Ever wish Vegas was a little less, well, Vegas-y? Meaning, a little less cheese? A little less sleaze? And a bit more class and sophistication? Well, you’re in luck—NOBU Hotel (@nobulasvegas) just opened inside Caesars Palace, joined by the 12,000-square-foot NOBU Restaurant and Lounge, and it just might be the best of both worlds. The boutique inn (rooms start at $300 per night) is an atypical, oasis-like experience set in the center of the Strip that allows guests to take breaks from the sights, sounds and overstimulation whenever they please. It’s the first hotel project for the NOBU brand—a partnership between chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, actor Robert De Niro and film producer Meir Teper—but judging by the public frenzy, it won’t be the last. (At press time, rumors are circulating of future NOBU hotels in Saudi Arabia and Qatar by the end of this year.)
The story of NOBU is as intriguing as any Hollywood tale. Chef Nobu began working at a sushi restaurant in Tokyo right out of high school, honing his craft so well that an offer was made from a loyal patron one night to open a restaurant in Lima, Peru. Once there, the Peruvian culture began pervading the strict Japanese dishes the chef had been making for years—a sprinkle of orange chili pepper here, a piece of jalapeño or cilantro there. A distinct culinary style was born, and Nobu’s reputation began to build. After stints in Argentina and Alaska, he opened his own restaurant named Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 1987. It was here that the serendipitous friendship with De Niro began—continuing with the opening of the first NOBU restaurant in New York City in 1994 and culminating with the largest NOBU to open doors to date in Sin City this past February. “There was just something so special about him, the quality and his food,” says De Niro. “I had to bring him to the rest of the world. We would get invitations to open NOBU restaurants in different hotels around the world, and it got me thinking: If so many hotels want us, why don’t we just do the hotels ourselves with our restaurants in them?”
So they did just that. The lobby, elevator bank and 181 rooms that make up the space (a totally gutted Caesars tower) were all designed by David Rockwell of Rockwell Group—as was the restaurant, of course—to convey NOBU’s signature Japanese elegance. “That sense of ‘curation’ that you get at NOBU restaurants is present here,” explains Rockwell. “You are trying food you’ve never tried; you are having an exchange with an amazing group of chefs and having an experience that is memorable.”
The delicate simplicity of the restaurant’s dishes is evident in the interiors incarnation, with an edited palette of materials (stone, wood and metal) based on the wabi-sabi principles of simplicity, evocative transience and beauty in the unexpected and natural. In the lobby, various sizes of wood block panels of hemlock, fir and oak are placed side by side in a Tetris-type pattern to add texture, while the shiny, high-gloss ebony reception desk in an abstract boulder shape and custom antique bronze elevator doors add the perfect amount of flash. In terms of the sleeping quarters, patrons have their choice of double, king or suite rooms. Neutral tones on the walls have a calming quality, while injected hues of terra-cotta orange, purple and aqua add interest in the form of framed artworks and decorative pillows. Lantern-like lamps offer soft, ambient lighting, and nature makes its way inside with the organic sand-motif floor carpeting and grass-cloth wallcovering. “It’s about informal luxury,” Rockwell continues, “and that sense of welcome greets you here at the hotel.”
The staff certainly helps guests feel welcome, as well. Fresh, milky green tea at the perfect temperature is presented upon check-in, along with a simply delicious rice cracker as an accompaniment. The concierge is especially conscientious, offering assistance with everything from restaurant and nightlife recs and reservations to the minutiae, like boarding-pass printing and ice-cube fetching.
Another perk is the complimentary access to the renowned QUA Baths & Spa, the 5,500-square-foot facility in Caesars Palace—complete with a full hair salon, makeup artists, fitness room and treatment center offering special NOBU brand services, like the chai-tea mud mask and the Zen Shiatsu massage. The Roman baths—surrounded by heated tile loungers, perfect for catnapping—consist of three distinct pools that vary in temperature and size, and experience rooms that offer herbal steams, hot-coal saunas, arctic cold washes and relaxing refreshments, like fresh fruit and exotic teas.
After all the toxins are flushed out of your system, it’s time to indulge! Dinner at NOBU is a no-brainer—but so is the brunch. If you are skeptical of a sushi restaurant’s servings for breakfast, start with the bagels and lox—a cake of deliciously sticky rice covered in a mix of garlic, sesame, poppy seeds, caraway seeds and sea salt; then topped with a cream-cheese foam and served with salmon sashimi; and finished with delicate slices of onion, capers and a dash of ponzu. The texture is perfect; the flavors are both subtle and refreshing; and the presentation (the rice cake comes as a classic O-shaped New-York bagel) is pure fun.
Speaking of, equally entertaining indulgences are available in other forms than just food. The shows are fantastic (Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, comedian Daniel Tosh of Tosh.0 fame and Def Leppard all have performances slated for this year); the gambling is addictive (why can’t we ever walk away when we’re up?); and the after-hours shenanigans are readily available within walking distance of the hotel: PURE Nightclub, Chateau Nightclub & Gardens in the Paris Hotel, 1OAK in the Mirage Hotel & Casino—the list goes on and on. One of the most unique experiences? Head to The Act in The Palazzo. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas… but a teaser? Things get weird. Really weird. You’ll have to jet out to NOBU Hotel for a firsthand—not to mention first-class—experience.