If there's anything I love to seek out when exploring a city, it's the best cocktail with a view. From Top of the Mark in San Francisco to Altitude 95 in Paris and numerous others in between, MJ and I have toasted the town while enjoying a host of spectacular panoramas. In Las Vegas, there are numerous places to sip a cocktail with a view, but only one was a fixture on my "must-do" list for our recent trip: The Mandarin Bar.
Since it opened in 2009, the Mandarin Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas has won endless praise as the best bar with a view in Sin City. Based on the pictures I'd seen in travel mags and other blogs, it was easy to understand why. Part of the mystique surrounding The Mandarin Bar, however, came from a failed attempt to pay it a visit on our last trip to Las Vegas.
You see, the Mandarin Oriental isn't like other hotels in Las Vegas. If it weren't for the tiny logo on top of the 50-story building, it's unlikely you'd even know it existed. There is no gaudi sign by Las Vegas Boulevard or even a front door for that matter - just a small motor lobby that's below ground level and only accessible on foot via a nondescript set of stairs. The message is pretty clear: sightseers on The Strip need not apply.
|Trust me...that's the entrance.|
On our first attempt to visit the Mandarin Bar, we found the entrance alright, but once inside the "lobby" there was a definite sense of being in the wrong place. The "lobby" was nothing more than a big empty room with a set of unmarked elevators. It felt like an upscale New York City apartment building, and I just knew the doorman was going to come shoo us away at any moment. So we gave up...
It turns out, as I'd later learn, that the real lobby at the Mandarin Oriental is located on the 23rd floor - along with the Mandarin Bar. The key is to simply walk into the ground floor lobby and board an elevator like you own the joint.
Once upstairs, a visual masterpiece awaits. From the ultra-chic decor to the ornate wall which stands opposite the elevators, the Mandarin Oriental lobby certainly commands the first impression.
|This is one curtain you definitely want to look behind...|
All of the tables adjacent the windows overlooking The Strip were occupied, so MJ and I pulled up a chair at the beautifully illuminated bar. Not that it mattered - thanks to three walls of floor to ceiling windows, there really isn't a bad view in the house.
|The only time I've ever talked to a lonely girl at the bar...|
The menu at the Mandarin Bar is as enticing as the view of The Strip. I opted for the Newton Old Fashioned - the Mandarin Oriental's take on my beverage of choice - while MJ went with the Berry Bellini. Despite the elaborate bar setup, all of the cocktails are made behind the scenes, perhaps to not disturb the inspiring atmosphere with the sound of rattling shakers. It was clear at first sight and taste, that a lot of TLC went into this Old Fashioned.
Eventually a table opened up next to the window, and we relocated to better soak up the view. It didn't take long before the idea of blowing off our reservations at Jose Andres' Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan seemed like a good idea. The menu of small plates at the Mandarin Bar definitely would have served us well, and trading this view and atmosphere for a restaurant that I knew decidedly lacked both just seemed silly. But alas, I like Jose, and I wasn't going to stand him up.
Despite its numerous awards and one of the best views in Las Vegas, the impression of the Mandarin Bar was that it's still something of a secret and I think the Mandarin Oriental likes it that way. We visited at 8pm on a Friday night during one of the busiest weeks of the year and the place was no where near what I'd describe as busy. And yet, that is also part of the appeal to the Mandarin Bar. It's found at the top of an unmarked elevator in a hotel without a front entrance, but once you arrive chances are you'll never want to leave.
Enjoy Your Stay