|By Benjamin Spillman, Las Vegas
Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Nov. 10, 2006 - Tired of toting your $750 Luella handbag but appalled by the thought of setting it on the floor?
The people at Wynn Las Vegas understand your plight and will help overcome the dilemma by offering seating for you and your handbag while dining at the hotel's swanky Tableau restaurant.
That's kind of service helped the Tower Suites at Wynn Las Vegas earn a five-star rating from Mobil Travel Guide, making it the first Las Vegas hotel to earn the honor in the 49-year history of the guide.
On Thursday, Mobil released its 2007 guide, which included the five-star rating for the 50-story, 650-room tower at Wynn Las Vegas and top ratings for two Las Vegas restaurants, Alex in Wynn Las Vegas and Joël Robuchon at The Mansion in MGM Grand.
And anyone who has to ask why five-star ratings are important probably can't afford such luxurious service.
"These awards lend further credibility to Las Vegas' reputation as a world-class resort and dining destination," said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
The Tower Suites was among 37 hotels in the United States to earn the five-star distinction in the new edition of the guide.
The ratings are formed by a team of experts who fan out across the country, incognito, to scrutinize hotels and restaurants. They rate and recommend the properties based on more than 750 criteria for hotels and more than 250 for restaurants.
"These distinguished properties represent the finest in hotel and restaurant experiences in the United States and Canada," said Kenneth Cohen, vice president of public affairs for Exxon Mobil Corp.
Shane O'Flaherty, vice president of quality assurance for Mobil Travel Guide, called the ratings system "the most stringent on the market today.
"Mobil Travel Guide's rating process minimizes subjectivity, enabling us to provide expert objective guidance that travelers can trust," O'Flaherty said.
Steve Wynn, founder ad chief executive of Wynn Resorts Ltd., which opened Wynn Las Vegas in 2005 at a cost of $2.7 billion, said the rating means "Las Vegas has come a long way.
"In terms of hospitality, this ain't Glitter Gulch and gambling anymore," Wynn told The Associated Press.
"Las Vegas has come a long way," Wynn said by telephone from Macau, home to his newest resort. "We've worked very hard to do this. Now it's clear that it can be done."
In addition to seating for handbags, the Tower Suites earned props from the rating service for other fine touches, such as poolside servers who adjust umbrellas, offer fruit and water and clean sunglasses; bellhops who introduce guests to the front desk staff before escorting them to their rooms and rooms featuring flat-screen, high definition televisions and Andy Warhol prints on the walls.
Several hotels in Las Vegas earned four-star ratings in the new guide. They are Bellagio, Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas, The Venetian and Wynn Las Vegas. The Tower Suites, which won the five-star award, are located within Wynn Las Vegas.
The two Strip restaurants that received Mobil Five-Star Awards were the first Las Vegas restaurants to be so honored since March 2002.
Gamal Aziz, president of the MGM Grand, said winning such an award is important to the resort.
"It establishes the MGM Grand as a destination when it comes to restaurants, and when it comes to the level of sophistication and memorable experiences that are available in Las Vegas," Aziz said. "Basically for us it's really been a strategy that has been about elevating the quality of the brand, elevating the quality of the product."
"But it also goes beyond the MGM Grand," he said. "It really confirms Las Vegas' position as an outstanding destination for food and for great restaurants."
Alex Stratta said the award for his eponymous restaurant was always in his sights.
"Our goal was always to be of (AAA) Five-Diamond, Five-Star stature, and we hit it, so we're very happy," Stratta said from New York, where he was teaching a cooking school at Macy's.
"I think it's good, also, that the (Wynn) hotel is recognized," Stratta said. "I think it says a lot about the progression of everything in Las Vegas, of our industry. We continue forcing forward. Now it's time to get down to business. Now, keeping it is just as hard as getting it."
Stratta should know. His Renoir restaurant at Bellagio won the Mobil Five-Star Award in January 2000, January 2001 and March 2002, but lost it in November 2002.
"I think it was due to they changed their criteria," Stratta said. For example, he said, Renoir didn't have its own restroom, which was among the award requirements. With Alex, he said, "we really dotted all our I's and crossed our T's to make sure we had all the amenities that were necessary to have that kind of level of service for our guests."
Picasso at Bellagio won the Five-Star Award the same years as Renoir, but was absent from this year's roster. Aziz is credited with bringing Picasso chef Julian Serrano to the Bellagio when it was opened by Steve Wynn.
"Having known Julian for the past 15 years, in my opinion, he is one of the best chefs in the United States," Aziz said. "Sometimes you can see the very best not be recognized. It's not really against him; it's just that as much you get the award, you're liable to not. Why doesn't Martin Scorsese get an Oscar?"
Newcomers to the Five-Star list outside Nevada included St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach in Dana Point, Calif., the Mandarin Oriental in New York and the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tenn.
Mobil wasn't the only service to highlight the quality at Wynn Las Vegas.
The hotel was recently added to the AAA Five-Diamond list for 2007.
Even the travel Web site www.CheapoVegas.com raves about the luxury.
"It's a bit obsequious, meaning there's plenty of employees but they are more interested in you knowing you're getting great service than anything else," the site says in its Wynn review. "Oh, and expect to pay for anything extra."
Review-Journal writer Heidi Knapp Rinella and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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