Viva Las Vegas! A Travel Guide to the Best of 2017

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As the weather heats up, there’s no better place to cool off (and strip down) than Sin City. Las Vegas is the ultimate getaway for any Angeleno—a mere four-hour drive or one-hour plane ride away for a weekend of pure, unadulterated fun. Although you couldn’t possibly do everything, you need to start somewhere… and why not begin with the newest and hautest things possible?

The Living Room at The W
The Living Room at The W

We’ll place our bets right now (see what we did there?) that the W Las Vegas (2535 S. Las Vegas Blvd) is going to be a hit. As designed by Gensler and AvroKO Hospitality Group, this property retains the fun, youthful and approachably luxurious sensibility of the brand, thanks to its intimate layout, secret entrances, private spaces and personalized service. Guests will find the SLS adjacent on the up-and- coming north end of The Strip (in the hotel’s former luxury tower), with pool, restaurants and gaming options tucked away in relative privacy. The 289 suites, designed by Philippe Starck in collaboration with Gensler, offer an exclusive escape from the noise and drama in the same space as the iconic Rat Pack-era Sahara Hotel. Each room features the cheeky interpretation of luxury hospitality Starck is known for, as well as signature W bedding, peek-a-boo showers and Bliss bath amenities. The pièce de résistance is the 2,382 square foot Extreme WOW Suite, an ode to elevated living designed by Lenny Kravitz. Guests can enjoy the sunny, sultry rooftop WET Deck with private cabanas, destination bar and specialty frozen cocktails, the 24-hour fitness center FIT with state-of- the-art equipment and AWAY Spa, a playful oasis with large faux pearl key rings, bright pink lockers and whimsical sculptures with custom massage tables, herbal steam rooms and facials for a necessary detox. The W is also the only Sin City locale to partner with The Glam App, a virtual platform that delivers beauty experts to your front door for exclusive in-room services. Additional touches include poker chips behind the front desk and playing cards on the walls, a massive bar inspired by roulette wheels, evening DJ, a James Brown-esque fortune teller, and a plethora of dining options, nightlife and entertainment venues—including Bazaar Meat by José Andrés, Katsuya, Cleo, The Perq, Foxtail, The Foundry and The Sayers Club.

The Jackie Gaughan Suite at the El Cortez Hotel & Casino
The Jackie Gaughan Suite at the El Cortez Hotel & Casino

Another unique option is the Jackie Gaughan Suite at the El Cortez Hotel & Casino (600 E. Fremont St), which was previously unavailable to the public. Following the late casino magnate’s 2014 passing, the current owners decided to honor his legacy by reimagining  the room in a modern way. Those who stay (including Ellie Goulding, who shot her “On My Mind” video here) will find 2,700 square feet of space with wet bar, a romper room and full kitchen, pastel pink upholstered walls and floors, pink marbled tub with gold swan features, vintage intercom system, and an art wall of framed vintage records. Or check out Steve Wynn’s empire: the $400 million-$500 million first  phase of construction on Wynn Kravitz is the designer Wynn Paradise Park—featuring a 20-acre lagoon, 4,000 square foot boardwalk, cabanas, attractions, foodservice and a beachfront meeting space—will begin awe-inspiring views. December 2017 or January 2018.

The dining room at Zuma
The dining room at Zuma

Gourmands will be similarly psyched about the numerous culinary options that have arrived on The Strip. The Las Vegas outpost of Zuma (3708 S. Las Vegas Blvd), a modern Japanese hot spot, serves up three separate menus of fare courtesy of chef and co-founder Rainer Becker: elegantly presented dishes from the main kitchen, sushi, and items from a Robata grill in informal izakaya dining style. Be sure to try the Wagyu beef sushi with truffle and knock back one of the innovative cocktails, such as Japanese Penicillin (Suntori Toki whisky, honey, ginger, yuzu and barrel stave smoked tableside) or Fish in a Bag (Tanqueray gin, dehydrated orange, green tea tonic water and, yes, a fish in a bag). You’ll also find the first West Coast location of David Chang’s two-Michelin starred Momofuku (3708 S. Las Vegas Blvd). The menu draws influence from all over the world, featuring steamed buns, noodles, and meat and seafood meant for sharing, as well as various plays on classics like the prime rib or fried chicken and caviar. As designed  by Toronto-based The Design Agency, the eatery is clearly inspired by Vegas, while maintaining its roots in the tradition of Momofuku restaurants in New York City, Sydney, Toronto and Washington, D.C. Guests are greeted by a series of custom neon signs within the Peach Bar before being led into the glass, white oak, raw oiled steel and concrete main dining room with a five-panel mural created by artist David Choe.

Momofuku
Momofuku

Then, you can expect sweet success at Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar at The Cosmopolitan (3708 S. Las Vegas Blvd), which puts a playful, approachable spin on familiar home-style desserts and savory snacks. Menu highlights include cake truffles and birthday cake, plus specialty items like MilkQuakes—a blend of house-made soft serve and delicious sweet bites in out-of-this- world flavor combinations such as strawberry and corn and sweet potato pie—and alcohol-infused fancy shakes in cereal milk white Russian, fancy fruity, and fancy chocolate cake malt. Iron Chef’s Masaharu Morimoto has similarly brought his high-end brand to the MGM Grand (3799 S. Las Vegas Blvd), serving up delicacies such as tuna pizza with anchovy aioli, olives and jalapeno, oyster foie gras with uni, and his signature ‘angry’ chicken in a 5,542 square foot Yabu Pushelberg-designed space. The restaurant has thinly stenciled, floor-to-ceiling glass, wooden table tops, black and white exotic photographs by Yasumichi Morita, and a black and white mosaic sushi wall showcasing traditional Japanese symbolism in a modern style. Soothing grey and warm dusty rose hues carry through the bar and lounge, with additional artistic touches like a red and white rope statue, a life-sized bust of Morimoto crafted by acclaimed Brazilian sculptor Mozart Guerra, and the glass- enclosed carving room.

Moving on to The Venetian, you’ll find Chica (3355 S. Las Vegas Blvd), a refreshing take on home-style Latin cuisine courtesy of celebrity chef Lorena Garcia of Top Chef Masters. Diverse menu features include modern takes on classic global cuisine from Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, among others, with ambiance that follows suit. Expect to nosh on dishes like asado negro arepas, with house-made anise and piloncillo arepas stuffed with braised short rib, and garnished with pickled onions and cilantro; Meyer lemon rotisserie chicken with Peruvian purple potato salad, fresh hearts of palm and herb chimichurri; tuna ceviche made from tuna nikkei in an apple- infused leche de tigre; kale lime chopped salad tossed in a citrus vinaigrette, topped with sour green apples, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds and croutons, and marinated Churrasco steak served with thick-cut fries and an herb chimichurri and creamy Huancaina sauce. The room pays homage to Garcia’s Latin roots with vivid colors and chic contemporary accents, while the kitchen features a built-in rotisserie wall and custom Churrasco grill, alongside a state-of-the- art cold bar.

Sugar Factory
Sugar Factory

Don’t miss Sugar Factory at the Fashion Show Mall (3200 S. Las Vegas Blvd #1240) either—which offers everything from pancakes and sweet and savory crepes to salads, burgers and pizzas, as well as spiked beverages like the signature 36-ounce alcohol-infused smoking candy goblets. Other standouts include Bruce and Eric Bromberg’s Blue Ribbon (3708 S. Las Vegas Blvd),  which debuted its new American cuisine at The Cosmopolitan in June; the re- imagination of Charlie Palmer’s Aureole at Mandalay Bay (3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd) with a new menu focused on surf, root and ranch foods; Libertine Social, a gastropub from James Beard Award-winning chef Shawn McClain at Mandalay Bay (3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd); Michelin- starred chef Bryce Shuman of New York’s Betony Primrose Restaurant at The Park (3782 S Las Vegas Blvd); and Gordon Ramsay’s impending Hell’s Kitchen restaurant at Caesars Palace (3570 S. Las Vegas Blvd).

The new bar and lounge options on the radar include our favorite speakeasy- style haunt, The Dorsey (3355 S. Las Vegas Blvd #200), a cocktail spot for the worldly, curious and engaged. Conceived in partnership with David Rabin, the creative mind behind New York City hotspots Café Clover, The Skylark and JIMMY at the James, it features a hand-crafted cocktail menu designed by award-winning bartender Sam Ross of Attaboy and Milk & Honey fame. Make sure to stop by Alto Bar— the largest bar at Caesars Palace—with more than 15 televisions and 18 video poker machines. There’s even a private dining space where up to 30 guests can indulge in a curated experience or host meetings. Punchbowls are the feature attraction here and shareable options include the Copper Connection (Absolute Elyx, Fireball, cranberry juice, apple cider and agave nectar) and The Black Barrel Bowl (Mt. Gay Black Barrel, Velvet Falernum, Cointreau. pineapple juice, orange juice and barrel aged bitters). Then, watch out for the world’s first land- based, robotic, seriously cool concept bar, Tipsy Robot (3663 S. Las Vegas Blvd), conceived by hospitality industry leader Rino Armeni. Matched with cosmic-inspired video streaming on the bar’s nine big screens and assisted by less futuristic, but equally impressive, human staff known as ‘Galactic Ambassadors,’ the bartending robots will serve up drinks and dance moves in this high-tech venue that features plenty of thoughtful and approachable touches in the interior design. Industrial materials, like metal mesh and corrugated steel wainscoting, mixed with wood and upholstery, create the perfect human/machine balance. The social media savvy space also offers plenty of opportunities for guests to share their visit, including a live wall, socially connected photo booth and an app for ordering drinks, rating favorites and sharing images, not to mention charging ports for their phones next to each drink-ordering station—making Tipsy Robot one of the most technologically advanced bars in the world.

Jackson Williams performs ‘air seduction’ in Magic Mike Live
Jackson Williams performs ‘air seduction’ in Magic Mike Live

And what would your Sin City experience be like without all those Vegas-specific attractions? Indulge your inner teenager by checking out five of your favorite ‘90s pop heartthrobs and their Backstreet Boys: Larger Than Life show at The AXIS at Planet Hollywood, and sate your outer adult with Magic Mike Live at the Hard Rock Hotel, which pays homage to the hit films Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL, as conceived and co- directed by the film series’ star, Channing Tatum. You’ll also want to pop by I Am The Greatest: Muhammad Ali—a never-before-seen look into the boxing great’s life life—at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art (3600 Las Vegas Fwy). The exhibit, which runs through September 30, features unseen video footage, family photos, rare personal heirlooms, stories from his closest friends, torches and participation medals he received in the 1960 Rome Olympics, as well as an autographed pair of boxing shorts and gloves that he gifted to Elvis Presley. Then, NightSwim is an evening pool party series at The Wynn (3131 S. Las Vegas Blvd)— which happens to be the only one that lasts all weekend long.

After all the dining, drinking and playing, relax at the Four Seasons Las Vegas’ (3960 S. Las Vegas Blvd) newly renovated spa, which features two oversized couples’ suites, an ex-panded co-ed Zen Lounge and retail area, plus a fresh design inspired by the natural beauty of the de- sert. Warm colors, natural materials and artwork exude a soothing feel, with a reception area that features a stone desk made of polished Ne- vada quartzite and a striking, over- sized walnut hardwood art piece. There’s even a menu of treatments just for the discerning gentleman. Another always-fantastic spot is Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas (3752 S. Las Vegas Blvd), offering an incredible modern-day treatment with the digitally-enhanced ‘Journey Into Stillness’ with a grounding foot ritual and scrub, specialized face and scalp massage (using acupres- sure points to commence hands-on therapy) and full-body massage. Placements of healing tourmaline crystals and sound therapy assist with energy flow… something many Angelenos seek on the daily.

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CHEF LORENA GARCIA

The established restauranteur and chef is also the author of two cookbooks; host of the Emmy-nomi- nated El Mejor de los Peores for Fox Life; co-creator, executive-producer and host of Nickelodeon’s Food Hunters; and competed on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters.

TELL US ABOUT THE RESTAURANT’S NAME.
‘Chica’ really describes its spirit. Being a woman chef, and staffing my kitchen with more than five to 50 percent women—and celebrating Latin food and culture—’Chica’ just seemed right. And it’s fun.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE THE FIRST LATINA CELEBRITY CHEF ON THE STRIP?
I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but it’s a great responsibility and we’re working hard every day to make it as great as it can be. As women, and especially Latina, we get judged on a different scale. My team is working hard every day to exceed all expectations. I am so proud to be sharing my culture and my cooking with the world.

WHAT SETS CHICA APART FROM THE REST?
The best thing about Chica is that it’s one of a kind. There are no other fine-dining Latin cuisine restaurants. What we are doing—showcasing the flavors and ingredients, techniques and heritage of a collection of South American countries, including Argentina, Peru, Brazil, my home Venezuela and Mexico—is totally unique.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BRINGING EXTRA GIRL POWER TO THE STRIP?
The women chefs are an incredible community. Of the three [existing female restauranteurs on The Strip, GIada de Laurentiis, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken], I am closest to Mary Sue. She has been an incredible supporter and friend to me—always very kind and ready to answer any questions. In fact, Mary Sue and Susan’s long-time chef at Border Grill, Mike Minor, is now running my kitchen.

WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR THE RESTAURANT AND MENU ITEMS?
Chica is the restaurant of my dreams—a place to showcase all of the flavors and cultures of the Latin American world. We designed it to look like the court- yard in an old Venezuelan villa, with modern touches of course. The menu is a celebration of Latin cook- ing—from Mexico right down to the tip of Argentina. We’ve created a ceviche bar, as well as a ‘wall of fire’ for Brazilian rodizio, a rotisserie and grill.

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