My friends came to town again and this time they stayed at the Encore. After they saw LE RÊVE, I caught up with them at Wazuzu, the Encore’s Asian restaurant. Variety seems to be the theme at Wazuzu, which features dishes ranging from Japanese sushi to Pad Thai to Korean ribs to Sichuan wok, from spicy to mild. I can’t look at the menu without immediately wanting a half dozen different main dishes. To start, I had several pieces of salmon and sea urchin sushi, and could have easily worked my way down the sushi list for the rest of the meal. But I wanted to try the Teriyaki salmon bowl with rice. At $18 it’s a solid choice, not fancy. If price hadn’t been a concern I might have tried one of the sushi ($60) or sashimi ($80) platters, the sushi “high ‘Roll’er” (Toro, Maine lobster, caviar, crème fraîche, served with lobster miso soup, all for $100) or the live lobster with black bean sauce ($88). But most entrees are in the $20-25 range, and I rang up about $50 for dinner.
The decor at Wazuzu is interesting too, featuring a dragon and giant golden pears. Although one wall of the restaurant is open to the casino, it can have a more intimate feel than you might expect, depending on where you sit. The large impressive dragon on the back wall is made of Swarovski crystal. Smaller models are offered for sale. I’d recommend Wazuzu for sushi or for anyone who wants Asian food that’s a bit out of the ordinary. Whatever your taste in Asian food, you’re likely to find something there to rave about.
Next we went to the Encore nightclub XS (“…where too much is never enough”). It’s definitely an experience. My friends had reserved table service, and invited me to share the drinks. We skipped the long line of people waiting to get in without a reservation. This was the first time I’d seen table service. For $425 we got one liter of rum, with ice and mixers of our choice, and someone to mix the drinks at the table when we needed it. My understanding is that table service is limited to three people, although a fourth can be present if they don’t consume alcohol. If you plan to get table service, be sure to check the rules before you go so you know what’s allowed and what isn’t. We sat at a table against the wall, drank our rum, and watched the crowd.
The XS nightclub is dazzling in the dark. Perhaps the most expensively designed nightclub in Vegas (until the next one), it’s partly indoors with a pool outside. The pool was closed for the season. The energetic dance music was loud but not painfully so, and a lot of people were clearly having fun on the dance floor as we staggered out the exit, after we mostly finished the liter of rum. It was a fun experience and might have been even better if we hadn’t been geezer nerds who needed sleep that night. The photo below is a mosaic on the wall of the men’s room.
I stayed at the Riviera which on a weeknight was a lot cheaper than cabfare, and I was in no shape to drive. The Riviera is the next casino north of the Encore, but on this area of the Strip, that means about a half-mile walk. If you don’t mind that, it’s a great place to stay to visit the Encore and Wynn without paying the (deservedly) premium prices the Encore charges for a hotel room. The Riviera is one of the remaining historic casinos on the strip. If you go to see a show there, you’ll probably see the gallery of celebrity photos dating from the opening of the Riviera in 1955. It’s worth a visit if you’re interested in Old Vegas. And the Riviera neon at night is perhaps the best around since the Stardust is gone.
There’s a small arcade at the Riviera with video games and pinball machines. I’d seen it on an earlier visit but hadn’t had time to check it out. Being a pinball fan, this time I made a point of visiting them. I’m sad to report that they’re not in good condition. Only two or three out of the five pinball games are playable. Maybe it’s understandable; in a casino full of slot machines, the arcade is not a money-maker. Still, it would be nice to see the pinball games maintained.
The next morning I went back to the Encore to have a late breakfast at the Society Cafe. I can recommend the “Oscar” Benedict which consists of crab-cakes, asparagus, hollandaise, and poached eggs. I think it’s named for a chef rather than the current mayor of Las Vegas. Then, if you have a sweet tooth, the Sticky Buns are mandatory for breakfast. After we ordered ours, several people around us saw the Sticky Buns being served up, and they ordered some as well.
It’s great having friends who invite you to share their table service. It’s also wonderful to have an affordable, historic casino like the Riviera to stay in afterward. Now if they’d only get their pinball machines fixed…