by Angela Bakke
In a nutshell: if you want to know what a fairytale feels like… treat yourself to a weekend a the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas.
Perched in the sky, smack dab in the middle of sin city, Heaven’s laid claim to a little hotel property action– The Mandarin Oriental is tailor made for the celebrity lifestyle. It’s pleasure center-centric, designed to give you a visceral experience of “the best of the best,” and is the only hotel in Las Vegas (among only four in the US) to receive the prestigious Forbes Five Star designation in all three categories; hotel, spa and restaurant.
It’s obvious why super-stars like Josh Groban or Janet Jackson (after one of the fastest concert sellouts in Caesars Palace history) would want to recalibrate from the 180,000 watts of amplification and four thousand screaming fans at the M.O.L.V.
Once the elevator bell announces your arrival on the 23rd floor, it’s like someone hit the mute button. Your own mother would pass you by, unnoticed, in the cave-like hallways. Epitomizing the Asian culture’s privacy, respect and humility, service staff are practically invisible until your need of them arises. Simply make eye contact and they’ll respond as is if you were the only guest in the hotel… and they thought you’d never ask.
Touted as Vegas’ premiere Zen zone, The Mandarin Oriental is designed to remedy an over-taxed nervous system and to appeal to people who notice the little things that make big differences, like bamboo bowls of aromatherapy sea salts alongside porcelain tubs so deep you need a step-ladder to get out. Or decorative bowls of floating flower petals with little love notes reminding you to drink water and stay hydrated while in the desert.
The rooms are spectacularly lit. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame spectacular views of the city, its surrounding mountains, and the halogen and neon glow of The Strip (which can also be eliminated with the blackout curtains operated from your television).
The hotel takes great pride in providing for tech-savvy customers, a motherboard attached to each flat-screen can operate just about any technology you can think to bring.
The housekeeping service is so impeccable it makes it nearly impossible to leave a mess. No matter how determined you are to emulate a natural disaster while getting ready for a night out, you’ll come home to find everything in its proper place. Even your toiletries will be neatly arranged by size.
The director of the hotel’s 1930’s Shanghai-designed holistic spa, Jennifer Lynn, explains why the hotel has become a performer’s preference, “When it comes to our celebrity clientele we get a lot of repeat visitors because of the subtle things, as well as the high level security and the special access they can get to the building. I can imagine in such a high profile life, you might always feel guarded, but here you can really let your guard down.”
She went on to describe a treatment to us called the “Art of Love,” and it doesn’t take long to feel the dopamine kick in from her description of the service which takes place in a sequestered, candle-lit spa room. The therapist starts at your feet, “the gateway the body,” and spends the next three hours working his or her way up every (appropriate) inch, topping you off with a scalp massage. The products are all based with essential oils (your choice of two scent palates). It’s a divine touch, and the first of a thousand to follow.
Molecular Gastronomy in the form of a ‘Twist’
Rounding out the five-star trifecta is the hotel’s restaurant, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire. Reknowned for his molecular cuisine, Gagnaire morphs textures and visual consistencies to harvest unexpected flavors. One side dish of note included pine nuts, Culatello ham and Gorgonzola cheese in the form, and with the texture, of ice cream. It works wonderfully, and if you’re able to travel to Vegas, then you’re able to suspend preconceived notions about how food is supposed to look, and you’re rewarded with a celebration of the senses.
Just as unexpected as his creations, Chef Gagnaire at 62 is a playful soul with happy eyes and the energy of a precocious eight year old working youthful magic through the body of a three -star Michelin chef. He describes cheffing as “translating your spirit through your hands!”
Chef Gagnaire clearly operates with the mantra that life should be taken lightly. He tells us there is no VIP treatment in Twist. The Vegas version of his eponymous restaurants is designed “to be fun, not pretentious.” Just like him.
Just as likely to be joining you in the dining room at Twist are Liam Neeson, Helen Mirren, Lance Armstrong, Jane Seymour, Kevin Spacey and shoe-genius Christian Louboutin, each of whom endorsed the hotel in exchange for a $10,000 donation to their choice charities, which range from Unicef to St. Vincent’s Meals on Wheels.
A minute from the madness of Vegas, but operating from the sky above it, you’ll be reminiscing before you leave, and you’ll be planning to return to “recuperate” more often.