The new kid on Las Vegas’ burgeoning boutique hotel scene, Nobu Hotel opens today and, although it’s not massive in scope, it’s simply exquisite in design.
The venture is the first resort launched by Nobu Hospitality, which is owned by celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Among his partners is legendary screen actor Robert De Niro. Nobu Hotel has taken over the space originally occupied by the Centurion Tower, the second oldest tower at Caesars Palace. The Rockwell Group interior design firm was charged with making the dramatic transformation from the antiquity of Rome to the mystique of the Far East.
“This is a relationship that goes back to 1994 when we did the first Nobu restaurant,” said David Rockwell, founder and CEO of the Rockwell Group. “Now there are 26 restaurants on five continents and in 15 countries. The journey with Chef Nobu has been quite extraordinary. He has a very unique point of view.”
With Nobu Hotel, hands-on hospitality is the guiding notion. Striving to be different from other great offerings around the world, Rockwell said that they wanted to carry over a sense of “curation.” In the case of Nobu resturants, this is found in the relationships that have been built with customers whereby they come in filled with trust and eager to try new foods. Similarly, the focus for the hotel has been on setting new standards in the hospitality industry for guests in terms of design and functionality.
“The idea is to marry Eastern rigor with Western comfort, which in some ways is the kind of refined style that people are looking for,” explained Rockwell. “Using the grand canvas of a hotel, we were able to elaborate on the use of hand-crafted materials that create a luxurious effect and provide a world-class Nobu experience.
The result is 181 rooms (including 18 lavish suites, which are still under construction) that embrace a comfortable simplicity in atmosphere. There’s an emphasis on nature, varying textures, horizontal lines and origami in the décor. The carpeting and main wall showcase patterns resembling calligraphy. Custom works of Japanese expressionist and graffiti art are also on display.
“The room is meant to be more of a retreat, like a cocoon,” said Rockwell. “As opposed to having different things going on in every corner, we were looking for a few overall features to ground the rooms.”
Standard accommodations at Nobu Hotel measure 350 square feet. Guests can choose between a California king or two queen beds boasting 330-count satin Italian sheets and goose-down pillows. In addition to a media hub, there’s a 55-inch LCD TV. The Nobu Channel broadcasts information about future Nobu Hotel and Nobu restaurant developments, while another channel is dedicated to playing soothing music combined with images of nature.
Gigi Vega, general manager of Nobu Hotel, revealed her favorite amenity is the oversized walk-in shower. Paying tribute to Chef Nobu’s heritage, it’s laden with black Umi tiles and contains a teak stool. The minimalist bathroom also has stone surfaces, a white ceramic basin sink and Natura Bissé products with a rosemary and white tea scent.
A signature welcome of hot green tea and rice crackers is served upon arrival. At turndown, hotel staff place two lounge robes on the bed and lay out more green tea with macaroons. There’s a minibar in which all items were selected by Chef Nobu, and guests can order from his first in-room dining menu at any hour of the day.
“We have a red tassel that is used to request privacy,” said Vega of Nobu Hotel’s creative twist on the “Do Not Disturb” door sign. While doing research, she’d heard tassels were employed during the time of Marie Antoinette, and that even the king, Louis XIV, was not allowed to disturb her. “We think it’s something very unique, and we wanted to get away from the paper.”
Like the rooms, the lobby at Nobu Hotel is distinctive. Upon entry from Caesars Palace, guests will sense the dramatic transformation. Floor-to-ceiling blocks were hand-carved from three different woods: hemlock, oak and fir. An enormous piece of black onyx forms the welcome desk and adds to the characteristics of abstract geometric art.
However, the conversation piece is the 12,775-square-foot Nobu Restaurant and Lounge. The elegant venue is Chef Nobu’s largest culinary endeavor in the world. Bowed columns of bamboo line the exterior, and a flock of origami cranes flutters above the entrance. Just inside, the bar is encircled by semi-private pods that seat six to eight people.
“One of the things these pods do is break down the scale of the 325-seat restaurant,” said Rockwell. “They create little enclosures so you feel like you have an intimate place to be.”
The pods are formed from wire abaca frames made in Malaysia. Patrons will also discover décor elements common to every Nobu restaurant – like the cherry blossoms that are in the upholstery and projected above the bar. In addition to custom furnishings and leather mesh screens, Nobu Restaurant and Lounge features a bank of 20 cloud-like light fixtures that are actually comprised of folded paper.
Across one wall there’s a sushi bar. The dining floor is surrounded by a series of private rooms, some with lazy Susans and others with sizzling teppanyaki tables. Toward the back are two long chef’s tables that stretch the length of the open kitchen.
“We wanted a restaurant that flows really well because so much of service is about choreography,” added Rockwell. “If you observe what’s going on in any Nobu restaurant, people are constantly in motion.”
Nobu Hotel’s location in Caesars Palace is excellent for circulation as well. It’s situated across from the Old Homestead Steakhouse. Plus, the ground floor winds alongside the Appian Way shops, where a life-sized replica of Michelangelo’s “David” resides. Of course, part of the appeal of Nobu Hotel is that it’s in the heart of the action but still feels like a hideaway.
“This partnership with Caesars Palace couldn’t be more ideal. Nobu Hotel is at the center of the exciting culinary and entertainment world in Las Vegas,” said Rockwell. “The extravagant over-the-topness of the resort is like a counterpoint to the kind of retreat Nobu Hotel is. You’ll have a chance to do everything you want to do here, and in the evening come back to what we think is a simple, wonderful experience where you’ll have the best in hospitality and luxury.”