Thu. Dec 1st, 2022

Resorts World Las Vegas opened just over a year ago (late June 2021), while travel to Las Vegas was still at a pandemic-induced trickle. Before COVID-19, Vegas was coming off a string of record-breaking tourism years, but few cities were hurt as hard in terms of visitation by the outbreak. But things have heated up again, and in a huge way, and Las Vegas is once again very much in demand for vacations. So, if you are one of the millions itching to return to the neon lights and non-stop fun, you will definitely want to know about the city’s newest, shiniest place to stay – and eat.

Las Vegas is one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations, and changes so quickly that no matter how often you visit, there’s probably going to be something new next time you go. But some additions are much more important than others, and the mantra of Las Vegas tourism has always been bigger is better and newest is best, and by those standards, the Resorts World Las Vegas casino resort is the best thing to hit the Strip in a very long time.

Having now seen it myself, in a deep dive, I can confirm that this is true – especially if you love food.

Resorts World is a big place, so this is going to be a big review. It was the first completely new mega-resort and casino to open in a decade, and like its giant peers up and down Las Vegas Boulevard, combines multiple hotels, countless restaurants, entertainment, day and night clubs, a huge spa, pools and of course, gaming, all on a massive scale. There have been lots of renovations and rebrandings lately on the Strip, but this is an all-new build from the ground up with more than 3,500 rooms, one of the ten biggest in the city. It is part of Genting Berhad, a publicly traded Malaysian conglomerate with numerous global casino properties and more than half a century of resort management, hospitality and development experience. They previously made a splash on U.S. shores with the only casino in New York City, Resorts World New York, near JFK airport.

This one is much, much bigger, with three distinct hotel brands, all in partnership with Hilton. The entry level tier is the Las Vegas Hilton, and a step up is the Conrad Las Vegas. Conrad is a lesser known but fast-growing luxury lifestyle brand, and one of Hilton’s highest tiers, just below Waldorf Astoria. The creme de la crème is Crockfords Las Vegas, part of LXR, Hilton’s new network of independent luxury properties. It is also a spin-off of Genting’s own ultra-luxury boutique brand, and the flagship Crockfords in Malaysia was the only hotel in the entire country to earn a 2021 Forbes 5-Star rating. This one has nothing smaller than large suites, many with lavish touches like steam baths and in-room gyms. At the higher end it also boast villas and “palaces,” ultra swank residential units that rival pretty much anything in town for high-rollers. Crockfords has its own VIP check-in area, a huge plus that separates and elevates all of the best luxury “hotel within hotel” properties in the city, from MGM’s Skylofts to The Nobu Hotel in Caesars Palace to the Tower Suites at Wynn and Encore.

As much as I love Las Vegas, the sad truth is that hotel operations here are not held to remotely the same standards as in other cities, and if a four or five-star business hotel in New York or London ran its valet, check-in process, bell service and room service the way most do in Vegas, they would quickly go out of business. Hugely long lines snaking around ropes like the economy check-in airport counters for a discount no-frills carrier are not the way “luxury” hotels should operate, yet this is the norm for Las Vegas hotel lobbies, even at some of the biggest names, and those considered luxurious. One of the reasons why you always see so many people rolling their luggage across Vegas casino floors is because there’s either no one to do it for them, or if there is, the wait might be interminable.

The hassle of waiting forever to check-in is unfortunately the first thing that greets most Las Vegas visitors, so it is worth noting that Resorts World does a better job than most hotels its size, and not just at the ultra-luxe Crockfords. The Conrad will likely rate the same in terms of stars and diamonds as several other name properties on the Strip, but the front desk experience was much smoother, despite the fact, that like everyone else at this unusual moment, they are still struggling with staffing shortages and inexperience (but the horrific check-in has always been a problem elsewhere in the city, even when it was easy to hire help). It took several tries for the person checking me in to make my room keys, and she didn’t seem to understand the computer system, but at least she was friendly, and I did not have to wait on line for an hour just to get to the desk, as did some of my friends staying a few mega-resorts down the Strip. Most people are so eager to get to Vegas that when the get there they want to start having fun, not stand in line. If you’ve been to Vegas as many times as I have, you quickly realize and appreciate that this level of front desk service is a big deal.

It can also be easier to get cabs and beat the traffic from the airport here, but this is a bit of a tradeoff – part of the reason the arrival experience is superior is because it doesn’t have as desirable a mid-Strip location as Caesars Palace, Bellagio, the Cosmopolitan or several others. It is now the northernmost main Strip casino, north of the Fashion Show Mall, in turn just north of Treasure Island (TI), until now the last in the string of properties on the west side of the Strip. It is kitty corner to Wynn and Encore, the northernmost major resort on the east side. On the other hand, it is just slightly further from the action than Wynn, and that location has never garnered many components.

What this means, especially for the half of the year when Las Vegas gets miserably hot – like right now – is that there is not much you can practically walk to besides the Wynn/Encore property. The good news is that like Resorts World, Wynn has a high level of culinary focus and prowess, with some excellent home-grown gourmet eateries, and between the two, you could dine exceptionally well for a week or two without ever getting in a cab. In fact, you can stay entirely at Resorts World and eat like a king (more on this below). It is also the closest major resort to the hugely popular Las Vegas Convention Center, walkable, which is a big plus for anyone here on such business. But as of last week, you can now get directly into the Convention Center fast and easily without ever going outside (more below), a game changer. It is also the closest top Strip resort to Downtown Las Vegas, which just keeps getting better, to the trendy Arts District, and to what has quickly emerged as the city’s must-visit new attraction district, Area 15, which includes the mind-boggling Lost Spirits (a must), the Illuminarium, and performance art guru Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart installation.

Everything it lacks in walking convenience it makes up for in proximity and easy of getting a cab, but the real differentiator is that Resorts World is the epicenter of the city’s just opened and radical new public transportation undertaking, the Las Vegas Loop, an all-electric, zero-emissions underground public transport system which uses Tesla Model Y and X vehicles – driven by human operators – to travel through a new network of dedicated tunnels beneath the city. There are plans for 55 stations and 29 miles of tunnels, but unlike subways, busses, light rail, trams, monorails or just about anything else on earth, all trips are non-stop point to point. It’s like a subway system made of taxis instead of trains with no stop lights or other traffic.

The first section of tunnel includes three stops at the convention center and the brand-new flagship station in the bottom of Resorts World. This first section debuted just last week, providing a direct connection to the convention center without ever going outside. Visitors can do a joy ride to the Convention Center and back for $1.50 (only actual convention attendees can get out). It is the first and only section of the Loop in operation, but approved future stops that Resorts World will link to include UNLV, Fremont Street (Downtown), Allegiant Stadium (NFL Raiders and UNLV football) and most importantly, the airport. This will be huge, given the extreme heat, long pedestrian distances, ride-share shortages, and frequently bad traffic here.

Otherwise, Resorts World has all the usual bells and whistles of a top tier Strip resort. Frankly, beyond the high-limit and VIP areas few guests ever use, it is hard to distinguish one casino from another in terms of gaming, but this one has gone the high-tech route, and claims to be the city’s first with cashless wagering at both slots and table games. An integrated and sophisticated app combines mobile gaming, frequent players club and the ability to purchase all hotel items, food and entertainment, in touchless, digital fashion. For novices intimidated by social table games, especially craps, but also roulette and blackjack, there are a lot of automated versions of these where you don’t have to interact with anyone or make publicly visible bets. There is a poker room and sports book, but it’s worth noting that there is no horse racing, a trend that is growing in the city as more sports and race books become just sports books.

Likewise, there is an impressive array of pools, including a family pool, main pool, outdoor gaming pool and lots of private cabanas and daybed options, but pretty much every resort has similar offerings. The large Awana spa is definitely at the upper end, but there are a lot of world class resort spas in Vegas. On the other hand, the fitness center is a marked step up from most, vast and with an incredible array of equipment including esoteric items like a Power Plate, an entire area devoted to recovery with high-end Therabody massage guns, and a fleet of ultra-popular Peloton bikes. Both the Ayu dayclub and Zouk nightclub attract world famous DJs and have taken their places among the pantheon of coveted Las Vegas spots. Like most rivals, it has a state-of-the-art live entertainment venue, the 5,000 seat Resorts World Theater, with groundbreaking sightlines that promise no bad seats, an equally world-class sound system, and to date a star-studded series of top shelf residencies including the much anticipated return of the Queen of all Vegas divas, Celine Dion, along with Carrie Underwood, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan.

But every top resort in Vegas has gaming, a great spa, pool and performers. Where Resorts World really sets itself apart, beyond the front desk pleasantness and Loop station, is its spectacular culinary offerings. Las Vegas has become one of the nation’s best food cities, and maybe the very best for high-end fine dining, and as a result, some people come just for the food, while pretty much every visitor staying at a nicer hotel places a premium on the dining experiences. If that sounds like you, this is the place.

The most unique food and beverage option is Famous Foods Street Eats, a Vegas spin on the Singaporean-style food court, with 16-stalls that include several first-in-the-U.S. outposts of Michelin Plate and Bib Gourmand-recognized hawker stands from Southeast Asia. There are plenty of noodles, bao, dumplings, ramen and sushi options, as well as much more specialized and harder to find Pacific Rim and Indian specialties including Hainanese chicken rice, char kuey teow, and murtabak. These are offered alongside domestic Western concepts from celebrated chefs and restaurants including Blood Bros. Texas BBQ, burgers, and Streetbird, which serves legendary chef Marcus Samuelsson’s take on Nashville hot chicken. The complex also has a full central bar – as well as hidden speakeasy – and sits right alongside the main casino floor. Food and drink can all be ordered through touchscreen kiosks or on the app, as well as at each stall.

This is an amazing addition to the Las Vegas food scene, as the offerings are both diverse and highly curated, and I found almost every stall extremely tempting. That means I could eat lunch and dinner here every day for a week without repeating once, in a way that is both inexpensive and very accessible by Vegas standards. While the city has lots to eat at both the very high and very low end, there has always been a gap in the middle when it comes to fast quality or satisfying grab and go. Lots of casinos have fast food courts, but I am never, ever, under any circumstances, going to a Vegas casino hotel to eat at Sbarro’s or Subway. In sharp contrast, Famous Foods Street Eats offers really good food fast, out in the open, ready to satisfy your every craving, be it a full meal or a snack, and in Vegas, everyone’s body clock is working differently. There are a few other standout high quality food courts in the city, especially at Cosmopolitan, but this is my new favorite.

How about sit-down, full-service dining? Well, Resorts World hits it out of the park, and the headliner has to be Brezza, which is quite probably the best Italian restaurant in a city full of great Italian restaurants. It uses impeccably sourced high quality regional and specialty ingredients from Italy to create highly regional and eclectic dishes, including many you will see no place else in the city and few if any locations in the United States. It’s no coincidence that Brezza won Las Vegas Restaurant of the Year 2021 across all cuisines, and it’s very experienced chef, Nicole Brisson, has the real deal Italian chops to pull all this off, with an amazing resume. I wrote in much more detail about Brezza here in a very recent story I did on the new generation of Las Vegas Italian eateries, so dig in, but the bottom line is that I now put it up there with my long-time fine dining French favorite, the 3-Michelin-starred Joel Robuchon in MGM, as the two must-eat places in the city. The craziest thing is that because Brisson has a dep background in the rarefied world of ultra-aged beef, and her own off-site climate-controlled facility, Brezza also offers hundred-plus day dry aged beef, which only a handful of places in the country do. So on top of being Vegas’ preeminent Italian spot, it doubles as one of the very best steakhouses in a red meat obsessed city.

But if you want more steak, than you are in luck, because Resorts World now houses the largest steakhouse in Las Vegas, quite an accolade considering every major resort has a high-end steakhouse. CarverSteak serves dry aged domestic beef from two of my favorite suppliers, Chicago’s venerable Allen Brothers butchers and San Francisco’s Flannery Beef, both favorites of star chefs, and both of which I have written about and tasted extensively. It’s hard to get better beef from this country, but for variety and a different kind of red meat taste experience, CarverSteak also has authentic imported Japanese wagyu. If you prefer seafood, they have a stunning one of a kind signature dish, Lobster en Croute, a 2-pound Maine lobster wrapped in puff pastry, something I have never seen and now can’t forget, as well as assorted sashimi, sushi, raw bar and French-style tiered cold seafood platters. It’s the only steakhouse I have been to (and I have been to a lot of the world’s best) that has a knife presentation where you choose your own weapon from a wooden chest presented tableside. If all that is not enough, both Brezza and CarverSteak have large outdoor dining patios, a Vegas rarity and delight.

I did not have time to eat at ¡VIVA!, a lively Latin eatery by famed chef Ray Garcia, but I kept walking by and checking out the people eating and menu, and it is very high on my to-do list next trip, more casual than its neighbors, Brezza and CarverSteak, but also more affordable and quite tempting. The Resorts World lineup also includes a tapas bar, caviar bar, several fine dining Chinese, Japanese, and fusion Asian eateries, and interestingly, Crossroads Kitchen, a Los Angeles import that claims to be the first plant-based fine dining restaurant on the Strip. For those interested, it has a monopoly, but it’s definitely not on my personal to-do list.

I went to Brezza and some of the others with high expectations, which were met, but the big surprise was Wally’s. It’s an apparently beloved Los Angeles institution that started as a wine shop and became a restaurant, and when I read the description, I expected gimmicky, or an ostentatious LA power scene built around see and be seen expensive wine labels. Instead, Wally’s was charming and delicious, with impeccable and friendly service, a kind of neighborhood spot where you would want to eat once a week (or more) if it was in your neighborhood. It is housed inside a giant wine (and spirits) shop, the walls lined with bottles, and everything is for retail sale, even the steaks and extensive gourmet cheese and charcuterie selection. It’s a wine shop and gourmet store turned great restaurant, with a slant towards high-end comfort food, serving all three meals daily, all of them great. It has a really deep wine selection by the glass, and even more by the bottle, with more reasonable prices than just about any other list this size in town. Since a lot of the top spots at both Resorts World and it peers are dinner only, I’d make it a point to have breakfast, lunch or brunch, preferably boozy, here. I just loved Wally’s.

In addition to the Famous Foods street court and the vast array of better restaurants, there is a second slate of casual spots I didn’t get to, including a New York style pizzeria, an extremely popular breakfast all day egg-based spot, Sun’s Out Buns Out, and Redtail, a gastro-pub style gaming bar for those who can’t stop betting long enough to eat. The Dawg House is a Nashville-style sports bar eatery serving the namesake specialty hot dogs, plus burgers, BBQ and sandwiches, which also creatively houses a standalone gourmet grilled-cheese food truck. That’s something I’ve seen at no other casino sports bar in Vegas. Taking the fanciness of Crossroads Kitchen down a step there is Crossroads CB, serving plant-based burgers and sausages, a tropical bar and grill, and of course, a buffet. If you get thirsty from all of this food, there are also about ten other standalone bars and lounges.

My takeaway is that Resorts World adds a lot to the Las Vegas tourism scene, upping the ante on top shelf lodging, spa, pool and entertainment options. Ease of check-in and front desk experience was big plus, and the direct connection to the Convention Center should attract business travelers, while the ongoing Loop expansion will be great for everyone. The only minor weakness was location, though this is offset by some advantages, and will mostly bother those who like to walk from resort to resort mid-Strip. This downside is by far outweighed by the excellent food offerings, a stunning, creative slate that include some best-in-class spots I would travel here to eat at no matter where I was staying, and there is something nice about not having to cab it to and from a great dinner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *