LAS VEGAS — An extensive lion and dragon dance and burst of firecrackers marked the official opening of Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino in this city over the weekend.
Unlike regular grand openings with a lineup of speeches, the ceremony on Saturday, December 3, stuck to symbolic Chinese rituals, such as opening the dragon’s eyes to bring in good fortune and prosperity, and drinking tea to welcome guests.
Located on the north end of the Strip along Sahara Avenue, Lucky Dragon is the first hotel and casino in Vegas to be constructed from the ground up and opened since the recession.
James Weidner, the managing principal of Lucky Dragon, said being on board with the project was partly inspired by his and his father William’s trips to China.
“It presented an opportunity to do something here [in Las Vegas] that really respects the culture directly and approaches the Asian market, which is really powerful,” Weidner told the Asian Journal.
The overall aesthetic and ambiance of the hotel and casino buildings were deliberately created to be “culturally correct, authentic and respectful,” Weidner said. That meant employing Feng Shui experts and design consultants who could really craft the Asian theme throughout the property.
The nine-story boutique hotel boasts 203 rooms, including 22 suites, with a modern translation of Asian design. The standard rooms are simple and are not too ostentatious, compared to what can be found elsewhere on the Strip. Each room has a wall mural, such as a depiction of ornate red and pink flowers, to represent the “peace and tranquility of ancient China,” according to a release from the hotel.
On the lobby level is the pool with a golden dragon mural and the Cha Garden, a tea garden and lounge area.
It’s not your average hotel lobby bar; though beer, wine and cocktails are on the menu, the main attractions are the Chinese teas that require a careful steeping and serving process. (A few items bear interesting names when translated in English, including “Peaceful Monkey Leader” and “Golden Beautiful Eyebrow.”)
“Some of the teas on the menu are in the United States for the first time,” Weidner said. “We’re the only place in the city with a tea sommelier.”
The 27,500-square-foot, two-story casino — which is connected to the hotel by a bridge walkway — is located at the adjacent building. Though more compact than its casino neighbors blocks away, Lucky Dragon has 37 table games (Baccarat, Blackjack, Pai Gow and Roulette, to name a few) and 287 slot machines.
Upon walking in, one’s eyes are directed toward the 2.5 story, 1.25-ton glass dragon sculpture that is suspended from the ceiling and hovers above the Pagoda bar on the ground floor. This is reportedly to be a good luck charm for casino players. Higher-end gaming can be found at the Emerald Room and a VIP lounge.
Though it may not be a destination for live entertainment or shopping, Lucky Dragon’s food offerings are reasons alone to make a trip.
On the ground floor is Bao Now, a 24-hour stand that has dim sum, noodles and Boba, and Dragon’s Alley, a cafeteria-style eatery reminiscent of night markets in major Asian cities. There, you’ll find Chinese staples from roasted duck to dumplings. In coming months, dishes from other Asian countries, such as Vietnam and the Philippines, are slated to be offered.
Upstairs are two full-service, sit-down restaurants: Pearl Ocean and Phoenix. At Pearl Ocean, expect an authentic dim sum meal items like juicy pork dumplings, jellyfish, and peking duck. Next door is Phoenix, the exclusive 60-seat dining room, where you can find more indulgent dishes like shark fin, bird’s nest soup, and black truffle and abalone.
With the careful attention to detail, it won’t be hard for international Asian tourists to feel at home at Lucky Dragon. Local Asian American residents and those from California and across the U.S. are also target customers for the hotel and casino.
“It’s a growing population and a relatively wealthy population at home and regionally,” Weidner said.
Jordan Seager, vice president of marketing at the property, said feedback over the weekend is a good sign of the reception from the Vegas community.
“We know we hit a sweet spot when it comes to making our Asian guests feel at home, while giving others the opportunity to experience Asian culture,” Seager said. “Our Grand Opening weekend was a great indicator of things to come.”
The property was unveiled just in time for the Christmas holiday, but it will surely be a site to visit for the Chinese New Year in January.