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Mandarin Oriental, 2/15-19

Last edit: HedgedBettor on Friday, 17th February 2012 8:56 pm
Last response by brt374 21st February 10:40pm

Just got back from a Vegas trip with 3 buddies staying at the Mandarin.

1) I've gotta admit that Mandarin Oriental was a little disappointing. I got a Strip View room with the Luxury Breaks package, 275/night minus a 75/night resort credit so 200/night net, so the price was definitely right. While the price was right, the Mandarin just didn't do it for me. The service was pretty much up to Mandarin standards, but there really wasn't much point to it. I was in and out of the room and didn't interface much with staff beyond having the concierge book my dinners and introduce me to a host at Marquee. On the other hand, I found having to change elevators at the Sky Lobby to be annoying, and while the 5 minute walk to Aria was no big deal given the perfect weather, it required climbing some steep stairs and then walking most of the way across the Aria casino floor to get to the tables I wanted to play. In other words, staying there was more inconvenient than I thought it would be.

2) I played mostly at the Aria, which I still find to be a wonderful casino. I also hit Mandalay Bay around 1 AM on Thursday. You can only find dealer stands on soft 17 blackjack in their high limit room, so I went over there and found I was the only customer. Not a good sign for the state of the place. Given how remote Mandalay is, they really need to improve the quality of the games in the casino in order to draw customers who want to gamble rather than folks who want to explore the strip since the location makes it so poor for that.

3) As alluded to earlier, we went to Marquee one night. ATB was the main DJ and it was a great party. Marquee had a hot crowd and the music was terrific, but I wasn't a huge fan of the space in the main room. XS is definitely better. We also went to Ghostbar to check out the view. The view is in fact spectacular, and so is the bar in a bizarro sense. Its an amazing parody of what a good lounge should be like - mostly empty space, uncomfortable and randomly spaced furniture and no style whatsoever. It was mostly empty despite the great view and people were not staying for long. If you took away the view I can only imagine how few people would show up.

4) The food highlight of the trip was Craftsteak, which to me is still the gold standard for steakhouses anywhere in the world. I don't have enough superlatives for how good the appetizers (especially the seafood tower with the unbelievable horseradish and the remarkably good soups), the steaks and the sides (do not miss the mushrooms or the yukon gold puree) are at this spot. Even if you're not in the mood for steak you can do fine with their fish or poultry. Otherwise, on the fine dining front we ate at Julian Serrano Tapas (not bad at all but unremarkable) and Scarpetta (which I'm not willing to comment on because I was dealing with some digestive distress at the time). Speaking of which, on Friday we went to the In-n-Out Burger on Tropicana where I killed 2 double-doubles for lunch. This seemed like a good idea at the time - I love In-n-Out from my days as a college student in California, and grabbing the extra double-double is totally better than eating their crappy fries. But the resultant mudbutt totally shot my Friday night. Oops.
The other dining worth mentioning is MOzen Bistro. I wasn't remotely impressed - omlettes were fancy rather than tasty, pancakes were OK but nothing special, prices were high. Consider me underwhelmed. Also Caffe Vettro's nachos are perfect after a long night of drinking. Like really really perfect. One of the best meals I've ever had in a coffeshop.

5) The one thing that really shined at the Mandarin for me was the Spa. Its smaller than my favorite spa in town, the Qua Baths, but it packed some terrific features into its modest square footage. My favorite part was the metal "beds" in the hot tub, which made it that much easier to relax in the tub. But the real distinguishing factor about this spa was the extremely attentive service from the spa attendants. Some of my friends who went said that the service levels (attendant popping into the sauna to offer you a cold towel, for example) interrupted their quiet spa experience, but to me I found it very refreshing.

7) I learned something that I feel like the rest of the board already knew. If you're playing decent but not enormous stakes at a MGM property, don't phone in for your comps before you leave, go down to the Casino Offices to talk to a real host in person. I phoned in and got my express comps taken off my room charges; when I went to the Casino Offices later for another reason the hosts took off the remaining money on my room tab, which nearly doubled my total comp take vs just having the express comps taken off.

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 StudiodeKadent responded on Friday, 17th February 2012

You can only get S17 BJ in high limit at Mandalay?

They tried doing that in Summer last year, but eventually they went back to putting some S17 tables on the main floor.

If the tables are dead, that's good. Players should refuse to play crappy games. I refuse to play H17 tables, full stop.

 BigHoss responded on Sunday, 19th February 2012

Thanks for the report. I'm thinking about a night or two at Mandarin this summer. I think I'd like a short visit just to check it out. It seems like some of the pluses (great service, room , spa) outweigh some of the negatives (no casino). I think Mike_E noted some similar things in his review of a year or so ago.

 HedgedBettor replied on Sunday, 19th February 2012

Well, I've never been into one or two night stays at places since I find packing up and moving in the middle of the trip to be a pain, but at the end of the day I wouldn't recommend the Mandarin, bar for the Spa (which you can use even if you're not a hotel guest - I was chatting with a guy there who was staying at Vdara). You can get a very similar room by staying at Aria, the actual floorplans and fixtures are nearly the same, and I actually think the bedding at Aria is better!

 Malibugolfer responded on Sunday, 19th February 2012

Thanks so much HB for your review. It is exactly what I have been considering for a soon to be booked visit and you dealt with and answered questions on conerns that were exactly what I was weighing.
I'll stick with the Sky Suites.

 jinx73 responded on Monday, 20th February 2012

Good information, especially since MO is one of the lesser reviewed properties on the Las Vegas Forums.

It definitely sounds like a great hotel, but for the average Vegas gambler, it sounds exactly like the type of hassles you just don't want to deal with. (i.e inconvenience to floor/lobby, etc). Small things, but having the option to walk out of your room on many high end properties and start playing is a perk I'm very used to in Vegas.

I guess they did succeed in making much of CC feel like it wasn't a part of a casino, the only problem that I see is the urban center they were claiming it would be the center of, isn't anything more then the 2nd largest gambling area in the world.

 HedgedBettor replied on Monday, 20th February 2012

MO doesn't feel remotely like its part of an urban area. Its a freestanding hotel a few minutes walk away from 2 casinos (Aria and Monte Carlo, though obviously Aria is gonna get more business from MO patrons). You look at the TripAdvisor reviews for MO and you see that a lot of the reviewers don't gamble and I can understand why a non gambler might want to stay at MO. But it didn't work for me.

 brt374 responded on Tuesday, 21st February 2012

Great review, HedgedBettor. I think you hit the nail on the head: Mandarin is a smashing hotel for those who choose not to gamble, but for those who come to Vegas to do exactly that, it's an odd fit. The icing on the cake was your warning against In-N-Out, or at least the consumption of the two double-doubles. Can't wait to read your next review!