Las Vegas editor Amy Baratta sampled the newly opened Bellagio
resort. Her report follows:
LAS VEGAS -- In a city where most casino properties employ
special effects, amusement park rides and liberal use of neon
lighting, the Bellagio stands out like a black strapless evening
gown in a room full of sequins and beads.
There are no roller coasters or circus animals to be found at
Mirage Resorts Inc.'s newest and -- at $1.8 billion -- most
Instead, visitors and guests can take in hundreds of millions of
dollars worth of original art -- collected by Steve Wynn, Mirage
Resorts' chairman and chief executive officer -- starting with a
spectacular multicolored hand-blown glass sculpture called "Fiori
di Como" created by Dale Chihuly and mounted on the lobby's
18-foot-high ceiling. The $10 million piece, whose name literally
means "Flowers of Como," is lighted from behind, creating a
From the lobby, usually crowded with visitors craning to glimpse
this massive glass flower garden, would-be art enthusiasts need
only take a few steps into the next room to buy a ticket to the
Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art.
In the property's conservatory, the gallery, which charges $10
per person, features a collection of 27 works ranging from bronze
sculptures by Constantin Brancusi and Alberto Giacometti to
paintings by Edgar Degas and Jackson Pollack. Because of the
gallery's limited space, only a few visitors at a time are allowed
in, creating a line that always seemed to snake through the
conservatory. (When I visited the property, I found that the number
of gallery-goers thinned out around 6 p.m.)
While waiting in line, visitors can take in another of
Bellagio's attractions -- the conservatory gardens. Decorated
through this month with a harvest motif to depict fall, the gardens
will be changed in December to reflect the holiday season and will
feature as a centerpiece a 32-foot-tall Christmas tree decorated by
designer Martha Stewart. After the holidays, the gardens will be
changed again for Chinese New Year with a dragon motif, followed by
a spring arrangement that will feature cherry blossoms.
If, after the lobby and the art gallery, guests still haven't
gotten enough art to satisfy their cultural cravings, they can
check out the property's restaurants, many of which boast original
artwork on their walls as well as creative dishes on their
Picasso, for example, features the Mediterranean cooking of chef
Julian Serrano as well as several Pablo Picasso paintings and a
large collection of his ceramic pieces. At Aqua, a seafood
restaurant that originated in San Francisco, diners can catch a
commissioned painting by Robert Rauschenberg.
Three commissioned pieces by Carlo Maria Mariani, George Deem
and Gregory are in Prime, a steakhouse-style restaurant that also
features a five-paneled water-themed canvas screen by Joseph
Raffael. Original artwork also can be found in two of Bellagio's
The paintings of Frank Owens and a commissioned amber glass
sculpture by Martin Blank accent Shintaro, which dishes up
teppanyaki, sushi and multicourse Pacific Rim tasting menus.
The dining room in Jasmine, a contemporary gourmet Chinese
restaurant, showcases authentic as well as replicated Chinese
Rounding out the property's list of restaurants is Le Cirque,
the only eating establishment at the property that requires a dress
code of jackets for men; Osteria del Circo, which serves homestyle
Tuscan food; Olives, a casual Mediterranean eatery; Noodles, a
traditional Asian noodle kitchen that also serves Chinese dim sum;
Sam's American, which features an open kitchen where diners can see
the chefs preparing food; Cafe Bellagio, the property's 24-hour
dining rooms; the Petrossian Bar, which offers afternoon tea as
well as caviar, champagne and smoked salmon, and the Buffet at
Bellagio, whose selections include Italian, Japanese and Chinese
fare as well as seafood dishes.
Nearly all of the restaurants, with the exception of Aqua, Cafe
Bellagio, Sam's American and Buffet at Bellagio, offer views of
Bellagio's lake, which takes its design from Lake Como in northern
Italy's lake district. More than 1,000 fountains are in the lake,
the principal performers in a water ballet, of sorts. Free to
spectators is the 15-minute water and light show. It spans more
than 1,000 feet with water soaring up to 240 feet in the air from
fountains choreographed to music. The show is performed every half
hour starting at dusk (around 5:30 p.m.) until midnight.
The restaurants offering lake views are heavily booked during
show times that coincide with lunch and dinner, so visitors who
wish to dine while taking in the water ballet are advised to make
reservations well in advance. Some lakefront restaurants and bars
-- Picasso, Olives and the Fontana Bar come to mind -- offer patio
seating, which is the first to be snapped up by those planning to
take in the show.
However, visitors also might consider asking for an inside table
next to a window, especially during the fall and winter months,
when desert evenings turn chilly.
I happened to be dining at Olives one evening when the fountains
began to do their thing. My table for two next to the window --
which I did not reserve ahead of time -- was the best seat in the
Guests willing to pay upwards of $100 a piece can take in the
resort's other water show, "O," Cirque du Soleil's $70 million
production performed in, on, above and below a 1.5 million-gallon
The show, whose name is a play on eau, the French word for
water, features certain similarities to the company's show
"Mystere," which can be seen for slightly less money at Treasure
Island, another Mirage Resorts property.
However, the whole water-as-a-stage concept is unique to "O,"
adding another dimension to an already eye-popping performance.