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TRIP REPORT! Vegas, March 12th to 26th (M/Mirage/Aria/others)

Last edit: StudiodeKadent on Friday, 6th April 2012 6:51 am
Last response by StudiodeKadent 20th April 7:46am

As an Australian, I never knew about March Madness until I was right in the middle of it.

To describe the experience as a "culture shock" is an understatement.

That said, I'm going to do my usual format of a trip report, by going through the various properties I visited in chronological order. I use the property-by-property format because it makes sense and allows people to easily assess properties on the basis of my experience.

After arriving in Vegas, I hit my first hotel; the M Resort. I had visited on my last trip but wanted to visit again, since the place completely seduced me.

This is Aria-level quality at far lower prices. The rooms are spacious and have phenomenal design; they use warmer colors (lots of beige, cream, gold, red, brown, amber etc) in their modern design, and there's often a lot of Wynncore-esque swirlyness that somehow manages to remain sufficiently understated as to fit in with the overall modern feel.

I absolutely love this place. Anthony's burger bar had the best plate of truffled fries I've ever had in my life (at only $4!), alongside the fantastic Imperial Burger. The cocktails are great and I spent hours in the bar getting wasted. And the cocktails are generally only $5 each.


The employees are all very friendly. The spa is also very good (had a facial), very comfortable and professional.

Hash House A Go Go had terrifyingly-huge portions (it isn't gourmet but it is tasty and indulgently bad for you (Fried. Chicken. Benedict.)). Marinelli's was absolutely delicious (and filling). Anthony's was good too.

The gambling has many good points. For one, they offer $10 Macau-Style (i.e. Midi, players handle cards) Baccarat games, and they have $5 Craps tables almost all day. Additionally, they do comp very generously; at least twice as generously as the MGM Casinos.

The only thing I can complain about is the Blackjack.

I'll start with double deck games. They recently tightened up the rules; main floor is H17 typical Strip DD (NRSA, NS), with H17 RSA allowed in the High Limit room at $100 per hand.

They used to have H17 RSA DD on the main floor, with S17 RSA DD (!) in High Limit.

Shoe games are in a similarly unfortunate situation. The penetration at M is very deep (down to the last half deck!!!), but on the main floor the rules are H17 NS (but RSA DA2 DAS ResplitTo4 Hand Shuffle), with S17 LS offered in the High Limit.

Here's the problem; I'm a $50 player. The first day, they let me play in the HL room (great room, great time, fantastic booze, and won 800 bucks over my 4.5 hours of drunk blackjack) at $50 per hand. The room was booked out by a whale on the second day, so I played $10 Baccarat (not my game) and $10/$15 Craps (not my game but then again I've never been winning at it) for a few hours. But on the third day, I was informed that surveillance (!) had made it official policy that I needed to bet $100 in HL.

Note that this was midweek, and the room was otherwise completely deserted.

I went on strike and didn't gamble for the rest of my stay. I bear no ill-will to the casino staff (they wanted me to be allowed to play), and the hosts tried to broker an arrangement but they couldn't do so due to bureaucracy. They did the best they could, so I appreciate it greatly.

That said, my overall play got comped very generously even though it was quite modest.

I plan on returning, but I'll only gamble if they improve the conditions.

+ Fantastic value for money
+ Very high quality, easily up there with the better Strip joints
+ Excellent design and aesthetics, fantastic rooms
+ Very good, friendly staff
+ Liberal comps

- Blackjack could be better

Suggestions For Improvement
1) Anthony's Burgers needs to be open for lunch
2) Free toothbrushes in the rooms, please
3) Place one or two S17/RSA/NS BJ tables on the main floor, with $15+ minimums. You know that EZ-Baccarat table near the HL Room which has never been used and won't be? Take it out and give us one or two S17 $15+ tables.

I visited for restaurants and blackjack as usual.

Blackjack conditions are the same: 6d H17 DA2 DAS RSA LS from $5 + (in CSM, ASM and Hand Shuffle variations, even at $5), and S17 with the same rules from $10 + (when there, it was $15 + but that was due to March Madness). I had good pit crew and dealers (one dealer in particular was great). Euro Roulette is still on the main floor at $25.

The MGM recently began adding new carpet to the casino. Pictures of the carpet surfaced on VT, and many were not impressed. Comments included "the Brady Bunch gets dysentery." That said, on the casino floor itself the carpet actually doesn't look that bad. It's okay in context.

Emerils is still extremely delicious. Shibuya does great sushi. But, importantly, I visited Robouchon.

I've been to Robouchon in Macau, so I knew what to expect. First, the food is expensive but it really is very good. Joel Robouchon does cook French, but he is no slave to tradition; the menu shows a large amount of innovation. Additionally, the Prix Fixe structure of the menu means you can get away without it costing an arm and a leg (smaller menus cost less).

That said, is it worth it?

The service was excellent and the food was delicious, but L'atelier is right next door and serves the same dishes in a far more relaxed atmosphere at lower prices.

I don't regret doing Robouchon; it is the kind of place you have to do. The food was excellent, but I honestly don't feel much of a desire to return when I can go to L'atelier instead and get the same thing more casually and inexpensively (and more flexibly, too).

That said, I do recommend people do Robouchon, once. It's clearly one of the best restaurants in Las Vegas.

+ Great value with the new renovations
+ Excellent restaurant selection
+ Very good value gaming

- Often very crowded

Suggestions For Improvement
1) Continue with the renovation and give the casino floor a lift, but please don't kick out the art-deco look. A modern twist on art-deco is great, but art-deco and MGM Grand goes together.
2) Don't tighten up the table games!

I stayed here three nights, from the 16th to the 19th.

The rooms need another renovation, honestly. The hallways of the hotel also need a refresh, and the toilets are very low-riding and often don't work well on the first flush.

I got good service in the casino (although the drink service seems to get less generous during busier times) and some other places (great pit crew in the casino, and a great host too), but there are lots of impersonal and bored staff here; a huge contrast to the friendly reception I received at the M.

Samba is an excellent restaurant. Japonais is great too.

Honestly, I like the feel of this place. It still keeps (generally) with the theme, and the atmosphere is very (to use Unwin's phrase) "spirited and vibrant." Additionally, since the nightclubs are located near the North entrance, the casino is clubber-free!

But the rooms need capex. And honestly, I'd love to see a waterslide at the pool (the pool area is awesome). The Secret Garden is an excellent attraction too.

+ Brazillian steakhouse! Other dining is generally good
+ Still great atmosphere and design even with MGM's changes
+ Secret Garden and pool are great

- Rooms need refurbishment

Suggestions For Improvement
1) Those $15 H17 8d Hand-Shuffled games in the hand-shuffle pit need to go. 6 decks is quicker and easier for the dealer to shuffle, so the game speed increase will outweigh the house edge reduction. Additionally, less decks slightly lowers cost. Two or three $15 6d H17 hand shuffled games isn't going to make the casino vulnerable to counters.
2) Only three S17 tables on the main floor? C'mon, you can do better than that!!
3) Stop cost-cutting with the free booze. Happy players are long players!
4) Either give those rooms and hallways a refresh, or sell the place to Ruffin and buy Cosmopolitan instead.
5) If you choose to keep the place, add a waterslide to the pool. The Golden Nugget has one, you can too.

I only went in to check the place out at use the free slot play.

Honestly, I'm not a huge fan. I know every third person on this board practically fetishizes Wynncore, but to me the place looks over the top. If I were to describe it, it is a more "whimsical" take on Bellagio, but if I were being mean I'd call it Willy Wonka's take on the B. At Bellagio, the whimsy is confined to the conservatory; at Wynncore, the whimsy is inescapable in the public areas.

The huge swathes of rich, dark colors embellished with opulent swirls and designs really make one desperate for something less aggressive on the eyeballs.

I prefer Encore to Wynn; Encore's lighter palatte (yes, there's tons of red, but the overall palatte uses lighter shades) and openness to the outside creates a far more relaxed feel. Encore is very like Wynn Macau (ironically, Encore Macau feels more like Wynn Las Vegas with the darker colors and more overstated design), but more open to the outside.

What really puts me off Wynncore, however, are their relative tightness with comps and high table limits. All shoe games have DA2 DAS RSA LS (even at Encore), but I visited on St. Patricks Day. Hoo boy.... H17 was all $25+ (and ASM) on the Wynn side, with one $15 table on the Encore side. S17 was $100+ at Wynn, with one $50 table at Encore. I didn't check but from what I saw, I'd expect it is all ASM outside the high limit rooms, with hand shuffles exclusively in HL. I didn't see any CSMs.

I'm sure that the limits get more reasonable during slower periods, but when I'm seeing people playing purple-chip H17 double-deck on the main floor at Wynn, part of me wants to bang my head against various walls.

The so-called "douchebags" are still present, even though you'd have expected Cosmo to have siphoned them off.

I still cannot comment on the food or drink, but if the food or drink is anywhere near the level you'll get at Wynn Macau, it would be excellent. And yes, I've had the Sinatra Smash in Macau (same recipie as WLV), and it is definetly a great cocktail.

That said, they do charge $20 for it, which makes their bars about as expensive as the Mandarin Bar.

Sorry Stevie; I'll stick with Aria-Bellagio-Cosmo for my hangouts.

+ Striking, if overstated, visual design
+ The quality of this place goes without saying

- High prices for absolutely everything
- Love it or hate it design
- Tight comps

Suggestions For Improvement
1) Better comps, table limits on par with Aria/Bellagio
2) Less outrageous prices at bars

Yes, I am an Aria Fanboy so I had to spend a whole week here. That said, I still adore the place even if I had terrible luck.

I got myself a suite; specifically the Corner Suite. Why? The Toto Washlet (Japanese techno-toilet). Who needs the fountains of Bellagio when you have a mini version in your own toilet? The heated toilet seat was very nice too.

The Corner Suite (I had one with the same layout Blackjacker got in his review) is well-designed with tons of great views (including a spectacular view from the bathtub!). However, the decor of the room uses many organic patterns/textures (leaves etc) plus a warmer-tone color scheme in oranges, reds, browns and tans. I admit I prefer the cooler colors, so the suite (whilst well-designed and comfortable) isn't my aesthetic taste as much as the normal rooms at Aria. That said, the powder room's wallpaper was awesome, and the shower was cool too!

Julian Serrano is still a killer restaurant, and Sage is phenomenal (too bad I got stuck into the absinthe there. I regretted it the next morning). Sirio didn't impress me with the food (last time was better), but the service was extremely friendly (they have a great sommelier). Union has been shut down and is being replaced with a Mexican called Javiers. Lemongrass' duck curry is still luscious.

The place hasn't really changed since last time (same gaming conditions too), although they've added a new signature cocktail: the Stone Wall (based on Makers Mark and fig jam and Solero.... delicious).

The spa and salon are great, too.

If I do have to make a criticism, it is that none of the promenade restaurants really blow me away. American Fish was good but not mind-blowingly brilliant, Sirio is inconsistent (last time was great, this time meh (although the service was excellent)), and Jean-Georges has great atmosphere but good-yet-not-great food. Also, I think the casino is cost-cutting on the drink service (ingredients). Bad move.

+ Awesome technology and modern design
+ Low douche quotient and a slightly more relaxed feel than other Strip joints
+ Some great dining, great location, great spa, just overall a great place

- Some might find it too laid back and too understated in appearance

Suggestions For Improvement
1) Stop cost-cutting with the cocktail service!
2) Make the Promenade restaurants more consistently wow-inducing

I still try to love this place, but am permanently stuck on loving parts of it and hating other parts.

The douchebags still reign alongside the hipsters. But they'll at least play The Cure over the sound system so I get to feel a bit more at home. The bars are still excellent (this place easily has the best cocktail mixologists in Las Vegas, Vesper especially is good). And both Scarpetta and Holsteins are still great (Scarpetta's spaghetti with tomato and basil, the infamous $24 Napoli, is utterly amazing and worth every dollar). Holsteins gave me a service snafu, but they fixed it afterwards (far beyond my expectations).

But the comps are tight and the gambling is suboptimal unless you're a black chipper.

If you are a black chipper, however, the Talon Club is killer.

The Talon Club totally jettisons the main floor's femme flamboyance in favor of a much more masculine and restrained feel, yet still with the Cosmo's signature 'quirky'/'eccentric' sense of style. The casino carpet in here is cool. It starts at $100 per hand (sadly), but there's an upside: they told me they can order you anything at all from any restaurant at the property and bring it to you, complimentary. One of the tables has a great view of the Bellagio fountains. The service here is very friendly too; they even gave me a full tour of the club. Honestly, I'd say this is the best high limit room in Vegas.

Honestly, the Cosmo has great potential, but they need gamblers. To get them, they should be nicer with comps and offer good green chip games.

+ The Talon Club
+ Fantastic cocktails and cuisine
+ Very energetic and lively place with a quirky and alternative feel

- "Femme and flamboyant" main casino floor isn't for everyone
- Bad gambling and comps
- Jersey Shore rejects still crowd the place

Suggestions For Improvement
1) Making the Eastside Tower into a kind of Tower Suites makes perfect sense, at least conceptually.
2) Turn the main floor's old "high limit" table games pit into a $25+ S17 Blackjack/Single 0 Roulette/Mini (or even Midi) Baccarat pit.
3) Loosen up the comps.
4) Replace the 8d ASMs on the main floor with 6d ASMs.
5) Consider selling to MGM; as long as they let the quirky feel remain, they'd do a better job with the casino and comps than the current managers are.

When Hyde Lounge was announced, we heard howls about the death of Bellagio. We heard about the Douchebag Peril. We were told this would destroy the beloved Bellagio.

This is untrue.

I went to Hyde one afternoon. It is, in fact, a lounge. Even if on some nights it does become a nightclub, the place is very relaxed and laid back, with cool lakeview breezes and a phenomenal view of the fountains (much better than the view I had previously). The cocktails are delicious and the small plates menu is great. Additionally, the place was attitude-free and didn't have any problems with my gothiness (I even met one of their VIP hosts; his card entitled me to a 10% discount when I got wasted one afternoon at the SLS in Beverly Hills (very nice and Cosmo-esque hotel by the way, very much 'unconventional' in design, with proper Long Island Iced Teas, friendly and funny stuff, and lots of funny plays on the acronym "SLS" (such as "Sip Liquors Slowly" being on the drink napkins))).

Not only that, but the design does fit in with Bellagio for the most part. Honestly, I think that the Bellagio is improved by the addition of Hyde. So sue me.

This place is clearly among my favorite bars in Vegas, alongside Chandelier/Vesper and the Mandarin Bar.

Blackjack conditions are the same as they always are. $10 CSM H17 tables are plentiful, so lower limit players can still get a game here.

Restaurant-wise, Olives is still tasty! I also managed to get into Picasso; Bellagio's flagship restaurant, with Julian Serrano as chef. To be absolutely blunt, the food was in my opinion up there with Robouchon, but at half the price, with a far better atmosphere (less cramped restaurant, real Picasso art, etc.). I've often thought that Bellagio's dining was overrated, but Picasso is utterly killer. That, plus I met Julian Serrano after my meal. He's a great guy!

+ Still an amazing property after all these years
+ Hyde is surprisingly good
+ Picasso, Olives, Petrossian, etc.

- Often very crowded

Suggestions For Improvement
1) Noodles isn't that good. C'mon, Bellagio deserves a better noodle bar than that.

Bad news blackjack fans; they've abolished the S17 table on the main floor. Either boycott this place or card-count them into oblivion.

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 jinx73 responded on Friday, 6th April 2012

Very interesting take on the different properties. I enjoyed it. I tend to agree with you about Encore and Wynn. I'm not much of a design fan, but I do like Encore's openness. I think of Wynn as a darker Bellagio floor and it bothers me and I just can't seem to enjoy it.

 Rockymountainroller responded on Friday, 6th April 2012

Thanks for this detailed and informative report. I have gleaned some ideas for my next trip. This is what I like about the VT board. I think you had a great time. Does Australia have casinos?

 HedgedBettor replied on Friday, 6th April 2012

Not only does Australia have casinos, they installed a Momofuku restaurant in Star City in Sydney. The presence of 4 Momofuku restaurants might be the single best thing about living in New York - a Momo would really fit well at the Cosmo (NY restaurant ripoff central) actually.

Though I'm curious whether the Aussie casinos are actually any good, I've watched Echo stock quite a bit. I know they aim to get some of the Asian baccarat crowd.

 StudiodeKadent replied on Friday, 6th April 2012

Australia does have casinos. But they absolutely suck. I refuse to gamble here. They don't deserve my money. They're government-privileged monopolists with crappy games, crappy comps and no free booze outside of high limit.

Vegas all the way.

 A5RoadDogg responded on Friday, 6th April 2012

Just an absolutely fantastic trip report that covered every aspect I care about (BJ, comps, and dining). Thanks for sharing!

 Malibugolfer responded on Friday, 6th April 2012

Thanks for being almost an alter-ego for me in your descriptions and, especially, your so current blackjack info. More current than the CBJN emails. Great read.

 detroit1051 responded on Friday, 6th April 2012

This is one of the best trip reports ever. Thanks. Especially liked, "every third person on this board practically fetishizes Wynncore." Ha.

 brt374 responded on Friday, 6th April 2012

Splendid, multi-layered pretty much covered all the bases of every property you visited. The info on the Talon Club was especially enlightening.

 socalduck responded on Friday, 6th April 2012

Completely agree on your comments regarding Mirage: they need to freshen the rooms and/or do a better job with housekeeping. While I like the idea of slide, that pool can get painfully crowded, so a pool expansion would be at the top of my list, even if it means scaling back the Secret Garden.

Thanks for the on-the-ground review of Hyde. While I don't care for the giant wall facing the casino, I do like the interior, so it is nice to know it is an option for relaxed drinking, and not just another XS wannabe.

Your comments on Cosmo are spot-on. Great dining and bars, but they need to do more to attract and award gamblers.

 ihatesnow responded on Friday, 6th April 2012

Really interesting report. I agree with many of your assessments as well. Thanks for posting!

 StudiodeKadent responded on Friday, 6th April 2012

I just wanted to thank everyone for the positive reception this report has received! Biggest thanks! Glad I could help.

 Blakjackkid responded on Saturday, 7th April 2012

Wow! Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed and comprehensive report! Agree with your assessment of how to fix Cosmo, ideally MGM should take it over to complete CCenter and also give gamblers a reason to play there. Right now for low-medium rollers it makes no sense to give their play to a 1-property joint like Cosmo for future rooms comps when they can give their play to MGM or Caesars and have many more room offers.

 jinx73 replied on Saturday, 7th April 2012

From talking to a friend that plays at higher levels, his opinion is definitely that Cosmo suffers from not being able to draw enough whale style gambling. I've seen the casino floor busier and busier over time, but without the huge losses that a couple whales can provide, it's still just scraping at pennies even at the higher levels.

 HedgedBettor responded on Saturday, 7th April 2012

I'm impressed you could manage a 14 day trip without a stop at Lake Mead or the Grand Canyon or something like that. My limit for a Vegas trip is around 5 days, maybe 6.

 StudiodeKadent replied on Saturday, 7th April 2012

It isn't too hard for me. For one, I'm 25 so I have quite a bit of energy. For two, my favorite places to stay are M and Aria, and both of them are often rather quiet and relaxed (insofar as much as a casino can be described as quiet and relaxed).

I also gamble for 4 hours a day. I don't spend whole days at the tables.

A spa/salon treatment also helps.

Oh, and of course, complimentary vodka-bull.

 hawaiianmark responded on Tuesday, 10th April 2012

Absolutely great review. Really enjoyed your take. Bonzers!

 StudiodeKadent replied on Friday, 20th April 2012

Glad you liked it! Happy to help.

 blissfulignoramus responded on Friday, 13th April 2012

What a terrific review. The detailed info about blackjack is really appreciated.

 StudiodeKadent replied on Friday, 20th April 2012

Happy to help out! Thanks for the feedback.