by sherri eisenberg PhotograPhy by sabin orr| October 31, 2014 |
Food & Drink
With nearly a decade under its belt, Tao Las Vegas stays relevant—and ahead of the curve—by making the brand its own.
Lobster and junmai sake at Tao Las Vegas.
Shortly after Jason Strauss and Noah Tepperberg opened their wildly popular club Marquee in New York City in 2003, they partnered with Marc Packer and Rich Wolf, owners of an equally popular Manhattan restaurant, Tao. That alliance may be the key to Tao Las Vegas’s resilience in the notoriously “here today, gone tomorrow” market of the Strip, where the partners moved into a 60,000-square-foot venue at Venetian that for nearly 10 years they’ve marketed as an “Asian city,” with a restaurant, lounge, and perpetually celeb-packed beach club. Says Wolf, “Tao was one-stop shopping. It was the first venue of its kind to really meld food, vibe dining, and nightclub all in one. That’s one of the main reasons for its longevity. The brand has morphed into an icon.”
When Tao opened, Wolf explains, “there was very little vibe dining” in Vegas. “Every place was quiet, with white-glove service and glasses tinkling.” Enter models splashing in bathtubs and covered in flower petals to greet diners and clubbers, a killer lineup of virtuoso DJs, and a sexy beach club where you can order yakitori or a katsu club sandwich with your bottle service. What Tao figured out is this not-so-secret formula: Over-the-top works a little better here.
Models in rose petal baths are totally Tao.
But the recipe for Tao’s success in Vegas is not just bells and whistles. Recently the team—led by Lou Abin, managing partner of all of Tao Group’s Vegas properties—made some changes, imported from Tao Downtown in Manhattan. “When we built Tao Downtown, we said to ourselves, ‘It has to be different. It has to be a reinvention of the brand,’” Wolf says. “And some of these changes were so successful that we took the best of the best of the reinvented brand and transplanted it to Vegas. We changed the menu, uniforms, chopsticks, and we renovated the lounge.”
The most notable of these modifications is the overhauled dinner menu, with a whopping 20 new dishes that had proved popular at Tao Downtown. Even in the nine years since the Las Vegas location opened, palates have changed. “As far as the food goes, Asian food is constantly evolving,” says Marc Marrone, corporate executive sous chef for Tao Group. “The more people are educated, the more we have to stay ahead of the curve. It was time to bring some stuff that people hadn’t seen before, digging deep with classic Chinese dishes and Southeast Asian cuisine.”
Tao’s dining room.
And you could say that the changes have come just in time, as two luxe new Chinese restaurants—Lao Sze Chuan at the Palms Casino Resort and Yong Kang Street at Paris Las Vegas—debuted in September, and Mr. Chow’s ardent followers are anticipating its early-2015 opening in Caesars Palace. Until recently, many diners craving dim sum and other Chinese classics would head to Chinatown. But Marrone is happy with the idea that there’s room for everyone. “People get familiar with the food elsewhere and it brings more awareness,” he says. “Healthy competition drives us all to succeed. If you do something well, other places doing it doesn’t hurt you.” Venetian, 702-388-8338