By Tu Tram Pham
Call me a luxury addict and wanderlust, I have developed an obsession with Mandarin Oriental hotels ever since I was looking for places to stay in Barcelona last summer. After fawning over the gorgeous décor in España, I was looking forward to experiencing this luxury hotel chain closer to home, and to my delight, Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas was just a stone’s throw away.
Located on the Las Vegas Strip at CityCenter, between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo, Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas stands out from the rest of the hotels due to the fact that it does not contain any casinos. This makes for a quiet and comfortable stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Entertainment is not lacking anyhow, as The Shops at Crystals is right across the sky bridge and neighboring ARIA Resort & Casino and The Cosmopolitan hotels can quell those gambling urges.
Upon arriving at the hotel, a greeter in a warm wool coat and top hat rolled my luggage to the elevator, where he informed me that the check-in lobby was actually on the 23rd floor. Service was impeccably swift and easy, and I especially love how the staff personally guide you to the elevators and show you how to maneuver your room cards to get to your floor.
I reserved a Strip View room and the views did not disappoint. I had a great panoramic view over the Las Vegas Strip with Crystals and Planet Hollywood hotel in perfect view. The room itself was sizable and tastefully decorated with a desk, lounging chaise and king-size bed. Don’t tell them I stole their fancy stationary. The bed proved to be a luxury in itself, a fluffy wonderland so comfortable that you just want to melt in and never get out of it. The console underneath the TV was a treasure trove of all kinds of things: a hidden mini bar, a snack bar, and even a pair of wine glasses and a pair of champagne flutes. Ice bucket? Call the concierge and they’ll deliver it to you in a valet closet without even knocking on your door.
The next morning, I stood near the entrance where I noticed an adorable black poodle bouncing around, greeting every person in sight. A caretaker explained to guests that this was a resident dog of The Residences at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas. The latter gives visitors the opportunity to own a unit above the 23rd floor. Hotel guests actually take the elevator down to their hotel room from the Sky Lobby. Thus the 22nd floor is actually the top floor for hotel guests, residents live on the floors above the Sky Lobby. Which means that you not only get an even better view as a resident, but also have access to all of Mandarin Oriental’s amenities including dog walking.
While I didn’t have time to enjoy their spa and pool, my highlight at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas was their Tea Lounge. It was my first time experiencing afternoon tea, so I was looking forward to the service. To start off, I was seated right next to the floor-to-ceiling windows, giving me an even better view over The Strip. I felt spoiled already. The tea menu consisted of several choices, which could range from a classic English combination with finger foods to spiking your afternoon with a glass of Veuve Clicquot. I decided to go the traditional route and opted for the Classic English Afternoon Tea. I settled on a Golden Assam, a black tea that I’ve never tried before. Before I knew it, I was already obsessed with its smooth flavor. Our finger foods came out, and they were adorably presented. From deviled eggs to foie gras mousse on a mango tartlet, every bite was like a revelation. For the holidays, there was even a meringue puff shaped like a snowman, and coffee chocolates shaped like handbags.
To top it off, a 3pm tea time during December means experiencing a gorgeous sunset by 4pm. As the sun turned the mountains to amber, the Strip twinkled in white. Magical? How else would I describe it?
A stop at the Mandarin Bar for a late night drink was just what the doctor ordered after an evening of shows, walking around and a little gambling. At this hour, the power of LED lights shine their best, and that ARIA jumbotron was the star of my gaze. Looking through the cocktail menu, I took a friend’s advice and tried Mandarin Oriental’s signature drink, The Golden Leaf, a citrusy martini in a lush peach color. The bar is calm, the music subtly plays in the background. This is what a lounge is like in Paris – you can have excellent drinks and conversation without trying to yell over the music – my kind of place.
After slumbering in that magnificent bed, and for what seemed like the first time in a hundred years, I was rested, relaxed and refreshed. I was looking forward to eating brunch at MOzen Bistro on the third floor. While I could’ve opted for a continental breakfast, why do that when you can have a Japanese-style bento breakfast? Yes, complete with grilled teriyaki salmon on rice, picked vegetables, miso soup, and tofu with seaweed strips. I was at Mandarin Oriental, might as well wield my Asian-ness for something. Normally I don’t like to eat cooked fish and seafood, but I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty their salmon was, and that crunchy skin! The bento is large, but the portions are small, so it was a good choice to have for brunch.
Towards the end of my trip, I was a little sad to leave. It was such a great experience that I don’t think I could stay anywhere else in Las Vegas. I didn’t have a chance to try Twist, their restaurant run by three-Michelin star chef, Pierre Gagnaire. It was closed during my stay, to my disappointment. But who says I can’t go back for seconds?
Tu Tram Pham is a graphic designer with The Agency. Connect with Tu Tram on Twitter at @dahliapham.