By E.C. Gladstone
After all the hype and excitement, the worries and waiting, there was something subtlely exciting about driving into the cavern-like entrance to CityCenter last week, as the project’s first Las Vegas hotels and shops opened for business.
Making their debuts, the Vdara Hotel and Spa and Mandarin Oriental hotel and Crystals shopping mall each offered unexpected surprises, despite so much advance notice.
From the first step into Vdara’s lobby, artistic austerity dominates. The Vdara bar is open-walled seduction, offering crafted creative cocktails to enjoy in the lush lounges or outdoor swinging daybeds.
Silk Road, the all-day dining experience by Chef Martin Heierling, is an experiment in culture conglomeration, a sherbet-colored Mod fantasy in which traditional tastes of all continents come together in surprising ways. On the second floor of this Las Vegas hotel, an intimate spa sports a high amenity level and all organic products. The sky pool, due to open in March, shows an intriguing array of bathing options with a view.
Beyond ARIA Resort & Casino (another Las Vegas hotel at CityCenter, set to be completed mid-December) is Crystals, a high-end, high-design shopping mall. While all the shops and restaurants have yet to arrive, impressive names open for business include Tiffany, Mikimoto, a three-level Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Tom Ford, Paul Smith, Botega Veneta and what may be the sexiest lingerie store on the planet, Kiki DeMontparnasse. Eva Longoria-Parker’s restaurant Beso and club Eve (a collaboration with Chef Todd English) had a grand opening this week which showed off the spot’s quality Latin comfort food and view of one of the many WET design water features here.
Even though I saw less of it, the elegant Mandarin Oriental hotel impressed me even more. At the entrance to this Las Vegas hotel, a top-hatted doorman directed me to elevators, which whisked me to the 23rd-floor lobby (don’t tell Jim Carrey!). Adjoining registration is an elegant Asian tea lounge, Chef Pierre Gagnaire’s eagerly awaited Twist restaurant, and what may be the most elegant bar in town, with muted colors, soothing sounds, high-fashion hostesses and a 360-degree view. The $20 martinis here are worth every penny (and come with savory snacks!).
As I write, I’m enjoying a stay in one of Vdara’s several suite options, decorated in stylishly simple muted earth tones. King and queen beds are augmented by pullout sleepers, and the room has gooseneck reading lamps, power shades and a cute kitchenette with stove, microwave and a minibar/fridge combo. Luxurious robes, slippers and Aveda products are among the amenities. The bathroom features an adjustable shower head and a deep soaking tub. I’ll be coming back for more, and soon.
Veteran entertainment and travel writer E. C. Gladstone writes regularly for Las Vegas Magazine and the Las Vegas Weekly, also interviewing top Strip entertainers, restauranteurs, moguls and behind-the-scenes players for other local and national publications and Web sites. Like many Las Vegans, he sleeps only when absolutely necessary.