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  • Where I Would Stay in Vegas: The Nobu Hotel

I was fortunate enough to recently tour Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace, scheduled to open today, Monday February 4, 2013.

Billed as another ‘boutique hotel’ amidst a national invasion of ‘boutique hotels,’ my expectation was to be mildly amused and tremendously disappointed by The Nobu.  The ‘boutique hotel’ term is one of the worst misnomers out there. More often than not, the term ‘boutique hotel’ is applied to a concept of quirkiness* of faux ‘mod’ luxury décor and surroundings, the novel experience of which declines as drastically as the initial budget for the hotel itself.

Furthermore, this Nobu ‘boutique hotel’ has 181 rooms and a 12,775 square foot eponymous restaurant.

Oh dear.

Worse yet,  I was unable to grasp the concept of a restaurant with a hotel, much less a boutique hotel.  Howard Johnson’s, anyone?  Yeah, they have great clam strips, but does anyone really stay there?  More recently, Las Vegas has seen a similar concept by Charlie Palmer go down the tubes.  (In the interest of fairness, Mr. Palmer does have a hotel/restaurant elsewhere- but it has 55 rooms.  Let’s just say it is likely a true boutique hotel.)

Let’s get back to Las Vegas and hotels.

We have a ton of them, with an estimated 125,000+ rooms and some of the world’s largest hotel properties.  For years my clients have asked me where to stay in Las Vegas and, honestly, I have to tell them to just find the least expensive room with the amenities they expect.   I wouldn’t stay in a Las Vegas hotel room if I didn’t need to.

Until now.

Caesars Palace is one of those monster hotels, incidentally, with over 3,900 rooms.  The Nobu Hotel, which has 181 rooms nested within the massive Caesars complex (it is a renovation of the old Centurion tower), could certainly be considered a boutique hotel in comparison to the exoskeleton of Caesars.  It isn’t.  What it is, however, is the most cohesive and possibly the finest luxury hotel in Las Vegas.

Chef Nobu. Photo by Eric Kabik.

Designed by David Rockwell and his Rockwell Group, the Nobu Hotel is a masterpiece of serenity amidst the chaos of the Las Vegas Strip.  I often hear that the rooms on the Strip are designed to be comfortable enough to sleep in with the perfect amount of discomfort to get gamblers back on the gaming floor.  Not so, in this case.

The entire hotel is designed to “convey an extension of the fun and energetic Nobu lifestyle.”  Ok, enough of the Press Kit.  The Nobu Hotel was designed as homage to the Japanese aesthetic and lifestyle.  Natural wood- hemlock, fir, and oak abound, and nature’s refusal to conform to our mental linearity is everywhere. Sinuous forms are the norm; the only deliberate rigid form I found were the steps leading to the elevator corridor- more than likely a result of code compliance.

David Rockwell. Note the Origami-style legs on the Coffee Table. Photo by Eric Kabik.

The interior of the rooms continue the aesthetic.  Overseen by Rockwell with Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, the rooms are comfortable and elegant, with fine linens in a setting accented by Japanese prints.  The furniture also conveys a specifically Asian influence, with custom carved wooded coffee tables supported by welded metal bases in origami-like forms. Each room has stylized Japanese calligraphy on the wall, and guests are greeted by tea and soothing images of waterfalls, etc on the TV.

Bathrooms are especially well-done, with a clean and modern appearance accented by a wooden ladder-form to hold towels. Fixtures by Toto continue the theme of man intertwined with nature, with sinks of simple geometric forms perched on wooden plinths.  The open shower features a more-traditional Japanese teak stool, rather than a modern stainless steel one.  Even the mini bar contains Nobu’s touch:  blood orange juice, great Pocky pretzel sticks, and an array of Nobu’s branded sake are available if you wish.

Arbitrary Photo of Mind-Boggling Nobu Food: Yellow Tail Jalapeno

I was especially impressed with the Nobu Restaurant itself.  At 12,775 square feet, the restaurant can seat 300-350 people.  This is the largest restaurant of Nobu’s 26 worldwide.  The issue with a restaurant this size is two-fold.  One is a question of maintenance of quality, while the other issue, equally important, is maintenance of the intimacy of a high-end restaurant in an area that could easily fit a cafeteria.  Rockwell Group did a masterful job on the space. Demarcation of eating areas is non-linear, so the restaurant doesn’t appear as rows of cafeteria-like rows of tables.  Banquette seating is semi-circular.  Rather than simply place the banquettes facing the dining area, the banquettes are slightly rotated to decrease sight lines of the diners and allow more intimacy. This restaurant also features teppanyaki tables, the best of which is sequestered along a corridor leading away from the main dining area.

Also interesting was the open feel of the design.  The restaurant bulges into Appian Way, an area of Caesars that was once designated for retail only.  A floor-to-ceiling lattice work upholstered in faux shagreen surrounding the walkway’s border permits a more open feel in the interior, while directing a sense of mystery to the strollers outside, who are presumably looking at small snippets of the dining marvels within.

Initial Press Image of Nobu Restaurant

The initial press images of the restaurant portrayed an almost circus-like setting, with large banquettes used to separate the space and even more enormous lighting fixtures descending from the ceiling.  All upholstered in enough colorful fabric to suggest a Maharam showroom. Fortunately the room was (presumably) redone before opening, and the tones of the restaurant are now subdued, with wonderful cumulus-like expanded cut honeycombed tyvek (or similar) fixtures hovering in mid-air.

Lousy Image of Nobu Restaurant, Current Day. Notice the Latticework in the Rear and the Cumulus fixtures

(Note:  I was not allowed to bring a camera for the tour.  However, I did shoot that image of the restaurant.  Apologies for quality.)

The restaurant is also following the trend toward a more interesting cocktail selection.  Their cocktails feature mixers such as sake, yuzu, soju, and lychee.  The cocktails, like the hotel , have an impressive balance- something rarely seen in their Western counterparts.

The Cracked Basil

1 oz Grand Marnier
1 oz Nobu Soju (or similar)
¼ oz Yuzu Juice
¼ oz Simple Syrup
Thai Basil
Fresh Strawberries
Egg White
Freshly Cracked Pink Pepper<p>

The most interesting aspect of the restaurant is not contained within its walls. It is the ability of guests to have a private dining experience with most (if not all) of Nobu’s menu from 11:30 AM to 6 AM.  Breakfast is also served.  In-suite events may also be planned, and a master chef and bartenders may be ordered for one of the most comfortable fine dining experiences on the planet.

Room Rates for The Nobu Hotel are currently listed starting at $269 for Queen rooms. Sign me up.

Nobu Hotel
Caesars Palace
3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 785-6677
www.NOBUCaesars Palace.com


*I believe ‘Quirkiness’ in this context means, “A property of  Interior Design where proportion, pattern, quality, and relationship are deemed invalid or lacking.  See ‘Chaos, Utter’ or ‘Garage Sale.’”

One last detail:  The Zen of a Good Sand Garden,  immortalized in hallway carpeting:

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