Looking down from my 24th floor suite of the newly opened Encore Wynn Hotel ( Dec 08), Steve Wynn’s latest addition to his already hefty list of casinos/hotels, Las Vegas looks extremely modern and still no matter what time of night or early morning, there are still cars zooming along the main roads. Gone at this hotel is the tacky and tardiness that was synonymous with Las Vegas. Anyway, that’s true with Encore Wynn. As a city within a city, I admit to not having gone out of the premises but there is the same verve and energy in the casino, the Esplanade’s uber classy boutiques and the restaurants that all feature decors that amaze and amuse.. Whatever happens in Las Vegas may certainly stay there but since I spent most of my time at the hotel, I wasn’t aware of any tackiness or bad behavior. A lot of this is due to Wynn who brought elegance and culture to Sin City and the people who visit or stay at this swanky, posh hotel seem to respect the ambiance.
After a too brief meeting the affable and extremely attractive wife, Elaine Wynn, who doesn’t give interviews, it wasn’t surprising to learn from other staff members that she has a hand in just about every aspect of the décor from the rooms to the new and splendidly decorated 11.000 square foot spa.
Where the original Wynn has floral mosaic theme on the inlaid marble floors in the public areas, butterfly mosaics throughout are so joyous that suddenly the fatigue that you may be feeling from the long walks from points A to B, seem to be lifted, flying like a butterfly. The perfectly crafted art form seems to have been reestablished as though the old Italians had brought the long lost skill here.
Red is the new gold. That bold colour was once the choice for the early casinos. Gaudy and certainly unrefined. With time, this somewhat déclassé colour was replaced in newer establishments by the light tones of muted browns and ecru. However, by choice, Roger head of design for all Wynn properties has brought this bold colour back but with flair and fun. But it took dozens of tints and mixes to get it just the tone he wanted and it works so well, another happy making choice. Huge red crystal chandeliers along the walkways Roger says are like that of a swirling skirt of a dancer. And then he takes it one leap further and with his love for texture and skin, the elevators have red faux alligator panels set into the blond wood. But colour, and there’s also a lot of black, doesn’t seem to be frivolous but used in the most contemporary and ultra sophisticated way.
A favourite breakfast spot is the hip Society Café. Breakfast was never like this before. Chef Kim Canteenwalla is extremely inventive with food. What’s so neat is that it’s casual and although there are lunches and dinners, this is the place for breakfast. He worked with Steve Wynn at Beau Rivage the Biloxi Mississippi casino hotel. But these days not only is he a chef but also a partner in society Café. Certainly you won’t find anything exotic but the menu is an all American collection from eggs to sticky buns, and later in the day sloppy Joes to pigs in a blanket. How could you not love these comfort foods that are served up by the most affable staff in a most open and easy going ambience??
When Wynn opened and built Bellagio in the 80s. He introduced an entirely new ‘take’ on casino life. In came an art museum featuring Impressionist and Post Impressionist original paintings from Wynn’s own collection. The gift shop was more of a swanky boutique than a store selling souvenirs. Flowers and glass sculptured floral ceilings was a new high for those who recall the somewhat bad taste of the past. And then Bellagio’s was not longer his.
But never one to sit around, Wynn opened Wynn, a win Wynn situation. However, with Encore Wynn, he has set the bar even higher. Smaller in scale with only rooms, it’s more like a boutique hotel which happens to have a casino.
Then there are the restaurants that have attracted top chefs from around the world.
My first stop was to Sinatra. How could one not know this since immediately since old blue eyes’ huge portraits are everywhere? And with the Wynn’s close friendship with the late crooner and his family, it was decided that many of Sinatra’s awards should grace the entrance which the family gave to Wynn. It was to be names Theo for the well known chef, Theo Schonenegger, who oversees Sinatra. Although in his career he eared one Michelin star for Patina a Los Angeles restaurant, his ego didn’t get in the way and he was all for the change of names.
Local and seasonal produce typical of true Italian cooking is what he buys at the farmers’ markets for this Italian eatery.
One of the most imaginative environments is Switch which is more theatre at first glance than noshing. Every 20 minutes with a touch of a button the entire set changes from walls to ceilings creating a new ambiance from enclosed doors and windows to draped and tasseled Victoriana setting, even the ceiling opens and gobbles up the chandeliers to spill out even larger Moreno class fixtures. Even the waiters’ uniforms are changed. The 46 year old French born chef at Switch, Marc Poldevin serves up seafood and steak. His background includes working at Le cirque in Paris and then Le Cirque in Manhattan. But it’s here in Vegas that he’s been able to do what he wants and that’s a relaxed atmosphere “This is Las Vegas. We are a fun town,” he says. He believes in being a ‘hands on’ chef which seems to be the key to the success of returning clients.
For fashionistas, red carpet devotees, the rich and the famous, there’s a deluxe Esplanade with very high end fashions, home ware and jewelry. Again, Mrs. Wynn, I was told, chooses who gets to come into this street of shops and who doesn’t. Her eye for detail is undeniably perfects. As for the floral arrangements throughout the entire hotel, may stop to see if they are real, so impressive are the arrangement and choice of blooms. With a budget reaching the $2 million dollars, that buys a lot of colour but more importantly, Page who could buy flowers anywhere, hunts out the best and imports blooms from around the world. There is a staff of 70 and they are checked or the slightest imperfection three times a day. So perfect are the arrangements that any artist would love to paint them as still life. But art hasn’t been lost either, in the restaurant, Botero, names after the artists, there’s a massive bronze sculpture and three original paintings that are part of the décor as are coloured liquid in various shaped bottles that are inserted into the ceiling. It’s behind the large sculpture that a romantic tryst can completely conceal the couple, so large is the sculpture which has a well allowance for trees and more greenery. In Sinatra, the décor is still very personal. As a friend of the Wynns, Frank and one assumes the rest of the Rat Pack, used to chum around. This eatery features huge paintings of Old Blue eyes and the family has donated various awards which were given to Frank for acting and singing. But a favourite for most is Shift, a restaurant that every 20 minutes has its walls and ceiling replaces with new scenery. Up goes the huge Italian glass chandeliers to be replaces by even larger as the door and windows disappear only to be replaced by drapery and vintage looking scene. There’s no question that Steve Wynn love surprises and the unexpected. And the 150 year old trees, the colours, textures and the large suites have a style that isn’t available in too many major world centres. Each rooms is larger by 100 square feet than the usual room, there’s a sitting area with a bold black sofa/cum chaise longe, a desk, a swivel flat screen TV, a bed panel for lights and opening and closing the drapery, a bathroom that’s larger than most with wonderful amentias and a scale. (That’s the closest one comes to the reality of the outside world. What ever happens to your weight gain stays in Vegas.