Lead designer David Rockwell explains the features of a guest room at the… (Erik Kabik / Retna )
After three years of planning, Nobu, Las Vegas' newest hotel, is welcoming its first guests. The "hotel within a hotel" at Caesars Palace opened Monday after a weekend of celebrations in which Robert De Niro, a partner in the project, was the star, if somewhat reticent, attraction.
The Oscar-winning actor drew cheers as he appeared at Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was punctuated by the thunder of Japanese taiko drums.
Standing with two models wearing dresses made of paper folded into traditional origami designs, De Niro, a longtime business partner of chef Nobu Matsuhisa, was a man of few words.
"I'm very excited because it has become a reality. And at one point, it was a dream," he said. His remarks lasted 35 seconds.
De Niro introduced the Japanese restaurateur to the U.S. in 1994, when the two men opened their first New York City eatery in Tribeca. Years later, the Hollywood superstar returned to the neighborhood to launch the Greenwich Hotel.
"He [De Niro] had interest in opening a Nobu hotel," Matsuhisa recalled. "It was a big challenge for us."
Instead of starting from the ground up, the Nobu team decided to take over and renovate Caesars' aging Centurion Tower, which opened in 1970.
"The spaces were very defined. It was what it was," said architect David Rockwell, the project’s lead designer. "We were intrigued by finding a way to take Nobu’s sense of informal luxury and take what are a series of relatively small spaces ... and craft something that is about Nobu DNA."
Indeed, the standard rooms are 350 square feet, compared with 550 in Caesars’ newest tower, Octavius. Rockwell said he used touches of fir, hemlock, oak and teak to bring a subtle, rich feel to the property.
"What we mostly did is take the notion of simple patterns and natural landscapes," he said. "[It is] very simple but hopefully an oasis of Japanese warmth."
The Vegas property, the first of what executives promise to be many Nobu hotels, rises in stark contrast to what Abe Rothstein, the mobster De Niro played in the 1995 movie "Casino," said of Las Vegas.
"The big corporations took it all over. Today it looks like Disneyland," the fictional hotel boss lamented. "Today, it’s like checkin' into an airport."
Not so at Nobu, where there's no lobby. Agents armed with iPads escort guests to their rooms to complete the check-in process in private.
"And if you order room service, you're lucky if you get it by Thursday," the movie character continued.
Matsuhisa said he plans to raise the bar on service, including in-room dining.
"I travel all over the country and stay in hotels as a customer," he said. "I know which type of hotel, which service is more comfortable for me, so basically that's the start of the Nobu Hotel concept."
Weekend room rates at Nobu start at $299 for a king room. Located adjacent to Caesars' Forum Casino, the property also features a restaurant and lounge.
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