Las Vegas has been known for decades as the culinary and entertainment capital of the world. The famed neon lights beckon visitors from all over the globe to come to the celebrated strip and indulge in leisure, gaming and an all-star lineup of celebrity chefs and world class dining venues. The recent pandemic halted this renowned city in its tracks as the lights dimmed and the unprecedented closure of casinos caused massive layoffs and furloughs.
The city known for its uncanny resilience and has begun its deliberate reopening-revealing a new way to experience and enjoy long time favorites and yes, even a few new openings have bravely entered into the “new normal”. Gradually, the Strip hotels are awakening again-welcoming guests back with great anticipation. Many foresee the mandated changes will be met with widespread approval.
The Venetian Resort opened on the first day, staff fully trained on new protocols covering everything from housekeeping, gaming and its many restaurants, bars, lounges, and pools. Being familiar with this iconic property we embarked on our own historic reopening expedition.
It did not take long to notice one major change as you enter the resort from the parking garage- thermal cameras. After a quick walk past the cameras and a green light from security it was time to check in. The main lobby is sparkling clean complete with a singing gondolier giving us a sense of normalcy in this trying time.
After a somewhat effortless “contactless” check in with masks and a pexiglass barrier between us and the concierge, we arrived in our immaculate suite complete with our own personal PPE kit. As a requirement, face masks must be worn while visiting the hotel.
Eagerly, we donned our swimwear to check out the pool and its amenities. The four sparkling pools comprise a two acre space- offering a cool respite from Las Vegas’s triple digit heat and of course refreshing libations are available to also help squelch the heat. Looking over the vast pool area, we could not help but be impressed at the constant cleaning of all public contact surfaces by the pool team members.
The area had been recently renovated with a splash pad for those traveling with small children while appropriately spaced pool ledge loungers, daybeds and lounge chairs beckon sun worshippers. After several thirst quenching cocktails and a refreshing swim, it was time for our highly anticipated first meal on the strip in several months.
In the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Palazzo the “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro reopened his popular Buddy V’s presenting guests a limited menu featuring all of Buddy’s Favorites. “It’s good to be back to work and see everyone,” said General Manager Christopher Chandler. “Our bar lounge and restaurant are all open at 50% capacity. Our menu is somewhat limited for now but has all of Buddy’s favorites as well as a few new items,” Chandler added.
Taking our seats with a brilliant view of the strip below us, we dove into the ultimate comfort food- a nice dish of Grand mama’s Meatballs; a blend of beef, veal & pork, tomato ragu, and pecorino along with a fresh Caesar salad. It feels great to be back. Buddy Vs had planned a renovation prior to the pandemic. They plan to reopen in a few weeks.
The reopening of Las Vegas is a very big deal so why not celebrate the occasion in style with dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s flagship steakhouse CUT. Located in the Palazzo Las Vegas, CUT continues to be one of the most highly coveted reservations in the city.
Executive Chef Matthew Hurley and his staff have set the bar high with their exemplary service standards. CUT’s Hawaiian Big Eye Tuna Tartare, Hokkaido Uni, Avocado, Grapefruit and Tapioca Crisp are a superb way to start your fine dining experience. For the spirit lovers, spoil your self with a tableside Whistlepig Old Fashioned- sip and enjoy as you await the next course.
Hurley’s menu is diverse, offering world class cuisine with something that is sure to please everyone in your party. CUT has well earned its reputation as a premier steak house that approaches the diner with sophistication, sublime ingredients, and attentive service. A prime indulgence of Japanese Pure-Bred Wagyu Beef awaits guests with a choice of Sanuki Olive Fed, Kagawa, Rib Eye Steak or the Private Reserve, Hokkaido, New York Sirloin. Either one is pure Wagyu ecstasy. It’s not just about seafood and fabulous steaks at CUT either.
The house specialty of Half Jidori Chicken, English Peas, and Morel Mushrooms all in natural Jus is deftly prepared and savory to last indulgent forkful.
Nightlife and Cocktails are back at the Venetian with the bars of The Cocktail Collective. The Dorsey Cocktail Bar, Rosina Cocktail Lounge and Electra Cocktail Club join to make the unique concept of The Cocktail Collective. These three lounges serve brilliantly crafted cocktails and curated music.
Pick your favorite or hop between all three. No matter how you choose to experience the collective, it is a consummate way to wind down the evening.
Celebrity Chef Lorena Garcia wasted no time in reopening her namesake CHICA located on restaurant row in the Venetian Resort. Chef de Cuisine Arron Cappello is at the helm creating bold, flavorful dishes from all over Latin America.
For the table, begin with a creamy Guacamole with Hass avocado, cilantro, chili all served with fresh warm tortillas, assorted arepas & crispy plantain chips. Considered a house specialty, the Peruvian Ceviche combines fresh market fish, sweet potato, red onion and Fresno chili for the perfect spicy bite.
Of course, on any visit, Garcia’s Grilled Beef Empanadas with sweet plantains, traditional black beans, queso fresco, Brazilian pico, and a jipanca emulsion create multicultural feast of taste and texture. The carnivores in the group will certainly enjoy diving into 14oz.- 25 Day Dry-Aged Rib eye with Garcia’s touch of blistered Padron peppers, roasted potato, and chimichurri. “Its great to be back in the kitchen creating new dishes that keep the menu fresh and exciting with Chef Lorena,” Cappello said. General manager Adam Norotsky added, “It feels fantastic to get back to work. We are at 50% capacity and a smaller menu for now. The shutdown gave us time to reconfigure the physical room as well as work on new culinary items, signature cocktails, bigger wine list and of course staff training on the new protocols.”
Even though the lockdown has been tough on the industry, Spritz a 50 Eggs group concept, located on the Venetian pool deck opened to the delight of its guests. Why not try an egg white frittata or vegan coconut granola bowl.
Start your day with a decadent Baja Breakfast Burrito. For lunch, the Truffle Burger on a brioche bun with truffle aioli, pepper jack and parmesan fries is a satisfying option.
No matter what time of day one can enjoy Spritz cuisine at the restaurant, in your cabana or at your poolside seat.
At the nearby Wynn and Encore resort guest can enjoy the many bars, restaurant, and lounges along with three shopping esplanades, five pools, two salons and spas and the golf courses at both Wynn and Encore. In addition, both casinos are open for guest’s enjoyment with spacing protocols and enhanced cleaning measures are in place. Costa Di Mare, WingLei, La Cave and Cipriani along with most the resorts acclaimed fine dinning venues are open for service. The much awaited contemporary Mexican restaurant and lounge Elio, has opened to eager diners who have long anticipated the culinary brilliance of Chef Daniela Soto-Innes, Enrique Olvera and Santiago Perez. For buffet lovers, The Wynn’s Buffet has opened with an extensive dinner options including 50 savory items in seven categories including a myriad of salads, soups, sushi along with King Crab legs, beer-braised mussels, baked oysters and chilled seafood; Mediterranean and Far East Flavors; carved specialties and charcuterie, along with an extensive dessert selections. Reservations are required but walk ups can be added to a wait list by scanning a QR code.
The MGM properties are opening in stages. The next MGM hotels set to open are Aria, Mandalay Bay and Four Seasons Las Vegas on July 1. The Shoppes at Mandalay Bay Place reopened June 25. Caesars Resorts are opening a few at a time as well. “Reopening Las Vegas in a phased approach will be a significant milestone for Caesars Entertainment as the country continues to emerge from this necessary closure period,” said Tony Rodio, CEO of Caesars Entertainment. “We are excited to welcome guests and our employees back to our properties. We are grateful for the efforts of those on the front lines addressing this public health emergency.”
Las Vegas is reopening on and off the Las Vegas strip. It may be somewhat different, but one thing guests can count on is that it still offers the best hospitality in the world and well worth a visit.