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January 2013 trip - Mandarin & beyond

Last edit: jimmybond on Monday, 28th January 2013 5:52 pm
Last response by wpsteel66 29th January 3:53pm

Some highlights from recent trip to LV earlier this month, sorted by category rather than ‘story’ format...enjoy!

Mandarin Oriental
Stayed at Mandarin Oriental – loved it, would stay again. Intimate feel with only ~400 rooms (?)

Friends had 5th floor Strip view basically above CityCenter driveway which was interesting given narrow layout around building with floor to ceiling windows all the way through to the commode (Strip view indeed!) like a long hallway with windows all down one side. Also fun to prank someone by raising mechanical blinds while they are indisposed, especially since blind controls OUTSIDE toilet room door (and also handily controlled from pad beside bed in main room) Hilarious every time.

We had a conventional room higher up facing pool, with windows only on one end of room and bathroom buffered by bedroom from those windows.

Mandarin stand up shower: had door seals (rubber?) all around glass door frame to prevent water from leaking out, I wish more hotels had this as I have had water leak out of shower in too many (including Bellagio and Cosmopolitan if I recall)

Shipping to hotel: Mandarin lets you ship packages for free (within reason for size/quantity), will even drop off to your room. Great for Amazon etc for out-of-country guests. MGM/Caesars properties usually charge pickup fee of $10+

“Suite anybody?” We were offered upsell to Presidential Suite for the weekend, for inquiring minds apparently rack rate is $15,000 per night (cough). We were offered opportunity to split it with our friends, combining our pre-paid room rates towards a ‘discounted’ rate of $3500. Outside our budget unfortunately.

Pillows – all in our group found the pillows at Mandarin to be too hard, but if you let the front desk know your desired softness they will have a new pillow discreetly delivered in minutes (!) to the secret magic valet closet at front door.

Mandarin Bar – amazing drinks though pricey, great view, quiet ambiance, great nut mix (ask for it if they don’t offer – wasabi peanuts etc) Only downside for me is that (to keep quiet ambiance?) they mix and shake drinks in a closet annex to main bar rather than in front of you, removing the bartender spectacle that should accompany an $18 martini!

Dining & Drinking:

Mon Ami Gabi club – at waitress’ suggestion, signed up for frequent diner card at Mon Ami Gabi. Decent deal, essentially it costs $10 but you instantly get $10 on your ‘account’ to use (not in same meal). Plus you earn $10 reward per $140 spend (easily accomplished). Birthday gift cert of $15 too. Info at:
Besides Mon Ami, they operate a ton of restaurants in Chicago; elsewhere in Vegas the group has Eiffel Tower, Stripburger (Fashion Show), El Segundo Sol. From our one dinner at Mon Ami I already have $20 to use on next visit, having spent $10, plus that birthday money to come too…great value especially since Mon Ami is always a stop on our trips (usually for brunch, but this time......

LATE NIGHT DINING OPTION: had great reasonable steak dinner on Mon Ami Gabi patio at Paris hotel, heaters on, sat down at 11 and left at 1. Food very reasonable and tasty - $28 steak frites, $6 sides, and $37 GSM blend bottle of wine to polish it off. Not to mention the Bellagio fountains every 15min until midnight send-off. Great service. Can’t beat the location and value for $$$ for a steak dinner, half the price of Gordon Ramsay nearby, definitely will be back for late night steaks (anywhere else this would be late night, for vegas this is just late evening?)

STK @ Cosmo: had a delicious meal here but the music (while good mix) is super loud – as in can’t hear others talking at your own table for 4. Server wasn’t great for us, deemed by table to be a DB, but other servers there were a riot – dancing with table of older ladies next to us, etc.

Jaleo @ Cosmo : great (if $18 pricey) gin and tonics made with real herbals and juniper berries etc in your glass with gourmet tonic water...a bit ostentatious but delicious. Attentive friendly service here as always.

Walgreens @ Harmon Corner for booze – had never done stopped into Walgreens for Strip-walking drinks, but the new one at Harmon corner (underneath giant digital screen) has an impressive walk-in beer cooler (with no less than 5 kinds of ciders that weren’t Strongbow, more than some local liquor stores around me!) Plenty of craft beers too from out of state (lots of Rogue, etc) Remember to bring a bottle opener from your room or buy a cheapo Vegas souvenir one there.

Gaming tidbits
Cosmo 3:2 back???? --- saw a table that looked like it might be 3:2 DD but didn’t want to interrupt to ask, instead asked a floor supervisor at another pit but he said there were none outside high limit room. Maybe they were newly testing a return to better odds? (or maybe just signage bad, but for most 6:5 DD they have it marked stylishly on felt)

Aria - wanted to try here as others have suggested it’s great to play at, but out of my reach as when we were through a couple times was always $50-100min for shoe or DD and anything lower minimum was equipped with a CSM. Lots of people there playing though.

Caesars – as mentioned in another post of mine on VT, Caesars has ballsiest rules in Pussycat Dolls party pit with 6:5, no DAS, double 10/11 only, all for high minimums. Worse, though, as you continue past that party pit towards the lobby (away from the sports book), there was a BJ table as part of a ‘normal’ pit with all the same horrible rules yet none of the eye candy!!! And yet while I stood there waiting for compatriots who were in nearby bathroom, there were plenty of takers for the horrible rules…caveat emptor in the house of Caesar!

Penny slots – our group this time was low rolling non-gamblers so we played some penny slots literally for pennies. I didn’t realize the drinks people will come by and get you whatever you want even if only playing 1 credit on 1c machine (same drinks as at $25+ BJ table). This was especially good at Cosmo where they will bring you high-shelf if you ask specifically (and tip well and consistently, of course!) You do have to be playing not just sitting, so put a dollar in to get those 1 cent reels rolling and let the Van Gogh Espresso Martinis start flowing…fairly cheap way to get nicely toasted in comfy seats, with plenty of privacy to chat and frequent attentive service from servers given the normally empty slot floor at Cosmo!

Monte Carlo – always enjoy having Donna as a dealer for blackjack on the night shift, she has a comeback quip for anything. Hilarious. She makes a hand on 4, though, so look out. Also for the two times I played there this trip day and night they had ‘oldies’ music on, Beach Boys etc...really fun vibe. I don’t mind it, probably keeps the Cosmo/Wynn club crowd away.

MGM Grand Lion’s Share slot – first time I tried it out, presently it is right beside high limit slots room (between HL slots and S17 pit). Actually was up $30 right off the bat before it all went away (and not worth the requisite hand pay for that amount anyhow) to try for the fabled jackpot. Machine seems a bit tired, hopefully it pays out before the buttons stop working.

Assorted random stuff:

Touring highlight off-Strip: made it out to Red Rock Canyon (steal of deal at $7 to drive the loop, beautiful scenery) and pinball hall of fame – both were definitely worth the trip and highly recommended.

Rental car – got a great deal bidding on rental car via web; not sure we’ll be back to doing a cab. Cost $90 for 4 days, with flexibility to go ANYWHERE. That was for big 'nice' rental too (Nissan Maxima) Bus service from McCarran to the car terminal was slicker than any cab or shuttle I’ve had too, really good setup. Parking at hotel was no problem, doing Aria self-park for stay at Mandarin (other than the walk to get there.)

Logo clearance store – tracked down the quiet outlet store in the Luxor I saw on a VegasChatter article – great deals. As in, $3.99 Bellagio coffee mug (without even a typo!) cheapo tshirts, etc. Lady working there quite nice, the place has a ton of eclectic selection. When I got home to wash the gear it all had a potent sweet Luxor perfumed smell like anything sitting in the casino air for too long. The store is basically in a hallway across from the Luxor poker room right where you enter from Excalibur walkway. We got 7 different MGM branded shirts, 2 decks of casino cards and a mug for the whopping total of $37 after tax.

Lastly, not to lose anyone here, but saw Celine Dion – not normally a die-hard Celine fan but man was she good, one of best concerts I have seen. Notably, she was singing hits from last 20+ years but unlike other aging stars she did not take songs down in key or shy away from the high note solos – some were almost spot on with her album version, amazing to be able to do live – truly a world class voice. Also it was evident she had tons of gratitude for her awesome musicians (31 piece orchestra + 4 singers), and given that her pianist has been with her 20+ yrs and the guitarist 18 yrs you know she must be good to work with. Overall well worth checking out before she ends this run in 2014, we’ll definitely try to go again.

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 wpsteel66 responded on Tuesday, 29th January 2013

Thanks for the good information. Sounds as though you had a great time.

I agree with your recommendation to visit Red Rock Canyon. Great scenic views and can do some hiking also.

I also agree with you regarding the rental car. I always rent a car for the flexibility and 'freedom' of going anywhere.