Lucky number seven

Sugarcane sweetens the deal as Vegas’ newest ultralounge

Deanna Rilling

Tucked away in a back corner of the new Shoppes at Palazzo, SushiSamba and the accompanying Sugarcane ultralounge together are poised to become the next “It” dining and nightlife destination on the Las Vegas Strip. The seventh installation of the Brazilian/Japanese/Peruvian culinary fusion brand brings with it their second Sugarcane lounge to complement the dining experience and keep guests partying—and eating—into the early hours of a Sin City morning.

Attention to design detail is a key element emphasized by Regional Director of Operations James Recio while granting the Weekly a rare first look at SushiSamba and Sugarcane. Guests will be greeted by SushiSamba’s bar (always a good thing), which opens directly into the Palazzo’s Shoppes and is framed by bold, linear glass inspired by the geometric painting of Piet Mondrian. Dramatic, flowing ribbons of color in the form of an art installation lead the eye into and throughout the restaurant, while artistic visuals representing the cultures of Brazil, Japan and Peru are projected on scrims and the walls of the space.

An evening at SushiSamba includes a variety of options for diners, such as the 21-person sushi bar and a fiery robata (Japanese grilling) station, viewable from the dining room through semi-transparent glass. Executive Chef Jose Mendin’s kitchen can also be seen through the hallway that guides patrons to the Sugarcane ultralounge; the opposite wall is lined with assorted sake, beer and liquor for guests’ perusal.

The virtual isolation of the SushiSamba/Sugarcane duo from other nightlife options may lend a sense of exclusivity to the Palazzo (the nearest nightlife-y venues to SushiSamba and Sugarcane are Dos Caminos and Tao at the Venetian) as well as provide a convenient transition from dining to nightlife for those who prefer to spend their evening in one place. “If you’re looking to have dinner, you can come into the restaurant, enjoy the food, then get ready to go to [Sugarcane],” says Recio. “An interesting thing about this corridor is when you walk out of the restaurant and you walk through this corridor to go to the Sugarcane ultralounge, you’re going to go into a completely different environment. There’s going to be different audio; there might be audio of rainfall, or … how a kitchen would sound, or maybe what you would hear at a sake brewery. We’re going to conceptualize different themes and moods. When you step out of the dining room, you’ll have a different experience, and then you walk into the ultralounge.”

Sugarcane blurs the line between nightclub and ultralounge by promising live entertainment throughout the space with stages and platforms for choreographed performances in the sultry-hued venue. The ceiling is adorned with 9,743 “sugarcane” fixtures created from a combination of materials including glass, paper and wood, and enhanced by internationally renowned lighting designers Isometrix. The sensual lines of the décor will remain uninterrupted by a hidden, yet powerful, sound system for those fearing they may get lost in the woofer on the way to the restroom.

“Sexy, edgy, energetic, vibrant” music will fill both SushiSamba and Sugarcane, says Recio, adding that he aims to stay away from the standard Vegas fare of Top 40, hip-hop and mash-up. The energy of the design elements are anticipated to be reflected in music as exciting and diverse as the cuisine. Recio hopes the “lively atmosphere” will be enhanced by the addition of regular DJs in not only the Sugarcane ultralounge, but the SushiSamba restaurant as well. “I hope to break the mold here in Las Vegas,” says Recio. “I know that’s a bold statement, but there’s all types of music that we can hear that’ll put us in a time and a place, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be what’s playing on the radio right now.”

Few places offer true late-night dining, but the SushiSamba menu will carry over from the restaurant to the Sugarcane lounge and present guests with the uncommon option of dining at the edge of a dance floor. However, the best seat in the house resides behind the Sugarcane bar in the form of a semi-secret Brazilian favela-inspired VIP room (hmm ... shantytown chic?), complete with a private view of Vegas and a plush, elevated throne for the ultimate high-roller.

SushiSamba is anticipating a late April/early May completion and will be open daily from 11 a.m. until 4 a.m. A little worrisome is the fact that Sugarcane intends to operate nightly (11 p.m.-4 a.m.) right from the point of its debut. As other venues have rolled out slowly, focused on attracting club-goers one night at a time, one hopes Sugarcane isn’t trying to take on too much at once. However, Recio exudes a true sense of sincerity when speaking of both SushiSamba and the Sugarcane lounge. “Every single person that walks in is special, and is going to have a wonderful experience.”

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