To be perfectly honest, leaving Las Vegas was, in times past, the best part of the trip: I don’t gamble, the place was too crowded, smoking was allowed in too many public spaces, and…I don’t love Donny and Marie, white tigers, or French-Canadian gymnastics. But this time around, everything was different. For one thing, I was there for American Express Publishing’s Luxury Summit to discuss the state of travel, retail, and hospitality—great people (like Louis Vuitton president and CEO Daniel Lalonde; Saks Inc. chairman and CEO Steve Sadove; and Ted Teng, president and CEO of The Leading Hotels of the World) and provocative conversations about how we travel, dine out, and buy now. Secondly, the weather was perfect, and thirdly, I stayed at the new gambling-free Mandarin Orientalin CityCenter, which is a trip in itself. New York designer Adam Tihany, acting as consultant for Adamson Associates Architects, is the genius behind this crazy zigzag of a building, an entertaining take on Blade Runner crossed with The World of Suzie Wong. Combining über-dramatic architecture with dazzling, Asian-inspired interiors, Tihany plays with angles and impossibly complicated elevations, beginning with the 23rd-floor lobby from which all things—spa, café, rooms—descend in no logical order. He manages to pull off a total fun house, complete with variously shaped rooms, and look-ma-no-hands views of the Strip and beyond. “Vegas is an incredible design laboratory,” Tihany told me. “Luckily, the owners of the Mandarin got that and understood the power of design and how it could really affect people’s experiences, exploring ideas and concepts nearly impossible to bring to life anywhere else.” And how!
Take, for example, the gold bullion wall for the Sky Lobby that, Tihany says, represents prosperity, good fortune, and audacity in Chinese culture—“After all, Mandarin is an Asian brand.” Then there’s Twist restaurant from Michelin three-star chef Pierre Gagnaire (“the prettiest restaurant in Las Vegas”), the three Presidential Suites (“the most impressive money can buy”), and finally the spa, where I felt like an extra, albeit in towel and flip-flops, in Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor. The fact that General Manager Rajesh Jhingon hails from New Delhi, managed the Mandarin in Singapore, and knows very much what he’s doing makes the whole thing tick.
Forget Sin City: This is more a riff on a new Forbidden City, but in Tihany’s version, everyone’s invited.
My Summer Hit List: Three for the Road
1. A few nights and days in Anacapri, at Tonino Cacace’s Capri Palace Hotel & Spa, where he recently put the finishing touches on his Gwyneth Paltrow suite. capripalace.com.
2. Navajo culture, rock-climbing, horseback riding on ancient mesas, and the unbelievable modern luxury of the new Amangiri, in the high-desert country of southwestern Utah. amanresorts.com.
3. A day-trip to Kykuit, the Rockefeller family estate art collection and gardens overlooking the Hudson River in Pocantico Hills just outside Manhattan. Or overnight at Wheatleigh, the grand Florentine-style palazzo in the Berkshires that’s particularly ideal when the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival is in residence in nearby Becket (June 19–August 29). hudsonvalley.org; wheatleigh.com.