Don’t look now, but another batch of cool kids from New York City and L.A. are rolling into town this weekend, riding a wave of national and international press. NoMad Las Vegas, a boutique property within the rechristened Park MGM, begins accepting guests on Friday, with its attached NoMad Bar opening for business that evening. (An opening date has yet to be set for NoMad Restaurant.)
If we are to believe Food & Wine magazine, “The Nomad Era Starts in Las Vegas, and the Rest of the Year Will Be Crazy.” (That’s the headline of an article published online last week.)
NoMad is a boutique hotel, bar and restaurant opened in 2012 by Eleven Madison Park owners Will Guidara and Daniel Humm. Located in a restored Beaux Arts building in the Manhattan neighborhood of the same name, it oozes an only-in-New York brand of gritty, preternatural hipness that conjures images of an early ’70s Mick Jagger and The Stones slumped on a couch at 4 a.m.
More important than the vibe, New York’s NoMad has become a mecca for serious cocktail aficionados. Last week it secured the No. 4 spot on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, and was named the Best Bar in North America during London’s Cocktail Week festivities.
Given all of that, the brand’s expansion into Las Vegas (by way of Los Angeles) is hardly surprising. What is surprising, if not downright shocking, is the notable lack of pretensions of the bar, its staff and its offerings.
“For us the whole idea behind Vegas is having fun,” said managing partner and bar director Leo Robitschek, fresh off a flight from New York, on his way back from London.
“Vegas has become a lot about the big acts and the big names and the big parties, and spraying champagne all over the place. We don’t want to be that place. We want to be a place that you’d want to go to all the time, and you don’t need to spend $30,000 to get a table. We want to be a place where you come in and for any price you can have a good cocktail, you can have a good glass of wine, you can have some good food.”
In keeping with that philosophy, NoMad Bar will not have a cover charge. Nor will it have a dress code, although Robitschek hopes it will be a place “where maybe it feels cool to put on a jacket again.” Tables will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, rather than reserved for those who promise to spend four or five figures. And guests who want to mingle can enjoy a large bar area of mostly standing room.
Accessible via the NoMad hotel’s discreet private entrance across the street from The Park and T-Mobile Arena, the bar and lounge replicates the regal, rock ‘n’ roll chic of the New York original with touches like lush red drapes and chandeliers. But the space is far more open than that compartmentalized space, with clear lines of sight for making eye contact with strangers across the room and taking in the piano player’s performance in one corner. With regard to music, both live and recorded, the team promises it is “meant to be heard, but not at (the point of) sacrificing people’s voices.”
Another difference between our NoMad and the one in New York is the cocktail menu. While the Big Apple’s is arranged by spirits (unaged vs. oak-aged), ours is a bit more whimsical.
Page one is dedicated to Las Vegas classics.
“This is where we took a lot more of the history from Vegas and started playing with drinks that were really popular in Vegas during different eras,” Robitschek said. These include well-crafted spins on ’70s staples such as the Amaretto Sour and Blue Hawaiian, Rat Pack favorites such as the Rusty Nail and the Prohibition-era Improved Whiskey Cocktail, and a seasonal New York Sour with egg whites and a float of mulled wine.
The second page of the menu consists of favorites from the New York and L.A. locations, and represents the more serious, at times flirting with the pretentious, side of cocktail culture. Drinks here tend to blend spirits with savory kitchen-influenced touches, such as the Gentlemen’s Exchange (rye, vermouth, amaro, coffee and absinthe) or the Nod to Nothing (gin, lemon, Cocchi Americano, tea, apricot liqueur, yuzu and sage).
Frivolity returns on the next page, which offers large-format cocktails for two and “cocktail explosions” for four to eight. They include Walter Gibsons presented on a classic cart, a Zombie mixed in a “skull” and the Pretty & Basic, which arrives at your table batched in a crystal pitcher adorned with Barbie dolls.
“It’s sort of being the anti-bottle service,” Robitschek said of the explosions. “It’s actually cheaper than if you would get eight full cocktails. And it’s just fun.”
So will NoMad mark a new era for Las Vegas? Will Guidara laughs.
“We’re not trying to usher in a new era of cocktails or food or service. When it comes to cocktails, I don’t know how what we’re doing will influence Las Vegas. But it’s cool to have been given a platform where we can do exactly what we do in our other NoMads without compromising anything.”
Contact Al Mancini at amancini @reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.