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Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic 2014

So yeah, lofts at Vdara are pretty sweet (trip report)

Started by HedgedBettor on Tuesday, 15th July 2014 6:40 pm
Last response by HedgedBettor 28th July 5:51pm

-In our ongoing efforts to get the best possible room for the lowest possible rate, we booked the Vdara 1-Bedroom Loft Suite through the mlife website. With the platinum discount of 15% we got the room for ~400 a night over a holiday weekend, and man was it worth it. Its not actually an enormous room, but the top floor, two directional view (we had a view south towards Aria and beyond down the strip out of the main room, and a view north towards downtown, the Trump and the mountains beyond out of the master bathroom. This is only an OK room for big groups that want to party, since it doesn't really have space for a ton of people, but its a great room for a couple or a small group looking for a nice room with a memorable view.

-The wife and I actually went to check out other casinos instead of staying at Aria on Friday. I've said this before, but the more time I spend in other casinos, the more committed I become to Aria. We went to Encore in hopes of finding S17 blackjack - there was none at all on the main floor, though there was an (empty, bar for us) table at 100 in high limit. We played one shoe and left. Mirage is also down to only having S17 tables in high limit - I think the last two holdouts are Aria and Bellagio (maybe MGM?) Gaming conditions are unchanged at Aria - still the best on the strip, with quality craps (3x 12 on the field). At the times I was citing HL only/100 minimum quality blackjack at these casinos, there were multiple tables at 50 with liberal rules going at Aria, and sometimes one at 25.

-Not to keep singing the praises of Aria, but the two exceptional new restaurants I ate at on the trip were Javier's and Tetsu. Javier's is less like the standard high-end mexican joints, places like Dos Caminos, which are serving more seafood and more "innovative cuisine." Instead this is first rate tex-mex in a stylish setting with exceptionally good, carefully crafted and fresh tasting margaritas. Skip breakfast and do a long, boozy lunch with friends at Javier's and you won't regret it. And make sure you book a late dinner reservation.

Speaking of that dinner reservation, make it at Tetsu, because it delivered one of the most stunning meals I've ever eaten. The marvel of Tetsu is the simplicity of the preparations - they are just letting the ingredient quality shine through, which usually sounds like a better idea than it tastes like, but in this case it works. And does it work. When you do Tetsu skip the hot appetizers and get some sushi, a main and a handful of sides. Don't get the fried rice, which is pointless and takes up space you could be filling with more of the sweet corn, which is the most delicious $4 item I've ever eaten at a fine restaurant.

Hey, did he just say something about a dish that cost 4 dollars? Yeah, if you wanted to do it on the cheap I think you could get out of Tetsu with an amaingly memorable and very filling meal at 35 to 40 bucks a head by ordering either the chicken, salmon or pork belly, plus 3 to 4 sides. I think about this meal at least once a week and its definitely my choice for best restaurant in Vegas today.

Other meals worth mentioning - another dinner at Sage, which is consistently excellent and also a serious contender for the title of best restaurant in Vegas, a quick dinner before going to the airport at Barmasa, which was exceptional and amazing, nearly as good as Tetsu, and Prime, which I tried for the first time and thought was OK but nothing to write home about (I remain a Vegas steakhouse nomad, looking for my new home after abandoning Craftsteak).

-I know that the "all bets" on the craps tables at MGM properties are sucker bets but I hit the "all small" bet twice on the trip, and both times was one number away from hitting the "all tall" on the same roll. The first time it would have won 20 thousand bucks for an asian dude at the table who had a black chip each on all small, all tall and all or nothing at all. Even without those two hits it was the best dice trip I've ever taken. Blackjack was rough for a long time before all was redeemed on the final shoe I played, where it felt like I didn't lose a hand for 20 minutes.

-I did two spa trips, cause my back sucks and hot tubs and massages help it. I tried the Encore spa, which I recall being mentioned highly here - it was more than fine but not at the level of the Qua Baths or the Mandarin Spa, but was more expensive. The Spa Bellagio was just as good and 20 bucks cheaper.

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 Chuckmonster responded on Tuesday, 15th July 2014

Great report! I agree about the Aria stuff, they've done a great job changing stuff there.

 LeoNYC replied on Saturday, 19th July 2014

I just came back from a 4-day trip. I stayed at Aria and this is now my favorite place to stay. You can find from fine dining to your daily coffee (Starbucks/The Roasted Bean). The Spa has everything you need and rooms are very comfortable. It is like the luxury of Mandarin meets with the casual MGM Grand. Plus, since it is not a hotspot among tourists and the young crowd, you don't see that many like you see at Bellagio and Wynn/Encore. By the way, casino was crowded on weeknights. Great vibe.

 motoman responded on Monday, 28th July 2014

Friends of ours love Vdara for the value-for-quality equation. Compared to Aria suites, it's a relative bargain only steps away. If you want a party suite, though some Vdara guest might not like it if they chose the place for its off-casino location, get a Hospitality suite or two-bedroom penthouse or Loft. Those all come with limo transport to/from McCarran, the same limos used by Aria Sky Suites. [edit: not to mention full kitchens w/ *full*sized* fridge. Might think of a use for that...!]

Agree that Aria has become a favorite. Count me among the many skeptics here and at TWHT when CityCenter was under construction and for a long while after. I can't believe the building itself has morphed over the years so it must be our perceptions that have changed. I'd argue that those table limits on S17 blackjack get jacked way up later at night.

Great tip for a value meal at Tetsu. Looking fwd to Javier's next trip as the brother's GF likes her some TexMex, and that place across at PH is a bit loud and left us unimpressed. [edit: I guess I'm thinking of the BBQ place by the south entrance to Miracle Mile... certainly wasn't Cabo Whatever...]

 motoman replied on Thursday, 17th July 2014

HedgedBettor: "(I remain a Vegas steakhouse nomad, looking for my new home after abandoning Craftsteak)."

If you've mentioned before, please remind us why you've "abandoned" Craftsteak? We were very much looking fwd to our first visit last Dec. but all fell to a stomach bug and had to cancel. (Finger food at Five50 and touchscreen video poker at the bar next door was a bad combo, and on the weekend that Rio reported a noro-like outbreak! ;)

We chose Heritage last trip. I remain a Tom Colicchio fan because, not in spite of, his outspoken stance on social issues. Not that that should matter, it's about the food….

 HedgedBettor replied on Friday, 18th July 2014

Craftsteak was my regular steakhouse in NY for years before it closed, and I kept going in Vegas afterwards and had many great meals. But our last meal there was an unmitigated disaster - every dish was off, and the decor had gone horribly wrong, with hideous cow art on the wall. We inquired with some employees who revealed that the art was the product of Colicchio's wife and everybody hates it but it stays up because of her last name, and there were employees who agreed with us that standards were slipping at the restaurant. It's rare for restaurants to stay great forever, and I've taken the view that Craftsteak has jumped the shark and I'm ready to find a new spot. Heritage might be the next one I try, especially since they still have Craftsteak's mushrooms and Yukon gold purée on the menu

 StudiodeKadent responded on Monday, 21st July 2014

"Mirage is also down to only having S17 tables in high limit"

Are you absolutely sure about this? Typically, the row of tables just outside the high limit room/baccarat room also has two or three S17 tables. Please don't tell me they've abolished those!

If they HAVE gotten rid of those tables, then I won't visit Mirage on this trip. Which is sad because I like the place.

 motoman replied on Tuesday, 22nd July 2014

We played those very tables while killing time for our reservation at Heritage. We prefer to play S17 and as you say those are typically located by High Limit, but I just don't recall -- because we will play H17 on occasion, e.g. to play a lower-limit table.

We will absolutely never ever play 6:5 so at least that was true of those tables as of our post-Memorial Day trip. Disappointed there are no more at Encore, as there used to be at least one table over by the Tower Suites lobby outside the High Limit room.

Power tip: generous rules may be had at Aria's room/bar between the Host's office and Sky Suites lobby entrance. There always seems to be a table at $100 minimum, even as there are $300 tables out on the floor. (Maybe not late in the evening, but AFAIK. Have asked rules, but not yet had the guts to play.)

 StudiodeKadent replied on Wednesday, 23rd July 2014

Okay, so you can't be certain about whether or not those three tables were S17. No problem.

At least its not a certain "no".

 HedgedBettor replied on Wednesday, 23rd July 2014

I'm not ready to say absolutely sure. I recall asking a pit boss where I could find a S17 table and being told only high-limit, but I know the area you are referring to and I don't remember if I checked myself to confirm there was no S17. I'm also taking the pit boss's word for it re the one table at Encore no longer existing.

 motoman replied on Thursday, 24th July 2014

See, here's the thing. I'm no expert but I did find this:

H17 vs. S17 = 0.2% additional house edge
6:5 vs. 2:3 = 1.4% additional house edge

House edge for multiple vs. single deck is orders of magnitude more than for H17 (about 3x more), which is why we'll sometimes play H17 when it's busy or we just want lower limits, but avoid 6:5 like the plague.

Incidentally, dismayed at the prevalence of 6:5, I simply asked a dealer at an empty table at Monte Carlo where the 2:3 pit was. She pointed me right to it, no problem. So they do (still) exist, and it never hurts to ask. But H/S17? Not necessarily a deal-breaker, all other things considered...

(Hey, the *extremely* intoxicated bachelor party dude at that Mirage table was the most entertaining thing all trip, well worth the time spent there...!)

 HedgedBettor replied on Monday, 28th July 2014

Oh yeah, the idea of playing 6:5 is absurd. But I'm a trader - I really like to play the best rules. So while its not really the end of the world, I want those 20 bps in my pocket.