The smell. That’s the thing about Mandarin Oriental that feels most like somewhere else, far from the Strip’s gritty, cotton-candy mayhem and old casino upholstery marinated in Camel Straights. The globe-spanning hotel brand is about luxury on the level of fantasy (a promotional video features massage fairies, a flying cellist and a swimmer doing the butterfly stroke in a pool of shiny red apples), so the signature scent of citrus, melon rind, green blossoms and bamboo in the rarefied air goes without saying.
I first breathed it in last year on a decadent night with friends. We’d heard about the bar’s unreal view from 23 stories up and $18 drinks that were actually $18 delicious. I felt like Shirley Temple in The Little Princess, a girl in a dream of a life so much finer than her own. My next encounter was an intimate dinner at Twist, Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire’s modern French wonder, where the imported butter alone was one of the best things I’ve tasted in Las Vegas. I’m unabashedly in love with the hotel, so I figured its Haute Summer Nights event series would turn my dull Thursdays into princess time.
The concept, hatched by Mandarin Oriental’s marketing and PR teams, is a partnership with the Shops at Crystals to showcase the best of the season, both in weather and style. The combination of intimate shopping, sipping cocktails and socializing by the pool kicked off July 25 with a mini fashion show by upscale lingerie house Kiki de Montparnasse. On August 1, high winds drove the party indoors to the bar, meaning the manicure station with polishes matched to chic products being shown by Porsche Design wasn’t possible. A small bummer in the scheme of free drinking, gourmet snacking and ogling accessories lit like museum pieces behind thick glass.
Complimentary cocktails usually come in plastic and smacking of the cheapest-possible booze. But these were the hotel’s signature martini, the Golden Leaf, named for flecks of edible gold dusting a concoction of Hendrick’s Gin, Aperol, muddled mandarin, pineapple and lime juices and a dash of simple syrup, served in a lowball garnished with fresh mint. I had two (roughly equivalent in value to a month of Cox Internet). Architectural goodies floated by, from crab puffs dotted with spicy aioli to perfect cubes of salmon mousse and skewers of summer fruit.
Echoing the color of ripe cantaloupe, a Porsche TwinBag caught my eye. Handcrafted in Italy from a single piece of leather, the smooth silhouette had the same sexy punch as the cars for which Porsche is known. Other cases held aviators and a watch worthy of James Bond or sport shoes straight from the 22nd century. I asked a Porsche Design rep about the cost of the bag—$1,950—and involuntarily winced. He must have guessed I couldn’t buy anything, but he shared his passion for the collection all the same.
That’s the beauty of Haute Summer Nights, and of Mandarin Oriental. It’s not restricted to those who can afford to do laps in the apples.
In fact, the hotel just opened its pristine pool to non-hotel guests, provided they rent a cabana (Moët! Plush robes! PlayStation 3!). And through September 5, that rental is discounted 20 percent for Nevada residents, as are spa treatments, a night’s stay or dinner at MOzen Bistro. As for parties that cater to locals, the Hauteness ends August 22, paving the way for the early-September launch of Shanghai Nights. Every Tuesday, the event will infuse the Mandarin Bar with the cabaret/nightclub/bordello vibe of ’30s- and ’40s-era Shanghai, from red lighting to live music to a specialty menu. “Shanghai developed a high-flying social scene for the city’s elites and expatriates, and it became famous for hosting all manner of vices, so we thought this would be the perfect theme for us,” says Mandarin Oriental PR Manager Ashli Kimenker, adding that the city was known as “the Vegas of Asia.”
In that vein, Mandarin Oriental is an alluring elsewhere amid Vegas’ noise and hype. Despite the million-dollar view of the Strip, you can still forget where you are.
Haute Summer Nights August 22, 6 p.m., free. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.