Hollywood isn't the only place where a bit
player can turn into a leading lady overnight. Harrah's, once a
small fry on the Las Vegas scene, became a major player with its
2005 purchase of Caesars Entertainment.
That deal, which
netted Caesars Palace, Bally's, the Flamingo and Paris Las Vegas,
provided what had been the missing piece for the world's largest
gaming company: a major footprint on the Strip.
led to a renewed focus on the company's namesake property in town,
Harrah's Las Vegas, a 2,530-room hotel at the center of the Strip,
between the Venetian and the Imperial Palace, directly across Las
Vegas Boulevard from Caesars Palace.
midmarket property with a good location but little else to
distinguish it, Harrah's Las Vegas is now better poised to compete
with the hotels surrounding it, with substantially upgraded rooms,
contemporary dining options and a revamped lineup of
Guest room makeover
A recent Travel
Weekly inspection revealed the transformation that has occurred
over the past year. Renovations will continue into 2007.
rooms are the most noticeable change at the hotel, affected via a
wall-to-wall overhaul that replaced all hard and soft goods.
committed to achieving total customer satisfaction, and a
high-quality room product is a key component of this ongoing
initiative," said Mark Osterhaus, vice president of operations for
Harrah's Las Vegas. "Whether they're staying in a standard room or
a suite, our guests will enjoy modern amenities and contemporary
standard, 340-square-foot room has been enhanced by the addition of
hard-wood entertainment centers and armoires; granite and marble
bathroom floors, showers and countertops; sitting areas; marble
entryways; flat-screen televisions; and minibars.
reflect pleasing earth tones, but lighting in the standard rooms is
inadequate in the closet/armoire area, where it's
Suites now have
two 42-inch plasma TVs, dark-wood furnishings and modern
sport oversize whirlpool tubs, granite showers and plasma TVs.
Renovation of guest rooms is two-thirds complete at Harrah's Las
Both the 24-hour
Cafe and Ming's Table at Harrah's have seen a complete renovation
that has transformed their looks from dowdy to smartly stylish.
Ming's turns out Cantonese specialties like shrimp and scallops
with baby bok choy.
unheralded Fresh Market Buffet has been transformed into Flavors,
the Buffet. Featuring eight stations offering a variety of dishes,
Flavors distinguishes itself with an extensive carvery, a
wood-burning pizza oven and Brazilian barbecue.
highlights are the gelato station, the Tower of Chocolate fountain
and FlavorStone, where diners select from a variety of toppings to
be folded into their choice of ice cream.
well-spaced booth and table seating offers guests an upgraded
dining experience, as does the decor, which features pleasant
lighting, tiled columns and wood accents.
Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill is a late-night hangout for
country music fans, offering live acts -- including, occasionally,
Keith himself -- on a stage fronted by a spacious dance
It is Penazzi,
however, that leads the way in Harrah's dining
Led by Gabriele
Penazzi, the charming and effervescent host who presides over his
eponymous, upscale Italian restaurant, the service staff excels in
delivering a fine dining experience in an attractive venue.
With his finger
on every aspect of the operation, from welcoming arriving guests to
ensuring that his mother's recipes are faithfully executed, Penazzi
lends a much-needed entrepreneurial feel to Las Vegas' rich but
often soulless restaurant scene.
offers highlights from all regions of Italy, with standouts ranging
from the traditional osso bucco to the not-so-traditional
pistachio-encrusted scallops in a tarragon-champagne
Adjacent is the
Oyster Bar at Penazzi, a sophisticated counter set-up offering more
than just the traditional shucked oysters and steamed
The full menu,
which tempts pre- and post-show patrons needing a quick fix,
includes entree-size salads, pastas and a variety of shellfish in
Harrah's entertainer Clint Holmes' show has closed, comedian Rita
Rudner has taken up residence in the main showroom.
witty act, featuring her observations about everyday life, will run
through mid-November, when she makes way for Wayne Newton's touring
Newton's holiday revue, at 7:30 p.m. daily from Nov. 22 to Dec. 21,
are $86. "Mr. Las Vegas," his orchestra and ensemble singers will
perform a compilation of classic hits and holiday songs.
Rudner and Newton
will thereafter alternate for an indefinite period.
property's long-running, but hardly iconic, adult revue, has
Replacing it in
May was "Bareback," a country-themed topless show that also
featured something for the ladies: the Wild Bunch, four rugged
cowboys who dance and sing.
curtain fell on "Bareback," too, in late October.
declined to comment on why "Bareback" closed and whether yet
another adult revue is in the works.
On the block
An offer by two
leveraged buyout firms for Harrah's Entertainment is being weighed
by the board of directors.
recently raised to $83.50 per share, values the company at just
over $15.5 billion.
under this story, however, was the news of Harrah's recent
acquisition of the Barbary Coast Hotel Casino, giving the company
ownership of all land and properties on the east side of the Strip
between Paris Las Vegas and Harrah's Las Vegas, spanning Flamingo
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