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A Fine Balance
Diana Bitting | Photo: Courtesy Images | April 30, 2013
Las Vegas finds its Zen at the new Nobu Hotel Restaurant and Lounge.
Ordinarily, when you think of Sin City, the first word that comes to mind is not “tranquility”—until now. Las Vegas’ newest hotel, Nobu, has opened its doors, and a food lover’s paradise is now situated inside flawless modern lodgings that bring together aspects of Eastern hospitality with Western indulgence. Located within Caesars Palace in the former Centurion Tower, the boutique property is an atypical, oasislike experience set in the center of the Strip that offers guests a respite from the area’s famed sights, sounds and overstimulation. Three years in the making, it’s the very first hotel project for the Nobu brand—a partnership between chef Nobu Matsuhisa, actor Robert De Niro and film producer Meir Teper.
The story of Nobu is as intriguing as any Hollywood tale. Chef Nobu began working at a sushi restaurant in Tokyo right after high school, honing his craft so well that a loyal patron offered to partner with him on a restaurant in Lima, Peru. Once there, the Peruvian culture began pervading the strict Japanese dishes the chef had been making for years—a sprinkle of aji amarillo here, a hint of jalapeño or cilantro there. A distinct culinary style was born, and Nobu’s reputation began to build.
After stints in Argentina and Alaska, Nobu opened his own restaurant, Matsuhisa, in Beverly Hills in 1987. It was here that his serendipitous friendship with De Niro began, and it’s now become a business partnership that—in addition to the launch of the first chef-branded hotel in Las Vegas—is anchored by the largest Nobu Restaurant and Lounge to date (the 26th addition to the sushi empire).
“There was just something so special about him, the quality [of] his food,” remarked De Niro at the property’s opening ceremony. “I had to bring him to the rest of the world. We would get invitations to open Nobu restaurants in different hotels around the world, and it got me thinking, ‘If so many hotels want us, why don’t we just do the hotels ourselves with our restaurants in them?’”
So they did just that. Overseen by award-winning architect/designer David Rockwell of Rockwell Group (whose hotel projects include parts of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas resort, the renovation of The Hotel Bel-Air and the Andaz Wall Street), the property was designed to convey Nobu’s signature Japanese elegance. “That sense of ‘curation’ that you get at Nobu restaurants is present here,” explains Rockwell, who has also overseen the design for a number of Nobu restaurants, including Nobu Melbourne, Nobu Hong Kong and Nobu at Atlantis The Palm resort in Dubai. “You are coming here; you are trying food you’ve never tried; you are having an exchange with an amazing group of chefs and having an experience that is memorable.” Just as the delicate simplicity of Matsuhisa’s dishes is reflected in the restaurant’s interior design, the hotel decor is also based on an edited palette of materials (stone, wood and metal) grounded in the Asian wabi-sabi aesthetic principles of simplicity, evocative transience and beauty found in the unexpected and natural. Picture various sizes of stacked, carved wood block panels of hemlock, fir and oak in the lobby, juxtaposed by a boulder-shaped, high-gloss black lacquer reception desk and elevator doors with a custom antique bronze finish, which adds the perfect amount of flash.
Hotel guests have their choice of a queen, king or suite room. Neutral tones on the walls have a calming quality while lanternlike fixtures offer soft, ambient lighting. Nature makes its way inside with the organic sand motif carpeting, live-edge coffee table, and Japanese-inspired rice paper and bamboo cloth wallcovering. “It’s about informal luxury,” Rockwell says, “and that sense of ‘welcome’ greets you here at the hotel.”
The staff certainly helps guests feel welcome as well. Fresh, milky green tea at the perfect temperature is presented upon check-in, along with a delicious rice cracker as an accompaniment. The concierge is especially conscientious, and high-tech services such as iPad check-in (there is no official lobby to speak of), iPhone/iPod hookups throughout the guest rooms and charging input centers for every Apple device under the sun fit in seamlessly with the decor.
Another perk is the complimentary access to the renowned Qua Baths and Spa, the 5,500-square-foot oasis in Caesars Palace complete with a full hair salon, makeup services, fitness room and a treatment menu boasting special Nobu-themed services like the chai tea mud mask (75 min., $210) and the Zen Shiatsu massage (50 min., $170). The Roman baths—surrounded by heated tile loungers perfect for catnapping—consist of three distinct pools that vary in temperature and size, and rooms that offer herbal steams, hot saunas, Arctic cold washes and relaxing refreshments like fresh fruit and exotic teas.
Feeling peckish? Dinner at Nobu is a must (the yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, broiled Alaskan black cod with miso and rock shrimp tempura with shichimi ponzu are staples), and the brunch menu will lure you in, as well. The hotel also offers 24-hour in-room dining catered by the Nobu chefs, from blueberry and yuzu soba pancakes to the decadent Vegas bento box, bursting with choices including maki rolls, California rolls and soft-shell crab. It’s a foodie’s dream come true, the ultimate way to experience the chef turned hotelier’s vision of dining and hospitality combined, and an entirely new way to enjoy the Strip.
Now the whole world will surely hear about what happens in Vegas.