LAS VEGAS — Hotels open restaurants all the time. But a restaurant opening a hotel? That happens less often.
But stuff happens in Las Vegas. The newest Nobu here is, indeed, a hotel. Not only that, but it's also a hotel within a hotel.
And it's backed by two stars in their fields. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert De Niro first partnered in 1993, after De Niro dined at Nobu, Matsuhisa's flagship restaurant in Beverly Hills. The actor was impressed and persuaded the chef to open a Nobu in New York City. Since then, the pair has opened 26 posh eateries, from Melbourne, Australia, to Milan, Italy.
The Nobu Hotel, inside Caesars Palace, opened in February. To get to the hotel, you walk through the casino chaos of Caesars and down Nobu Way. The décor turns from Greco-Roman to Asian. Amber-lighted posts mark Nobu's entrance; slip in to find a tiny check-in desk and a staff that seems excited to meet you.
I visited in March. A well-coiffed employee, Cree, signed me in on an iPad and told me that checkout was at 11 a.m. When I asked whether we could make that later, she offered 1 p.m. Cree then showed me how to work the elevator: Scan your keycard on a touchpad and a numerical menu appears. She tapped "79," for the 79th floor, and got on with me. The elevator walls are smooth — "No buttons," Cree said with a smile as we whisked upward.
She let me into 7901, showed me its features and pointed out the in-room dining menu. "We have dozens of restaurants around the world, but you can only get a Nobu breakfast here," she said. "The green-tea waffle is my favorite." If I wanted, I could order sushi at 3 a.m., she told me.
Cree left, and a Japanese woman soon appeared at my door with a porcelain teapot and a rice cracker. She poured my tea and asked whether I needed anything. When I assured her I didn't, she wished me a good — and a lucky — stay. When she left, I tried the tea; it was hot, fresh, grassy.
I'm a Japanophile, so although the hotel's elegant simplicity stoked my appreciation for the country's order and serenity, these 181 rooms might not suit Vegas-goers who prefer more European-style frills.
My deluxe king room, at 350 square feet, was the size of your average Santa Monica studio apartment, with higher ceilings. When I shimmied in white socks across the patterned carpet, they didn't gather much dirt. They did, however, pick up a long, dark hair (mine's reddish and short).
That said, designer David Rockwell's sleek arrangements include lovely, well-situated furnishings — but when I looked for a desk to use while writing this review, all I found was a low wooden coffee table. It's beautiful, but by the time I'd taken down my notes, I wanted a massage at Qua, the spa at Caesars. (The cheapest is $140, so I refrained). To be fair, people shouldn't come here to work.
The bed is extraordinarily comfortable. I don't always fall asleep quickly in new places, but the down pillows and Fili D'oro linens worked their magic. Facing it is a 55-inch flat-panel TV. Bedside details include Asian lanterns (one wouldn't turn on), a Sharper Image alarm clock and tasteful modern art — though the dramatic wall swooshes were a bit much.
A roomy closet proffers keep-'em slippers and easy-on-the-skin bathrobes. The bedroom — like the whole hotel — gets it mostly right without seeming to try too hard.
The bathroom, though it smelled faintly of cigarette smoke, is attractive too, with teak touches, a gray stone floor and a black-tile shower. Bathing here is pleasant: The soaps and lotions, by Natura Bissé, smell beautiful, and the Lynova microcotton towels are luxurious. There's also a magazine rack with issues of Vegas Player.
Of course, one had De Niro on the cover. I flipped to the story in which he talked about building the hotel: "When people start going, 'This is going to cost too much,' I say, 'It's worth the cost.' You have to be ready to fight with the money people to create something and make it the best it can be."
Although the hotel's design and service are splendid, the money people don't hesitate to tap the clientele. Besides the nightly rate (mine, on a Friday night in March, was $311, even with a 20% e-mail discount), there's a $28 per-stay resort fee — though when I asked about using Qua's public spaces, I was told not to because the spa was overbooked. There's no in-room coffee or drinking water, but you can order either for $8, plus tax and a service charge. When a kind housekeeper came by, however, she handed me several bottles of water — at no charge — without my having to ask.
In the morning, I remembered Cree's advice and ordered the green-tea waffle. It was promised within 35 minutes. Fifteen minutes later, a polite young man rolled in with my food, along with a red tulip in a raku vase. The juice wasn't freshly squeezed, but everything else about the meal was extraordinary.