When the Mirage debuted in 1989, its
opening heralded the launch of the current generation of Las Vegas
destination resorts. Its erupting volcano, lush grounds, white
tigers and shark tank laid the foundation for the new rule -- the
spectacle defines the hotel -- that would govern resort development
on the Strip for a decade.
overshadowed by newer and larger resorts in recent years, the
Mirage still maintained its place in a respected niche, just as a
slightly over-the-hill celebrity might hold on to fame. Respect,
however, doesn't cut it in modern-day Vegas. Relevance does.
So parent company
MGM Mirage opted to transform the property with a host of new and
newly redone restaurants, public areas and nightlife options -- all
within a two-year span.
This December, West
Hollywood, Calif.-based celebrity stylist Kim Vo, of ABC's "Extreme
Makeover," will open a salon and shop on resort
In fact, the
renovation is continuing right through 2008, with a complete guest
room remodel and the opening of a new, as yet unnamed,
To regain an edge
in Las Vegas' increasingly competitive dining environment,
management turned to several reliable sources. The dining
transformation began in late 2005, with the introduction of
Cravings, noted hospitality designer Adam Tihany's radical but
overly streamlined redesign of the classic Las Vegas buffet.
Next, Light Group,
a Miami-based nightclub operator with a firm toehold in Vegas, was
tabbed to create Stack, a concept restaurant, for the property.
Chef Brian Massie presents a menu that pays homage to classic
American cuisine while updating the concept with fresh twists.
Roasted tomato soup
with a grilled cheese mini-sandwich is a fun starter, as are the
sweet onion rings, stacked in perfectly narrowing concentric
On a recent visit,
an off-the-menu Kobe skirt steak was a highlight. Side dishes are
attractively presented on a three-tier "Stacked" frame.
High ceilings and
warm mahogany walls are designed to draw guests into the space. The
music level is cranked up starting at 7 p.m., so diners looking for
a relaxed ambience might opt for the three-course, early prix-fixe
dinner, a relative bargain at $49.
The old Mikado
space has been completely transformed into Japonais, an offshoot of
the popular Chicago pan-Asian restaurant. Artfully presented small
plates, meant for sharing, dominate the menu. Many items reflect the
co-executive chefs' Japanese heritage, but Chinese influences also
play a strong role.
Sushi is well
represented in myriad forms, and hot items like crab cakes and
lobster spring rolls cross cultural boundaries. Menu choices are
hit and miss, but a winner is Le Quack Japonais, Chef Gene Kato's
version of the Mandarin classic mu shu duck.
Japonais inhabits a
beautiful, comfortably lit space bathed in brown and orange hues.
Mellow music wafts in from the adjacent Japonais Lounge, a circular
oasis ringed by diaphanous curtains and set with comfortable, low
restaurants are in vogue at Strip hotels, so the Mirage brought in
respected Chef Chi Choi to preside over a kitchen that uses seafood
fresh from its own tank and market produce to turn out top-quality,
Hong Kong-style cuisine. Fin's design is refined and elegant with
gold and jade accents.
resort's flagship steak restaurant, has been updated with new decor
and a new menu, while Onda, the Italian restaurant/wine lounge, has
received cosmetic enhancements that bring it in line with the newer
With the opening of
"Love" at the Mirage in late 2006, MGM Mirage and Cirque du Soleil
debuted their fifth Las Vegas collaboration. Cirque created the
spectacle as an ode to the spirit and passion of the
The show unfolds as
a flowing poem, with digitally remastered tracks and Cirque du
Soleil's trademark choreography. The alliance also produced a new
nightlife option for the Mirage: the Beatles Revolution
interactive tabletops (at reserved tables only) that project
guests' artwork onto central pillars, Revolution is designed to
attract pre- and post-show audience members from "Love" as well as
On a recent
Saturday night, however, Revolution was fairly quiet while the long
line for Jet, the property's white-hot nightclub, snaked through
the reception area. The Big Apple Bar,
which essentially operates as a casual front-end to Revolution, is
smartly designed and inviting.
Despite the scale
of the revamp at the Mirage, one unalterable feature of the
property's structural design remains a throwback to old-school
Vegas thinking: Guests checking in, or returning from the Strip
must make a lengthy trek through the casino to reach the elevators.
Whether they've seen "Love" or not, they might find themselves
humming "The Long and Winding Road" -- one Beatles tune management
probably didn't intend to evoke.
gaming area has been completely redesigned and now features an
appealing interior with a contemporary look adorned with several
glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly.
The rebirth of the
Mirage took a literal turn in June with the birth of Sgt. Pepper,
an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. He now swims beside his mother in
the pool in the resort's Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and
Dolphin Habitat attraction. In an only-in-Vegas juxtaposition, the
dolphin tank butts up against Bare, the property's recently opened,
adults-only topless pool. Families queued up to see Sgt. Pepper
have their view of Bare obstructed by an opaque tarp.
The Mirage holds up
well at 18 years old, especially after the recent remix. Service is
crisp and attentive. The little-used North Valet parking area is a
welcome alternative to the busy main valet area. And that volcano
still spews right on time, every hour, with what seems like just a
little more "oomph."
For more info, call
(800) 374-9000 or (702) 791-7111 or visit www.mirage.com.
contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].