When Lavo’s imminent arrival was in doubt—thanks to construction delays caused by lawsuits and their ensuing appeals—I wondered if all was lost. It was probably the closest this little Jewish girl ever came to despairing that Christmas might never come. No red carpet, no soft-/media-/grand-opening circuit, no balls-to-the-wall celeb-studded affair in which I both break in and ruin a brand new pair of shoes in one night—it was almost too much to bear. You may as well have told me there’s no Great Pumpkin. Tao’s grand opening featured an endless red carpet that had us circumnavigating the Venetian’s Strip-side frontage, and I expected that Lavo’s coming-out party would be no less grand. But would it ever come?
Saturday, September 13, 10:35 p.m.
It did indeed. And so in new, dove-gray satin heels I follow the steady flashing of cameras to the circular red carpet, which I tread around (hey, it’s not like I’m Mario Lopez or Jack Osbourne or something!), under the guardian gaze of Strategic Group’s New York-based co-managing partner Noah Tepperberg, to the velvet rope, overseen by Vegas-based co-managing partner Jason Strauss. I ritually tip my invisible hat to each and take my place inside, rib-to-rib with beautiful people, celebs of various and dubious pedigrees and their equally beautiful handlers.
Beyond the bespoke entryway, the downstairs lounge, patio and restaurant are bursting with the shiniest hand-picked crowd I’ve witnessed in the no-less-than-five times I’ve stopped in to drink, dance or dine since the August 23 super-soft opening. The restaurant’s low tables (three inches higher than cocktail tables, two inches lower than dining tables) have been pushed together for a long banquet setup, populated mostly by skinny women. I nearly fall over the glass- and wood-shuttered catwalk to point out to someone, anyone, “Look! Women! Eating!”
Even on a normal night, Lavo is still not a normal restaurant. “Dining with a scene” means that dinner is but a staging point for club-goers. DJ Lisa Pittman spins electro and house at daring decibels while you pick at small, shareable plates, paying more attention to the veritable catwalk going on in between the tables than to the shockingly delicious charred octopus set before you, the servers bistro-casual in jeans, blue chambray and Converse (à la Tepperberg).
Tonight I skip the tray-passed apps and mingling and move onto dessert, heading straight for the club. For one blissful moment, Lavo nightclub is virtually empty, and I’m actually the first on the dance floor. Of course, I don’t actually dance there, but it is handy for getting around to the other side of the triangular white marble bar. Marble, towel rings, frescoes of women at a hammam … the implied bathhouse theme is consistent throughout the venue’s four zones and is both obvious and overlookable, depending on how closely you’re paying attention.
But the similarities to Tao are many and evident, such as the live, interactive tableaus. Ascending the staircase to the club one first passes a voluptuous, reclining Nubian goddess, attended to by her little-person gladiator (I’m guessing he’s meant to be a eunuch). Just inches away, a slip of a woman applies exotic oil to her skin from within her little spa alcove. Downstairs, another lathers up in a bathtub. At the bar’s edge, two more beautiful ladies in scant muslin wraps tickle one another with a peacock plume while five ladies in ruffled panties dance on the VIP stage.
- Beyond the Weekly
- Lavo at the Palazzo
Amenity-wise, it’s the very best of what Strategic Group does, distilled and condensed for a more discerning, far more elite experience. Thus, I must admit, Tao is replaced by Lavo as my favorite full-scale on-Strip nightclub experience, though I much prefer Thursday’s house format to tonight’s hip-hop and party rock.
It’s not long before the crowd discovers the upstairs, and soon I’m clinging to the padded walls, flanked by my girlfriends and the two besotted tourists they’ve attracted. Straight out of Maxim, the only thing either has to recommend himself is his ability to triple-fist drinks. But J. is wearing her most padded Wonderbra and proclaims herself invincible, so I wish J. and her bosom well and turn my attention back where it belongs—the bar. And the mini-eunuch.