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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
February 22, 2016
The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week
10. Vegas Extreme Sports Park Closer to Reality
We first talked about the idea of an extreme sports park in Vegas a couple of years ago when developers announced plans to build a big facility on The Strip that would include skate parks, lakes for wake boarding and surfing, dirt bike tracks, rock climbing, and more. It quickly became one of those "I'll Believe It When I See It" things that I never saw so was pretty much forgotten. But Vegas Extreme is back, saying they have locked down financing and secured a 90 acre parcel of land across the street from the Town Square shopping mall. They are working through permitting now and hope to have construction started by this summer with an early 2017 bow. It sounds good... but I'm keeping it in the I'll Believe It When I See It file for now. See all Vegas Recreation.
9. Cosmopolitan Welcomes Chinese New Year
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas celebrated Chinese New Year and welcomed the Year of the Monkey with a traditional 'Dotting of the Eyes' ceremony yesterday (Sun 2/14). Beginning at the resort's Las Vegas Boulevard entrance, performers, resort executives and poker legend Johnny Chan 'awakened' a dragon and lions by dotting their eyes with red paint. Once awakened, the twisting and turning dragon led a moving celebration of lions and dancers throughout casino and The Talon Club before stopping in front of Queue Bar for a 'Collecting of the Cabbage' ceremony. Read more about the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
8. D Las Vegas Owner Offers Kanye Debt "Deal"
Derek Stevens, owner of The D and Golden Gate hotels in Downtown Las Vegas, is offering to help Kanye West out with his financial issues. The rapper/mogul/Kardashian lover took to Twitter last week saying he was $53 million in debt and hoped that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg would invest $1 billion in his various "ideas," although what those ideas are is unknown. In case Zuckerberg doesn't come through, Stevens is offering a back-up plan where Kanye could play a concert at the open-air Downtown Events Center and keep all of the ticket revenue from the 10,000 people the venue can hold while Stevens will keep the bar receipts. Tickets would have to be $5,300 apiece to completely get West out of financial trouble but maybe he can put a good dent in the debt. Kanye and Kim didn't respond to the offer. Read more about The D Las Vegas.
7. Elvis Officiates Mass Wedding at The Linq
The Linq Promenade hosted a special wedding ceremony on Valentine's Day, concluding its weeklong Lunar New Year celebration. Twelve couples were married or renewed their vows simultaneously in a free ceremony officiated by a classic Elvis impersonator from Legends in Concert. To continue the celebration, all participating couples enjoyed a first dance sung by Elvis and a champagne toast aboard the High Roller observation wheel. Presumably none of them consummated the marriage on the High Roller - security is probably extra tight since the couple got arrested last week for doing the deed on the wheel. Missed that story? Read it here in last week's weekly column
6. New Chippendales Spinoff to Open at Paris
After playing for more than a decade at The Rio, The Chippendales hunks are ready to start branching out by creating a spinoff at Paris Las Vegas. The new show entitled 53X is not a strip show, specifically, but instead will feature both men and women doing sexy, choreographed dance routines in couples. It's designed to appeal to both men and women who are looking for a little titillation and bawdy humor, which emcee/drag queen MC Shangela will provide. The show will run inside Chateau Nightclub and performers will be on a stage and throughout the club. It starts March 11, will play Wednesday through Sunday at 9pm, and tickets go for $30-$50. Read more about Paris Las Vegas.
5. Vegas Strip to Become Pedestrian Only?
You may have seen headlines like that in various news outlets today but don't worry or get excited (depending on your view of the idea), it's not going to happen. As the Clark County Commission continues to look at ways to improve traffic on and around The Strip, one commissioner suggested they consider the idea of turning Las Vegas Boulevard into a pedestrian only mall. Pretty much everyone else in the room said "yeah, we'll get right on that" and that was the end of the conversation. The casinos would never go for it, especially those like Bellagio which can only be accessed by car from The Strip (it doesn't have a back entrance like Mandalay Bay or Luxor for instance). The county is moving forward on other plans to build more pedestrian bridges and perhaps, eventually, do something with light rail. Read more about getting around Las Vegas.
4. The Linq Planning St. Patrick's Day Blowout
The Linq Promenade will once again be the epicenter of the St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Las Vegas with their annual O'Shea's Bloq Party. The event will start at noon with a parade complete with bagpipers, "leprechauns," stilt-walkers, and more followed by Irish rock bands, beer trucks, oversized beer pong tournaments, and more. Even the High Roller is getting in on the spirit of the holiday with special green lighting and themed cocktails on board. Read more about The Linq Promenade.
3. New York-New York Roller Coaster Will Reopen
Despite what you may have read elsewhere, the roller coaster at New York-New York is not closed permanently. Instead they have shut it down for a couple of weeks while they perform regular maintenance. The coaster will start terrifying passengers again on Wednesday, February 24 with its drops, loops, and inverted barrel roll dive, wherein the coaster turns upside down and then plunges downward. No, thank you. Read more about New York-New York.
2. T-Mobile Arena to Include Craft Cocktail Experience
Attempting to prove that this is not just another sports and special events arena but a VEGAS sports and special events arena, the folks behind the upcoming T-Mobile Arena in The Park have announced plans to include a craft cocktail program designed by renowned mixologist Tony Abu-Ganim. All concession stands will feature Abu-Ganim's signature cocktails, the Atomic Fizz, Rum Punch, and Scratch Margarita and all drinks will come with its own custom ice cube. Yes, you read that right. Carved on site the cubes will come in the shape of diamonds, spheres, and more specifically designed to compliment the cocktail they are chilling. Suites will get special cocktail and punchbowl service, there will be a whiskey lounge and scotch bar, and more. The arena is scheduled to open in April with a concert from The Killers and Wayne Newton. Read more about The Park.
1. Celine Dion to Return to Caesars Palace This Week
After taking some time to mourn the death of her husband and brother, Celine Dion is returning to her residency at Caesars Palace this week. Shows resume on Tuesday, February 23 and will run for three weeks before she goes on a previously planned break until late May. The singer is also back in the studio recording new music with her longtime producer Humberto Garcia. Dion's husband Rene Angelil and her brother Daniel Dion both died of throat cancer within a couple of days of each other in January. Read more about Celine Dion.TOP
Two Shootings Involving Vegas Casinos
Two separate shooting incidents in Vegas over the weekend involving Las Vegas casinos left two people dead and a third in critical condition.
The first happened in the early morning hours of Friday, February 19th when a fight escalated into a shootout on the streets of Las Vegas.
The incident started in the parking garage at Planet Hollywood with a fight between several people. Although police don't know what started the melee but security guards had to step in to break it up. The people involved left in two cars and the shooting start on Harmon Avenue just south of the hotel as a suspect stepped out of his vehicle at a light and began firing into the other vehicle.
The driver of the car being shot at sped away and ended up in the valet area of The Cosmopolitan where her car hit another before coming to a stop. Both the female driver and a male passenger had been shot multiple times and both were rushed to the hospital. The 27-year-old California woman died later and the man remains in critical condition.
Police also found a third victim, also 27 from California, dead in the street where the shooting occurred.
A suspect was taken into custody over the weekend and faces multiple counts of murder and aggravated assault.
The second incident happened in the early morning hours of Saturday, February 20th at the Gold Coast just off The Strip. Police say a wild fight involving several people inside the casino erupted into gunfire with at least four shots being fired. Amazingly no one was wounded. By the time police arrived, everyone had fled.
Authorities are trying to use surveillance video to identify the people involved in the incident but no arrest have been made.
Restaurant Review: Lago
Lots of chefs have higher profiles than Julian Serrano, but here in Vegas he is one of the kings of the epicurean hill. His Picasso at Bellagio and Julian Serrano at Aria are highly coveted among the foodie set so his latest, Lago, arrived with a great deal of fanfare and anticipation.
Foodies will not be disappointed because because Lago is a worthy successor to those two institutions but people who simply like good food should also be celebrating because it is also his most approachable restaurant in Vegas.
Let's start with the stunning dining room. Done with a retro-modern space age look, the room is mostly white with purple accents and pops of other color here and there, but it's what's outside the restaurant that is most noteworthy. Check out those floor to ceiling windows looking directly onto the Bellagio Fountains - it's going to be hard to find a better view of them anywhere else.
The menu is filled with Italian and Mediterranean influences. At lunch you get things like classic Minestrone soup, a host of salads including Caprese and one with baked ricotta, antipasto choices, pastas including veal-stuffed agnolotti and four cheese lasagna, small pizzas, and paninis on the lighter end of the scale all the way up to pistachio crusted salmon, beef tenderloin, veal Milanese, and more for the bigger dishes.
Dinner is more of the same, only with less of the lunch style paninis and more of the more substantial dishes plus additional main courses in the form of spring chicken with thyme and lemon, red wine-braised veal, a bone in ribeye, and a whole lobster among your choices.
We visited at lunch so we went for the paninis, which seemed to be the most interesting at that particular moment. The chicken parmesan comes on a ciabatta bread, the meatball comes with tomato and mozzarella on focaccia, and the pork loin is served with onions and fontina on piadina bread. All three were fantastic - expertly prepared, perfectly seasoned, flavorful, and not so big that we had to lug half of them out in doggie bags. Throw in some insanely delicious garlic bread and some Italian fries on the side and you have the makings of a really good meal here.
It's hard to extrapolate what the bigger, more complex dinner dishes are like from our experience with several sandwiches but Serrano has not garnered the kind of reputation he has in Vegas by serving bad food. I expect that everything that comes out of his kitchen is worth knowing about.
The service was luxury level - friendly but not overly so, efficient, and ready to handle whatever we threw at them.
Prices are reasonable at lunch. Pretty much everything was under $20 until you to the bigger main courses and they didn't go too far above that mark. Go at dinner and you'll see main courses soar up into the $45-$60 range. Might be worth it.
The view alone is worth knowing about but pair it with Serrano's excellent food and you've got a double-threat winner.
Restaurant Review: Searsucker
Chef Brian Malarkey is one of those guys that seems to have come from nowhere to being a real force in the restaurant world. After becoming a finalist on "Top Chef," he went on to open several restaurants in Southern California and Texas, one of which, Searsucker, came in at #2 on Time Magazine's list of "hottest restaurants in the country."
Searsucker is Malarkey's interpretation of classic American comfort food, with a wide ranging menu that covers almost all the bases that anyone could want in the genre.
Appetizers have interesting pairings of flavors like tomato and burrata, spicy hamachi and avocado, and tuna poke with shaved taro root; salads include a classic Cobb and a Caesars done with kale and romaine lettuce; shared plates run the gamut from shishito peppers with sea salt to tomato soup with grilled cheese to sliders to ahi tacos to eggs and bacon (pork belly and a poached egg), and more; and the grill offers steaks and seafood.
But it's the Signature Dishes portion of the menu that you should probably focus on. Here you'll find beer braised short ribs, fish and chips with crispy branzino, scallops with grapefruit, organic chicken breast, and their signature braised pork butt with whiskey apples, Brussels sprouts, and prosciutto.
We sampled several of the aforementioned dishes including the short ribs, the eggs and bacon, and the scallops and couldn't find a bum note in the bunch. Everything was generously proportioned and farm-to-table fresh, with fascinating mixtures of flavors that created a very satisfying whole.
Service was fantastic throughout the meal although we sometimes had a hard time hearing our server - as is the new norm, this place is loud despite all the warm woods and brick accents, which usually helps keep things quieter.
Prices are on the high side. Starters and salads run $13-$21; shared plates mostly in the $15-$22 range; signature dishes $25-$42; and grill items starting at $36 and going up (way up) from there. With drinks, dessert, tax, and tip you're easily looking at $50 per person or more.
So yes, it's not cheap, but there are lots of other restaurants out there that charge these kinds of prices for food that is nowhere near as interesting or as good. Keep this one in mind for your next Vegas dining adventure.