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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
March 17, 2014
Vegas Countdown: The Top 10 News Stories of the Week
Welcome to the debut of a new feature in the Vegas4Visitors.com Weekly Column where we will countdown the biggest Las Vegas news stories of the week. Keep in mind that here the word "news" is probably stretching things - some of it is actually important and a lot of it, like most "news" these days, is silly stuff that doesn't really matter but is still entertaining. I hope you enjoy.
10 - American Idol Odds Put Bottom 3 at the Top
Although ratings for "American Idol" are way down this season, Johnny Avello, the Race & Sports Book Director at Wynn Las Vegas is apparently still watching and still putting out his odds for who will win. Before last week's performances and eliminations, Avello was putting 17-year-old high school student Sam Woolf as the favorite with 4:1 odds. Now, Woolf was in the "bottom 3" last week so that may switch things up a bit in the oddsmaking so we'll see what happens there. Interestingly, Majesty Rose was in second with 9:2 odds and she was also in the bottom 3 last week. Perhaps that will allow rocker Caleb Johnson, who is currently in third with 6:1 odds to move up in the rankings. At the bottom of the pack is tuba girl, Malaya Watson who is at 30:1 odds. These are all just for fun - you can't actually bet on "American Idol" yet.
9 - Silverton Expansion
Most of the people who drive in to Las Vegas from Los Angeles are familiar with The Silverton. It's the small, Alpine themed hotel just of I-15 about five miles south of Mandalay Bay. It's primarily a local's place but it gets a few Vegas visitors drawn to its affordable accommodations that are close enough to The Strip for those with transportation. In 2016 there will be more of those accommodations as the hotel has announced plans to add a 390 room tower to the property. It will be located on what is now a parking lot adjacent to the main parking structure. Construction should start later this year.
8 - Jubilee! Returns
Jubilee! is the last remaining major showgirl production in Vegas and one of the longest running shows in town, having played for more than 30 years at Bally's. It has been closed for the last couple of months while it gets a makeover with new costumes, songs, sets, music, and cast but it set to reopen this week. The new version is expected to keep iconic acts like the Samson and Delilah number and the sinking of the Titanic spectacle but blend in updated pieces throughout the rest of the show.
7 - Red Rock Concert Series
Red Rock Resort on the far west side of town has announced its Sandbar Summer Concert Series, several shows that will be held poolside and are open to both guests and the public. It starts May 3 with Lifehouse then moves on to Kansas on May 17, The Fray on May 31, and then skips ahead to August 1 with a trifecta of The Goo Goo Dolls, Daughtry, and the Plain White T's. Ticket prices vary per show but are going for as low as $39 at some of them. You can get them on Ticketmaster.
6 - Da Vinci: The Exhibit Returns
A popular exhibit at Leonardo Di Vinci and his groundbreaking art and inventions has returned to The Venetian. Six galleries of the Imagine Exhibitions space will feature designs for things like the helicopter, military tank, SCUBA, crane, clock, submarine, hang glider, and plan for a modern city, all created long before most of those things actually existed. Additionally, various multimedia and documentary presentations throughout the experience provide a multitude of supplementary information on da Vinci's discoveries and creative process. The exhibit is open Sunday through Thursday from 9:30am-7pm and Friday and Saturday from 9:30am until 9pm. Tickets are $28 and available at the Venetian box office or at the gallery.
5 - Eiffel Tower Vegas Celebrates Eiffel Tower Paris
March 25 is the 125th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower... the real one in Paris, France. But you don't have to fly all the way to Europe to celebrate because the Eiffel Tower... the replica at Paris Las Vegas... is celebrating, also. The hotel will have a "block party" in the main porte cochere area where the Arc de Triomphe replica is located from 5-8pm featuring food, drink, and entertainment in a French carnival setting. It's free to attend.
4- Parking Problems at the Big Race
There's a huge brouhaha going on after the big NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last week involving people being "held prisoner" in a parking lot for hours after the race. According to reports, parking attendants and both off-duty and on-duty Las Vegas police officers barred people who were parked in a free lot near the speedway from leaving until the lots where people had paid to park had emptied. Stories abound of people in the lot trying to pry open locked fences only to be pushed back by the police and other security. Officials for the speedway apologized for the incident saying it was a miscommunication between staff and parking attendants.
3 - Vegas Nightclub Hit With Drug & Prostitution Charges
MGM Resorts has been socked with a $500,000 fine after investigators with the Nevada Gaming Control Board found evidence of drugs and prostitution at The House of Blues Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay. According to the complaint, undercover investigators were able to purchase everything from pot and ecstasy to cocaine and prescription drugs from staff at the nightclub and were able to arrange both prostitutes and private rooms in which to have sex. MGM Resorts, worried about its gaming license, quickly agreed to the fine saying that while they didn't know it was happening on their watch and therefore are ready to step up and pay. More than a dozen employees were fired and a company that provides security services was dismissed.
2 - Jackie Gaugahan Dies
Jackie Gaughan, a pioneer in the development of early Las Vegas died last week at 92. Gaughan got his start in gambling in Omaha, where he was a legal bookmaker at the city's horse tracks. He moved to Vegas in 1950 and bought a small stake in The Flamingo. Later he bought a small share of The Boulder Club and, in 1961, purchased the Las Vegas Club outright. His biggest purchase was in 1963 when he bought the El Cortez, which had once been owned by Bugsy Siegel. Other properties that were either entirely or partially owned by Gaughan include The Plaza, The Golden Nugget, The Gold Spike, and The Western. At one point he owned or controlled about 25% of all of Downtown Las Vegas. Although he sold all of his properties in the later years of his life, he continued to live on the top floor of the El Cortez tower and acted as the hotel's "ambassador." He could often be seen greeting guests, playing poker, and eating in the hotel's restaurants all the way up to his death last week. Gaughan's son Michael started the Coast Casino change (Barbary Coast - soon to be The Cromwell, Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, etc.) and is now the owner of South Point.
1 - New Vegas Scam To Be Watching For
Vegas Chatter is reporting a scam happening in Vegas hotel rooms where guests are receiving calls from an operator saying that the hotel's systems are down and that they need the credit card number of the person who booked the room in order to process check out. They apparently know the guest's names and offer discounts and waived fees in order to get the information and the calls are apparently so realistic that computer keyboard typing and lobby noise can be heard in the background. Vegas Chatter details a recent incident of this at Planet Hollywood but say it is happening all over town so be careful. Never, ever give out your credit card number on the phone if you didn't originate the call. If you get a call like this, hang up and report the incident to the hotel security.
The Vegas Dish
A round up of the tastiest bits of dining and restaurant news.
Guy Fieri's Restaurant Named
After months of delays, Food Network staple Guy Fieri's new restaurant has gotten an official name and semi-official opening date. Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen & Bar will open in April (sometime) in a two level, 10,000 square foot space on the north end of The Quad facing The Strip and Carnaval Court at Harrah's. It will feature a broad menu of grub, from burgers and sandwiches to south of the border favorites and more.
Cupcake ATM Opens March 21
Las Vegas is on the verge of getting its most exciting technological advancement since the invention of the slot machine: the cupcake ATM. Famed Los Angeles bakery Sprinkles will be opening at The Linq on March 21 and will have a version of the machine found at the Beverly Hills location that offers a 24 hour a day, automated way to mainline sugar! It works just like a regular ATM, only instead of dispensing cash it dispenses cupcakes, cookies, and other treats, which are restocked with fresh baked goods all day and night.
KGB Burger of the Month
Those who have been paying attention know that I think KGB at Harrah's has the best burgers in town and it's because of crazy concoctions like their March Burger of the Month that I keep saying it: the BBQ Grilled Cheese Patty Melt - Angus beef between two slices of Texas toast, Gouda and cheddar cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and BBQ sauce. It's paired with a Heath Bar Crunch milkshake.
Yusho at Monte Carlo Set to Open
Yusho, a Chicago restaurant favorite is now set for an April 4 debut at Monte Carlo. The eatery specializes in Japanese-inspired grill items, noodles, and other Asian favorites. It will be located on next to the main entrance facing The Strip, near Diablo's Cantina.
Daniel Boulud Returning to Vegas
Chef Daniel Boulud had one of the most popular (and most expensive) restaurants in Vegas for many years with his Boulud at Wynn Las Vegas racking up rave reviews and epicurean awards. Like many high-ticket eateries, it became a victim of the economic downturn and closed but Boulud is making Vegas comeback with word that his more affordable DB Brasserie will open in May in the restaurant row along the long hall that connects The Venetian and The Palazzo. It will French dishes with an American sensibility in a casual bistro setting.
MGM Resorts and Pinnacle Entertainment Strike a Deal
Two of the biggest casino companies in the country have struck a marketing agreement that will provide members of their respective players' clubs to get offers and deals from each other's casinos.
Pinnacle has 14 casinos primarily in the Midwest with Ameristar branded properties in Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Mississippi, and Colorado; Belterra casinos in Indiana and Ohio; Boomtown casinos in Louisiana, and more. It's only Nevada property is in tiny Jackpot where they run the Cactus Pete's and the Horseshu hotel and casino.
The deal isn't a complete integration - you won't be able to use point you earn at MGM Resorts in Pinnacle properties or vice versa - but it will provide players with offers of hotel rooms, shows, tournaments, and more across both company's portfolios.
Restaurant Review: Rose.Rabbit.Lie
The first and most important thing to understand about this place is that it is so much more than just a restaurant, a show, or a nightclub. You could come here just to eat and you'd have a meal that would be unforgettable; you could come here just to see the show and be endlessly amused; or you could come just to dance the night away in the club and stumble out at dawn, more than satisfied. But in doing so you'd be missing out on the full picture of what is the most interesting, unique, and exciting experiences you can have in Las Vegas.
Although digestible in chunks, it really is like one long performance art piece that includes food, booze, and entertainment all seamlessly woven together into a rich and richly odd tapestry. Be sure to read the full reviews of the show and nightclub to get the full picture.
The macro concept here is that you have been invited into the home of Alfonso and Beverly Falzone-Buzukhov, an old-money and delightfully snobby brother and sister whose family made their fortune in Russia but had to leave when they had a little "disagreement with the neighbors" in the form of the Russian revolution. They moved to San Francisco but then rebuilt their palatial mansion in Las Vegas after the 1906 earthquake and you get to wander through various parts of it including an "Alice in Wonderland" inspired dining room, a cozy library of a speakeasy, a ballroom where the party happens, and more.
Arrive for dinner and you are escorted through a warren of passages to your table, which if located in the main area will be surrounded with beautiful stained glass and a wine-cellar vibe. It's gorgeous and intimate, with just a handful of tables, making you feel special even before you receive your specially printed menu closed with a wax seal. These are just a few of the attention-to-detail touches that turn a regular meal into an event such as the silver, animal-shaped holders for your flatware, which comes with an intricate embossed pattern. Order a drink in a tumbler and it is delivered with a little twist that makes the glass spin.
Music is provided by a small jazz ensemble in the next room who perform retro-lounge versions of modern pop and rock hits like "Roar" by Katy Perry or "Royals" by Lorde. Later, as the time for the first show approaches, characters start to wander through the space, some appearing in surprising ways, some just passing through, some performing, and others stopping by the tables to chat. Take a break from your meal to look around the other rooms so you can see more of the oddities and acts that pop up unexpectedly.
It's special and that's all before you get to the food.
The menu is mostly small plates, with sections for bread and vegetables, seafood, and main courses. You could start with the herb brioche rolls or the gourgeres, little pastries stuffed with a truffled sauce, but be careful - you'll want to save stomach room for the real treats like the snow pea salad done with divine chunks of pancetta and a sherry vinaigrette or the Brussels sprouts served with crispy chicken skin. The latter will make you understand what you were missing when you refused to eat Brussels sprouts as a kid, although I'd be surprised to find out that your mother prepared them this way.
The crispy Oysters Rockefeller are served with house-cured bacon and bacon dust, which makes oysters make a lot more sense to me and the lobster cocktail, done with coconut, lemongrass, and mango is like a little dish full of heaven.
Speaking of which, you have to try the aptly named Heavenly Eggs, little shells with truffle and egg custard on a bed of sea salt that is perfectly delicate in both presentation and taste.
We sampled almost everything from the small plates menu including the rabbit fricassee, pan-roasted sweetbreads with licorice and root beer jus, steak frittes, fois gras with duck fat fries, chicken oysters with garlic flan, bone marrow, and duck confit. We even sampled some bites from the caviar section of the menu including caviar tacos, done in little Yukon gold potato shells, and the caviar pizza, topped with egg, bacon, and thyme. Everything, without exception, was so richly complex and yet expertly matched in flavors that it was nearly two solid hours of "Oh my God" and "Wow" and "Mmmmmm" and quite a bit of eyes rolling back in heads. But if I had to pick winners it would have to be the braised pork, done with polenta and black truffle, or the deconstructed beef stroganoff, served with mushroom under a thin sheet of herbed pasta. Perfection on a plate.
There are also several "feast" options including a Beef Wellington, a crown rack of lamb, and a giant Alaskan red king crab, the latter of which is 50 pounds and will run you a cool $1,200. It'll feed an army and very well, I might add.
Desserts, often a disappointment at foodie places like this, are whimsical delights. Try the cookie jar, which is literally that stuffed with various cookies, brownies, and chocolates, or the chocolate terrarium, an intricate, artful construction served under a glass dome.
The prices seem reasonable on first glance until you remember that these are small plates and you will need 3-4 of them per person to make a full meal. Bread and vegetables are all under $10, seafood is mostly $10-$20 with a few leaps above that mark for lobster and king crab, and the main courses run from $11 to $36. You could do it for as little as $40 per person but at least $75 is more likely, not including tax, tip, or drinks.
The service is literally the best I have ever experienced in Las Vegas. The wait staff knows everything about every dish and every cocktail and is eager to tell you all about them, guide you based on your tastes, and make sure that every whim, desire, and detail is attended to. It's the yet another component of a very special evening.
Show Review: Vegas Nocturne
Unlike most shows in Las Vegas, here the entertainment doesn't begin and end with a curtain. Instead it spills out into the restaurant and bars and is presented in different iterations throughout the evening in delightful and original ways.
The experience has been created by the same group that does the fantastic Absinthe up the street at Caesars Palace. Here it's called Vegas Nocturne and it has a similarly off-kilter, variety show vibe only a little less profane.
The concept is that you have been invited into the family home of wealthy brother and sister duo Alfonso and Beverly Falzone-Buzukhov, a gleefully snobby pair who become increasingly inappropriate as their drunken night of revelry continues. They host as ringmasters and occasional performers in a bizarre circus party of their relatives (Alfonso's twin step-brother), staff (rubber-limbed butler Ripley and so devoted it hurts maid Hrit), friends, and others in acts that are part Vegas revue, part Cirque du Soleil, and part theater of the absurd.
The show actually starts before the proverbial curtain, with characters interacting with guests in the dining areas and in the bars before, during, and after the formal shows. You might see a costumed performer just wandering through or they may stop and chat with you or they may pop out of secret compartments. It's unexpected in all the best ways. Be sure to read the reviews of the restaurant and nightclub to get the full picture.
The main productions are presented in three distinct "cantos," or acts. The first at 8pm sets up the concept and has a long roster of performers ranging from magic to Cirque style acrobatics to comedy sketches to music and more. All of it is presented with an offbeat flair that turns things like a tennis racket into a tool of torture for a contortionist and a simple card trick into a laugh-out-loud production involving a guy in a dragon costume and a mind-reading Chihuahua. Partly because the acts may change from time to time and partly to not want to ruin any surprises I won't go any further in describing the acts but there wasn't one that wasn't entertaining in one way or another.
The 10pm show continues the party with the same hosts but different acts, either with totally new performers or with the same performers doing different things. Everything is edgier and/or more risqué with some nudity, more profanity, and quite a bit of "I really shouldn't be laughing at this" humor including a bit involving the aforementioned Chihuahua, a gun, and a cannon. While you don't need to have seen the 8pm show to appreciate the goings on in this one, a couple of the jokes are geared toward those who did so don't worry if the guy next to you laughs at something you didn't get. Standout acts here include a pair of tap-dancing brothers who used to be in "Vegas! The Show," a beatbox artist named Butterscotch who has more talent in her tiny package than 95% of the artists on the charts today, and a couple who almost literally beat the hell out of each other and a table in a drunken Irish slap dance. It all ends with ping pong balls. It's a long story.
The midnight show is short - only about 25 minutes - and is designed to transition the space into the high energy nightclub it becomes late at night. It includes even more acts and some variations on those from the previous two shows plus dancers, some unique bottle service delivery attempts, and other weird and wild humor. There's even an act - which I won't ruin by describing - that pays off on a minor character that you barely notice for most of the shows but is there from the very beginning. At the end, a DJ takes over and the stage becomes a dance floor and it's party time.
One of the most unique things about the experience is that, as mentioned, it isn't limited to what is happening on that stage. A rotating platform reveals many of the acts to the main room but the back half of that platform is in another room with dining tables and a bar. People in there get to see a different show and even different acts in some cases. The main room might be watching a guy doing a sexy acrobatic act in a tub full of water while the back room is seeing women in a giant champagne glass.
And it goes beyond that, with acts wandering into adjacent rooms to continue the stories revealed on the main stage. For instance a fish meets an inglorious end in the 10pm production and then gets a funeral just before midnight in the adjacent study.
Note that all three shows are ticketed separately but if you purchase all three you wind up with more than four hours of entertainment for about the same as you'll pay for the top-level tickets for a 90 minute Celine Dion concert.
My one and only complaint was with the seating. Several tiers around the room have multiple rows on the same level, sometimes with higher chairs in front of low-slung banquette seats. This can inhibit sight lines for some of the audience on certain acts, which is really only a problem here because with a show like this you don't want to miss a moment.
It's also worth noting that the midnight show is mostly general admission standing room only while the seats are reserved for those who have purchased VIP bottle service for the nightclub.
Although way too early in the year to be making such pronouncements, I can say without much reservation that when I publish my Top 10 Awards for 2014 of the Best Shows in Vegas that Vegas Nocturne will be at, or at least near, the top of the list.
Nightlife Review: Rose.Rabbit.Lie
These days a Vegas nightclub has to be more than just booze and a DJ - it has to be a spectacle. In some instances that is overwhelming and annoying but here it's all part of the delightful package that is Rose.Rabbit.Lie.
The club opens with the final "canto" of Vegas Nocturne, the wild variety show extravaganza that builds over the course of more than four hours to this, a relatively short and fast paced revue of comedy, fire breathers, dancers, acrobats, and music. At the end a DJ booth appears, the walls disappear, and the place is ready for the real party to start.
The space itself makes the place unique. There are several rooms including a quieter library bar, a social space with a big bar, the main nightclub with two more bars, and on it goes. That gives you plenty of opportunity to move around and find the place to hang that makes you the happiest. The dance floor is small in comparison to some of the mega-clubs in town but this is the kind of venue where it doesn't seem to matter where you're at when you feel like getting your groove on.
The crowd is an interesting mix of slightly older and typically young, at least at first. A lot of this is because of leftovers from the audience that attended the earlier shows and wanted to see how it all ends with the midnight canto. As the transition occurs to full on nightclub space, the older folks faded quickly and the younger crew took over. Having said that, I think this is a place with a little more maturity that most Vegas nightclubs. I don't think you'll feel out of place here if you aren't 22 and pretty, as long as you can keep up.
Prices are typical for a Vegas nightclub - figure $10-$20 for your drinks - but the quality of the cocktails here is way above typical so it feels worth it. There is an attention to detail here that can't be denied, even when you are ordering something relatively pedestrian (but do be sure to explore their crafted cocktail list).
My impressions of this place as a club are impossible to detach from my feelings of the overall experience of the restaurant and show that precedes it, which are overwhelmingly positive. Be sure to check out the reviews of the Rose.Rabbit.Lie restaurant and Vegas Nocturne show. Viewed in a vacuum without all of that, this may not be the biggest, most outrageous, or wildest nightclub in Vegas but in my book those are all good things.