Vegas hotels are like babies. Although easy to conceive, they are hard to deliver. And each arrival is greeted by clamoring crowds, all eager to check out the newborn on the block.
Well, there’s been a recent birth at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip: SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.
The resort debuted with a bang last Friday night. Not only was there an eye-popping fireworks display, but the grand opening celebration was a visual treat as well. Celebs were spotted at the event. Food and drinks flowed copiously and tasted every bit as good as it looked. And a backdrop of pulsating lights and music fed the nonstop party atmosphere.
This extravagant evening was a long time in the making. Sam Nazarian, CEO of the nightlife and hospitality empire SBE, purchased the historic yet rundown Sahara Hotel & Casino in 2007. Since then, he’s hung on tight to his vision – through an economic downturn and top-to-bottom renovations – of giving the property new life.
So was the SLS Las Vegas worth the wait and all the fanfare? We think so. And here’s what we love about it.
That’s right, the monkeys. Everybody loves monkeys. Tall monkeys. Small monkeys. Dinner jacket-wearing monkeys. Monkeys are just fun.
You’ll see four simians scampering about with a fork, a mirror and two goblets in the SLS logo. You’ll see them around the property – in a chandelier, in artwork that hangs above the casino floor and on the resort’s white sedans. And you’ll see them at the Monkey Bar, across from the registration desk. Framed black-and-white photos of monkeys in suits line its back wall.
The bottom line: Monkeys set the perfect tone – because the SLS Las Vegas, though stylish, is far from being stuffy and conventional.
The digital art installations
Don’t go looking for an erupting volcano, dancing fountains or a Lake of Dreams at SLS Las Vegas. This resort hasn’t got them. Instead there are seven different digital art installations created by KT Corporation from Korea. At the main entrance, you’ll walk across LED color-changing floor tiles that are triggered by your feet. A digital “cloud” hovers over the Center Bar. You’ll discover the north side of the parking garage forms a canvas for 3-D video mapping at Foxtail Pool Club. (This one is sure to blow you away.) There are also striking digital screens behind the front desk and near the valet entrance off Paradise Road. And captivating LED installments also come to life in LiFE nightclub.
Except for the bones of the building, the former Sahara has been completely made over. But in a nod to the past, Nazarian has had custom carpets created from photographs of the legendary property at its prime. On other carpets you may catch sight of iconic images – like Sean Connery as James Bond – by British photographer Terry O’Neill.
There are oversized brass birdcages for dancers at the Foxtail lounge, and the walls bear the lettering of French graffiti artist Tarek Benaoum. No stencils were used. He did all of this freehand.
Inside restaurants such as Katsuya by Starck, a pair of giant eyes reminds you that it’s all about seeing and being seen at SLS Las Vegas.
All of the dining venues at SLS Las Vegas are standouts – from the Mediterranean delights at Cleo and the dumplings at Ku Noodle to the scrumptious spread at The SLS Buffet. But The Griddle Café and Bazaar Meat belong on your must-visit-ASAP list.
SLS Las Vegas is the only place outside of Hollywood where you’ll find The Griddle Café. Breakfast is served all day here – including pancakes, French toast and waffles loaded with goodness. Red Velvet panCAKEs, anyone? They’re topped with cream cheese icing. Once you’ve tasted The Griddle Café’s sweet fare, you’ll want more and more and more. Ah, what a heavenly sugar high.
Then there’s Bazaar Meat. As its name suggests, this carnivorous restaurant is a cut above traditional steakhouses. Decorative red glass is suspended from a white domed ceiling over the bar, much like falling drops of blood. There’s a display of scary-looking handmade knives (you can actually purchase them) outside the entrance. And a butcher shop-esque arrangement of exotic, top-quality meats is on exhibit inside. Created by culinary innovator José Andrés, you’ll enjoy watching your meal prepared to perfection in Bazaar Meat’s open kitchens on wood-burning grills, in charcoal ovens and on rotisseries. If you’re a meat lover, it just doesn’t get any better than this.
Nazarian and his team are kingpins in the nightclub industry. So it’s a safe bet the club scene at SLS Las Vegas will be ranked among the best in Sin City.
Hollywood favorite The Sayers Club opened its second location at the resort. This small live music room is a cool place to grab a drink on any given night. But what’s better is that you never know who might show up to perform. At the grand opening party, Lenny Kravitz became the first artist to take the stage. Swedish pop star Tove Lo will appear on Aug. 28. Who else will be there? Bruno Mars? Stevie Wonder? John Mayer? You’ll just have to stop by to find out.
While The Sayers Club is intimate, the multilevel LiFE nightclub is enormous. Surrounded by LED installations and HD projections along the walls and DJ booth, it will feel like you’ve entered a sensory playground – especially when aerialists descend from the 60-foot-high ceiling. In addition to VIP balconies and the artists’ green room on the second floor, the open-air Beach LiFE pool is located on the third floor.
The beer garden
It’s common knowledge that a good burger will enhance any sports viewing experience. And a burger always tastes better when it’s accompanied by a cold beer. So combining all three on an outdoor patio would be the best of all worlds. Drumroll, please, for Unami Burger, Beer Garden and Sports Book. It stretches alongside Las Vegas Boulevard near Sahara Avenue. The people watching here is already great fun and it’s only going to get better, thanks to developments on the other side of the street, like Rock in Rio (arriving in 2015) and Resorts World Las Vegas (debuting in 2016).
Hermès. Check. Louis Vuitton. Check. Chanel. Check. You’ll find all of these big brands at resorts on the Strip. What you couldn’t get – until now – was Fred Segal.
Established in the ’60s, this iconic retailer from Southern California has made his first foray into Sin City. Segal has created and is curating a shopping experience that spans more than 10,000 square feet at SLS Las Vegas. His seven boutiques offer a broad range merchandise including jeans, jewelry and bathing suits.
“This retail experience is really interesting and different. It’s an authentic experience and not a version of anything else that’s been brought here,” said Segal at a press conference held last week. “I think it’s a truly individual experience for Las Vegas.”
And we think SLS Las Vegas – where luxury meets playfulness, and high-tech wonders meet a vibe of relaxed simplicity – is a truly unique addition for the city too.
Las Vegas is full of mysteries, even if you’ve lived here your entire life. That said, we want to solve them, so we asked what questions about Las Vegas you’ve always wanted answered. We’ll tackle them one by one in Knowing Vegas.
This week’s question concerns alcohol. What is the most expensive drink served on the Strip?
Well, in a town all about excess, this first one is quite fitting.
- Ono Champagne Cocktail, Wynn’s XS Nightclub, $10,000
The cocktail includes $500 Charles Heidsieck 1981 Champagne Charlie, Rémy Martin Louis XVIII Black Pearl cognac, Sence Rose Nectar, aprioct puree and orange juice.
“The drink was designed with men and women in mind, so the Ono also comes with a set of cufflinks and a gold, diamond and pearl necklace,” XS General Manager Yannick Mugnier told eater.com.
- The Five Star, Wynn’s XS Nightclub, $5,000
For a limited time only, this drink is a blend of Louis XIII Rare Cask 42.6, Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23-year, Martini Gran Lusso 150th Anniversary Vermouth, D.O.M. Benedictine “Black Monk” 500th Anniversary Edition, Peychaud’s Bitters, Angostura Bitters and garnished with flamed orange oils.
“The Five Star, priced at $5,000, is in celebration of the venue’s five year anniversary. The drink will only be available in 2014 in honor of the landmark celebration,” Tamara Sewell of XS public relations said.
- Ménage a Trois, Wynn’s Tryst Nightclub, $3,000
This cocktail is a mix of Cristal Rose champagne, Hennessey Ellipse and 150-year-old Grand Marnier.
“Served with 23-karat gold flakes and liquid gold syrup,” Wynn social writes.
- High Limit Kir Royale, MGM’s Teatro Euro Bar, $2,200
This drink consists of Louis Roedererr Cristal Rose champagne, Hardy Perfection cognac, Grand Marnier Cent Cinquantenaire and raspberries.
“This $2,200 libation is only available at The Teatro Euro Bar,” Mrs. Glitterati writes.
- The Macallan 1950, Hakkasan, $700-1,300
This is a pricey, “super rare” single malt whisky.
”52-year-old rich citrus lemon with peat smoke and hints of spice and wood,” the Wisky Exchange writes.
- One in a Hundred Cocktail, Bellagio, $400
The cheapest drink on the list is a mix of a rare Johnnie Walker 1800, Sweet Vermouth, Whisky Barrel Aged Bitters and a Maraschino cherry according to Business Insider.