turn-down service several times, even after I had called to request it, Bellagio was there every evening with fresh towels. My sense is Bellagio has found its stride again after MGM�s staff reductions and different corporate philosophy.

Although staying in the Spa Tower requires a long walk to the casino and restaurants, I�ll request it again. It�s less hectic, and one doesn�t have to fight mobs of people all trying to get into the elevator lobby at the same time. It�s very convenient to the pool with the room elevators taking you right down to the pool entrance. Whenever I wanted to go to the casino, I would walk through the pools and enter the original building at the pool entrance across from the art gallery. Each time I walked through the pools, I realized how nice they are, far nicer than at Wynn, in my opinion.

The casino is now being redone in earnest. New carpeting is being installed section by section, and new awnings being put over the pits. The awnings are still fancy, but they look a little more contemporary. The carpet follows the colors of the Spa Tower with lots of grey, maroon and blue.

The VIP Lounge is closed until October 4th for renovation. A temporary VIP check-in has been set up at one end of the hotel registration area, but I missed being able to get coffee and a muffin every morning. We�ll see what changes MGM makes.

I know I say this every trip, but there is no place like Petrossian Bar to enjoy company, a drink and music. Why didn�t Steve do something similar in Wynn? One evening, a friend from Iowa came by, and we enjoyed conversation and the fountain show on Fontana�s patio. What a great outdoor lounge! Also, the Baccarat Bar had a cellist and pianist performing. The music was wonderful.

I�ve been to Bellagio too many times this year because this was the third time I�ve seen the same Conservatory exhibit, the one with the model trains and the banyan tree Bellagio trucked in from Palm Beach. Even though it�s a little kitschy, it�s probably one of the most liked exhibits ever. It�s very well done. As I checked out of the hotel at 5 AM Sunday, a crew was beginning to dismantle everything to prepare for the autumn exhibit.

When I arrived on Wednesday, the CityCenter sales office was still walled off in the area between the Conservatory and the parking garage. During the night Thursday, the walls came down, and it opened. It looks first class, and there is a large, lighted model which shows all the buildings which will go up at CityCenter. On the side nearest Bellagio, it looked unfinished. Then, I realized it�s the Jockey Club and Cosmopolitan site which is not part of CityCenter. Walking around the model, I got a better sense of the project, and I have to say it�s going to be terrific. The main casino hotel is huge and looks very interesting with its curved walls and contemporary appearance. It dominates the entire CityCenter. It�s too valuable to be second tier, so there is no question in my mind that it will supplant Bellagio as the premier MGM Mirage property. There will be five or six pools, all built above a garage or ground level offices. They�re on the west side of the property which will give good sun without shadows for the pool-goers. The casino hotel is set back so far from the Strip, probably about as far back as Bellagio�s Spa Tower, that I assume there will be some sort of people mover in from the Strip. It may be a high-end property, but it will still be dependent upon walk-in tourists. I wonder if it�s too removed from the Strip. The model also showed the tram between Bellagio and Monte Carlo which looks like it will make intermediate stops in CityCenter. Retail will begin near the Strip and go back toward the casino hotel, so maybe the retail will be the draw to get pedestrians in.

Summary: Bellagio is great. I don�t care for everything that MGM Mirage has done, but MGM is not Wynn, nor should it be. I like them both.

I dined at Japonais at The Mirage. In fact, I was there twice. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it looks a lot better than I thought it would when it was under construction. The lounge is large, and a great addition to The Mirage. The main dining room is where Moongate used to be. The curved wood ceiling is a lot like Fix and Stack, but the room was very attractive and the food excellent. They may call it Japanese/European, but it�s primarily Japanese. The first time I was there, the waiter was superior. He had been a butler in the Villas at The Mirage. The second time, the guy was not very good. He said he came from Carnegie Deli. He needs some more training, or he should go back to the corned beef sandwiches. We recognized a supervisor in the lounge. She had been a server at Okada in Wynn and is a real pro. Japonais is fortunate they were able to recruit her.

I�m almost too embarrassed to post my photos, they�re so poor. I really need to replace my Nikon 2500 CoolPix and concentrate on improving my photography. Security wouldn�t let me take photos inside the CityCenter sales office, so I stood outside, shooting through the glass which detracts from the views.

Finally, as someone who has invested in gaming companies, I was disappointed that Vegas wasn�t busier. There were people on the Strip and in the casinos, but the crowds seemed light to me, and the restaurants weren�t as busy as they usually are. Is the slowdown now impacting Las Vegas?

Link to photos:
Bellagio Photos, September '06.


Read archived comments (20 so far)
September 18, 2006 11:15 AM Posted by Hunter

Thanks for the update.

I need to get back out there and photograph that model - security be damned (they usually don't stop me when I act like a confused tourist). :-)

Pretty sure my next trip will be to stay at Bellagio, or perhaps The Mirage. We'll see.

September 18, 2006 1:01 PM Posted by mike_ch

That Conservatory display was so popular that it even has it's own DVD for sale at the gift shops throughout the property. Even the Fountains don't have a DVD, depite all my petitioning. ;)

CityCenter... Eh. I'm still lukewarm about the project. I have more hope for Bellagio's renovations, atlhough there's going to be an interesting mix of new and old by the time it's done. Bellagio was hardly ever a "themed" property in the 90s-00 period, but that elegant tuscan look is being slowly phased out for more of the Cailfornia contemporary that has appeared everywhere from Bellagio's suites to the buffet at Treasure Island. The outside, though, will continue to scream "italian village" unless they do something about it too. But after they did to Buccaneer Bay, I hope they just leave it well enough alone.

September 18, 2006 3:10 PM Posted by detroit1051

""The outside, though, will continue to scream "italian village" unless they do something about it too."

Mike, this is heresy, but IF the CityCenter casino/hotel becomes MGM's flagship, would MGM consider doing away with Bellagio's lake for more profitable use? Nine Strip-front acres is a lot to devote to the fountains.

Also, going back and forth to the Spa Tower, I began to realize what an important attraction Jean-Philippe's Patisserie is. The chocolate fountain stops people in their tracks, adults and children. Sensi, as we've discussed here before, is a great addition to Bellagio. It was always busy, and I enjoyed lunch there again.

September 18, 2006 6:10 PM Posted by Devon

I'm not too sure about the new rooms. They have soooo much going on. It's a little country/modern/elegent/cheap. hmmmmmm. I too think that the whole MGMization of Bellagio is a little disappointing. Will they take out the lake, no way. But, it's losing it's personality I think. As cool as the whole train/scene exhibit was, I still really like the traditional ones more because they had a more luxurious feel. Now it's just things that can attract the most people.

September 18, 2006 7:46 PM Posted by Devon

Also, has anyone noticed the quality of some items. The frames and prints look like something you could get at a discount store, nothing like the prints at wynn. The dark wood furniture looks a little hodge podgy with other shades and textures. And, the overused silver looks like it was spray painted. But, I like the padded walls and I actually like the bedroom colors.

September 18, 2006 11:10 PM Posted by Mike E

Fantastic stuff, Detroit!

Japonais sounds amazing. The waiter used to work for Mirage villa services? Talk about qualifications...

I won't pass a final judgement until I stay at Bellagio this November, but I actually like what I'm seeing. I've always felt Bellagio was a little too bright for my own taste--not bad but preferred Wynn and Mirage over it. MGM Mirage definitely did a better job with The Mirage than 'TI'. Let's hope they can best themselves with Bellagio.

September 19, 2006 1:54 AM Posted by mike_ch

Detroit, in my mind Bellagio has two selling points.

1) It's very hoity-toity
2) The fountains

If CityCenter takes away it's luxury crown, AND the lake is paved over, then what's the lure? A study done on the valley's water use last year found that the Strip was the most profitable use of water for the whole state, and guess what represents a lot of water use?

I haven't seen the CityCenter model myself, but like I said, I'm skeptical. I'm sure that the luxury experience can be taken higher than Bellagio, but how much higher? As far as we know, Encore is more of the same as Wynn, and Wynn is considered to the standard-bearer of luxury among everyone who doesn't think it's Bellagio. And most tourists have trouble seeing Wynn beyond "Bellagio with a new color scheme" anyway. So you can see where I have a lot of difficulty swallowing the idea of PCC eclipsing Bellagio in any way other than the org sheets. Especialy with it's size.

Of course, I've begun to feel that the whole Strip skyline started becoming overcrowded with me-too projects sometime around the construction of THEhotel, so I'll just have to sit tight and see how it goes.

September 19, 2006 11:25 AM Posted by mike_ch

Our posts on this issue (PCC, Bellagio, fountains, etc) had inspired me last night to begin writing a bit of a lecture on Las Vegas design past, present, and future. If anyone is interested in me submitting it to this blog when I'm done, just give the word.

September 19, 2006 12:04 PM Posted by detroit1051

I'd sure be interested in Mike_ch's thoughts on Las Vegas design. I'm sure we all would. Can't wait!

September 19, 2006 12:31 PM Posted by Hunter

As the proprietor of said blog, we'd love to read it.

Actually, send it to me at and I'll publish it as a front page story.

September 19, 2006 1:55 PM Posted by Daniel

I heard a rumor that MGM is purchasing Paris. The rumor is that Harrah's was never interested in Paris to begin with, and MGM has come up with an offer. Has anyone heard anything similar?

September 19, 2006 4:11 PM Posted by Hunter

I *highly* doubt this for several reasons.

Paris is profitable and has really good ROI - it cost less than a billion to build and is competitive with places that cost more.

Also, Paris and Bally's are operated by the same holding company and MANY things are linked up. Splitting the two companies would be very, very difficult and Harrah's isn't gonna unload both.

HET wants to control as much Strip land as they can. Selling Paris would make no sense to me.

What about Paris are they supposedly not interested in? The profits? Is the money a funny color or something?

September 19, 2006 5:21 PM Posted by charlie

The sale of Paris does not seem plausible. If they are to redevelop Bally's, Paris is essential as (I believe) they share engineering and operations facilities.

When I was in Paris earlier in the year, it seemed improved under the HET flag....more casino action, better table games, etc.

September 19, 2006 8:21 PM Posted by John

Hunter, I have to agree with you. If anything, Harrah's is going to hold on to Paris. They have to, if they want to build a Horseshoe on Bally's lot. Since the two resorts already share back house services, Harrah's can build the new Horseshoe on the cheap.

Detroit, I actually like the new carpet and awnings in Bellagio's casino. The new carpet pays homage to its predecessor, while being a bit more modern, and it is definitely a step above the Spa Tower's carpetting. While the property could be unseated as MGM's premiere resort, it will stay retain its place as one of Vegas' luxury destination resorts. I, can actually forsee Bellagio becoming the last link to "old" Vegas (10-15 years in Vegas time). However, the property will need continual improvements, so that is doesn't fall behind, and hopefully CityCenter, won't make MGM forget about this.

However, I still just can't become enthusiastic about CItyCenter. It will be luxurious, but it just seems to lack, from the renderings and model, a flavor. It looks like a bit of a hidge podge, but that's just me.

Also, it looks like we might have the Mirage's new Renoir-esque restaurant on our hands, with Japonais. I actually think it is just what the resort needs. The place will, eventually, become the centerpiece of The Mirage's dining advertisements, and it should generate quite a bit of buzz. I can't wait to try it.

September 19, 2006 8:35 PM Posted by mike_ch

Yeah, this doesn't make any sense to me either from a numbers standpoint. Looking at the place it almost makes sense though.

Anyone seen Paris lately? I can't tell if it's starting to suffer under Harrah's or if I just go to the Strip so much that I can see the negative stuff better now. Their balloon marquee looks like it's taken a beating and been patched together, and the 24 hour coffee shop is now a 12 hour coffee shop. However, in their defense, they've made some reasonable changes to the restaurant row, and covered it up with enough themery to make it look like it was always that way. Maybe it's not that they don't care, but that they don't do something unless it absolutely has to be done.

September 19, 2006 10:09 PM Posted by Hunter

The coffee shop isn't open 24x7 anymore? That's interesting.

I've heard several times (though I have also heard it disputed and I don't know for sure) that Nevada gaming law requires a 24x7 casino to have a 24x7 restaurant, sorta like an all-ages nightclub in California must serve food... Now, since Bally's has a 24x7 coffee shop and they are technically the same company (ParBall LLC), perhaps that covers them. Interesting stuff.

The property does need some fixin' and the marquee, as distinctive as it is, needs a major video screen update.

I stayed there about six months ago and the rooms were just as nice as the first time I stayed a few years back. Nice but not great. Clean though.

Anyway, I don't see them dropping Paris and it sounds like pretty much everyone agrees.

September 19, 2006 10:20 PM Posted by mike_ch

I ate at Le Cafe about two months ago, the big hardcover menus were being phased out for little laminated sheets of paper being stapled together, and the cafe had changed hours to 11AM-11PM. Paris' site currently says 24 hours though. I know the Stratosphere's cafe isn't open 24x7 though, and the site agrees.

That balloon outside needs TLC though. Maybe I'll take pictures of it sometime, but let's just say that you can see the damage and patch-ups pretty easily if you look at it from the Bellagio sidewalk entrance in the marquee.

September 19, 2006 10:52 PM Posted by Mike E

The law, just to clarify, is that if a casino runs 24/7, it must have someplace to eat 24/7 as well, but not necessarily one establishment with those exclusive hours. In the case of Paris, I suppose Ballys' cafe is picking up the slack (although I did not know that was allowed under the law).

September 20, 2006 5:31 AM Posted by detroit1051

"Also, it looks like we might have the Mirage's new Renoir-esque restaurant on our hands, with Japonais. I actually think it is just what the resort needs. The place will, eventually, become the centerpiece of The Mirage's dining advertisements, and it should generate quite a bit of buzz."

John, Japonais is still quite casual which ties in with The Mirage's younger target market. The manager said they're probably going to have a DJ on weekends in the lounge. I hope it doesn't change the tone of the dining room.

Speaking of dining rooms, during the summer I heard The Light Group was taking over Shintaro at Bellagio to turn it into a combination restaurant/nightclub. No one knew anything last week. In my opinion, there's already more than enough Light Group without changing a very pleasant restaurant.

November 21, 2006 6:30 AM Posted by detroit1051

"Eye on Vegas" reports Koi may open at Planet Hollywood. There have been rumors that Shintaro at Bellagio was going to close and be replaced. It seems to me Koi would be a better fit in Bellagio than across the street. Maybe Bellagio is locked into giving Shintaro to the Light Group.
"Playing KOI
Eye on Vegas Breaking News
Could one of Los Angeles� hottest Asian fusion joints be heading our way? Rumors along the Sunset Strip boast that ultra-hot spot KOI is currently in negotiations for space in the up-coming Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino. A Strip-side outpost would mark a fourth location for the bamboo-sporting haven, which already lists outlets KOI New York and KOI Bangkok on its resume. KOI has become a regular stomping ground for stars like George Clooney, Jennifer Garner and Nicky Hilton, who has been quoted as saying, �I could eat there for lunch and dinner everyday!� An interesting Las Vegas connection already exists in former KOI executive chef Stephane Chevet, who made the move to Las Vegas to help open Shibuya at the MGM Grand. But don�t read between the lines with that one, it�s strictly coincidence. From what we hear from our spies in Los Angeles, KOI is currently entertaining square footage on the upper floors of the casino level where former Aladdin outlets Tremezzo and Elements once resided."
Eye on Vegas