Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The La La Palazzo opens - Ho Hum.

The Palazzo's sister property the Venetian is known as one of the swankiest joints in town. So one would expect the Palazzo to dazzle as well -- unfortunately, it dulls in comparison to other Vegas resort openings. Now mind you this is a SOFT opening, still nothing about it says "Behold the Palazzo, a Vegas MUST see!"

Of course, you have to consider that there really haven't been many recent openings (aside from the retheming of the Aladdin to the Planet Hollywood which didn't impress me either), and the Palazzo suffers from a sort of 'design in the crossroads identity crisis' from ultra themed fantasy resorts of the 1990s to ultra hip modernism of the 2000's. Okay, so it's 2008, and the modern aesthetic a la W hotels should be well entrenched, and even over by now. But, most of the hip hotels that laid the groundwork were remodeled from existing buildings, not built from the ground up, so a project like the Palazzo will always be prone to be dated as soon as it opens.

No matter though, because Sheldon Adelson is one of the richest men in America, and if he sees fit to tweak the aesthetics of the Palazzo, I'm sure it won't be a problem.

Sheldon (or any Sands corporate types) -- are you reading this? Listen up, dude -- I may be a lowly penny slot player that never graduated from Community College, and an armchair art critic at best -- but I know what I like. And since I took the trouble to visit the Pal (I think that is what I'll call it, like the California downtown is called the Cal) and write about it in detail, then you should take the trouble to read my critique.

I promise to get to the heart of the matter, the slot selection and players' card later, but first my general impressions of the Pal.

First, what exactly is a palazzo? I think it is Italian for "palace" and if in fact it is, then Mr. Adelson really missed the mark with his latest venture. I'm not saying the place isn't nice, it's pretty classy to a point, but the casino is rather mundane, certainly NOT befitting aristocracy, Italian or otherwise.

But before we get to the casino (unless you use the side entrance from the Wynn walkway over Spring Mountain like I did, or enter from the Venetian shops or restaurant row) you will enter the Grand Lobby. It's rather grand, with a large rotunda over a trio of Lalique-like frosty crystal frolicing female nudes. A sort of fountain effect and fake orchids add to the display. The floor is highlighted with rings of variegated marble, and there are some topiaries if memory serves. It's fairly impressive but not nearly as striking as most other reception areas in town.

The porte cochere is classy, but sort of standard issue as well, certainly nothing to write home about. The doormen are a nice touch but I doubt they will be there as a permanent fixture.

Now granted most of the shops (including the much touted Barney's) and restaurants aren't open yet, but Jay Z's 40/40 lounge is. To get there you go downstairs from the Grand Lobby. Right now it looks pretty lonely down there, and again I was underwhelmed, though to be fair, I didn't stick my head in the door of Jay Z's joint.

So I headed back upstairs to the casino, making mental notes of the use of Greek keys (square) and scrolls (round) as design elements. Oh, and lots of fake orchids, quasi gold washed slightly Asian looking paintings, and boring cone shaped topiaries.

Back through the lobby to the casino -- did I mention it is boring? The ceiling are not too low, and not too high, it is not too dark, or not too bright, there is little decoration to distract -- all in all, very functional, almost clinical for a casino. The major design element is again Lalique style crystal canopies, sort of art deco, very subtle -- with matching flora wall lighting. And when I say subtle, I mean subtle, I doubt anyone without a decorative arts background would pick up on these themes.

On the far end of the casino, just to mix things up a bit is a lounge with zebra print columns. It looks straight out of the scene in the movie "Casino" when Ace and Tony find themselves at different tables to the tune of Devo's version of "I Can't Get No Satisfaction."

No Grand Tour would be complete without a trip to the restrooms. This is where I really just had to say 'what were they thinking?' If the rest of the place lacks an overt theme, it was as if they would make up for it in the most intimate of rooms, the john. The ladies' restrooms sported metallic toile wall paper, inlaid marble floors, rococo wall sconces, and I kid you not -- speckled gold mirrors. It was one of the TACKIEST rooms I've tinkled in in Vegas, and I kinda liked it. It was so ridiculous, and would have fit into any era of Sin City excess (except of course ultra-hip modern.) If the casino is practical, then the loo is eccentric, and I might add slightly annoying. No woman wants to gaze at her image all speckled in zits, gold or otherwise. I was amused in the loo though, which was a nice respite until the real work began.

So, cue the menacing minor key music (dum, dum, dum!) -- it was time to gamble. I circled the casino floor (like a caged cat -- only kidding, more like a degenerate gambler) sizing up the opportunities. There were more penny machines than the Venetian, with a better mix of WMS games, but nothing I hadn't seen or played before.

I found the player's club (sort of under the escalators in the back) and got a new card. The club is the same as the Venetian's and I was rather dismayed to find that they DID in fact have my local address. I haven't received ANY offers from them, but I wasn't so surprised, certainly they don't target the locals.

I chose WMS' "Treasure Diver" part of their highly volatile line, and quickly hit a bonus round. I didn't win big, but I was up $5 and moved on to "Crazy Diamond -- Hot Hot Jackpot." My patience was truly tried here, as the woman sitting next to me hit three bonus rounds and got up $50 before I hit one. Finally, I got my chance, and was able to leave sort of even. I headed over to a carousel of Bally machines and played "Ms. Clara T" -- unable to hit the Tarot card bonus (I have never got it) and leaving down $10. I did get a drink in the process though, a tasty Bloody Mary (not too spicy) and observed that the cocktail waitresses were fairly efficient, even if their outfits were sort of brocade mini skirt and corset-y silly.

I moved over to "Treasures of the Nile" a pretty simplistic Bally's game and lost a little there as well. I think I was down about $20 at this point and ready to throw in the towel, when WMS' "Gusher" caught my eye. This is part of their G+ volatile series, but I was lucky enough to hit a bonus round early on. In the bonus you get 7 spins with expanding, locking wilds, and I got three in the middle with 3 spins to go. I walked away with $50.

Judging simply from my slot play, the Pal was not so bad. I left ahead after about an hour and a half of play and I got a decent drink to boot. I don't expect any sort of comps, but if I find myself on the Strip, I certainly wouldn't shy away from whiling away some time in there.

To sum it up, save your Sin City Strip photo ops for splashier sights, but the Pal is definitely worth the walk over from the Venetian for a better selection of slots.

PS -- I slept in too late to see the Palazzo's float in the Rose Parade, but my guess is if your rolling stock (and temporary at that) is more interesting than your bricks and mortar, you got to return to the drawing table and up the ante. Oh, and Diana Ross to kick off your official opening?! -- I love her don't get me wrong, but uh . . . she's lost a step or two in the vocal department, and she is not exactly top drawer entertainment anymore.


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