Thursday, April 23, 2009

This week's LVW col: Woo Restaurant

Here's this week's installment of "The Strip Sense" in Las Vegas Weekly. Enjoy. -sf

A Rock and a Chinese Place

The Woo family’s move to the Palazzo might not have been the best thing for all


Sometime back in the 1990s, an eccentric fellow wanted to eat at a restaurant. He sent his advance team to scope out the place and its various exits, baffling the owners of the fine establishment.

“Is the president coming?” Theresa Woo remembered thinking.

No, no. It was just Sheldon Adelson, then the owner of the Sands Expo Center and the construction site that would become the Venetian. Even then, he was a peculiar presence, running with his bodyguards and concerned about perceived enemies lying in wait to kill him.

To Woo, Adelson and wife Miriam became just another well-known pair of clients at the Mayflower Cuisinier, the go-to spot for upscale Chinese food tucked away in a strip mall at Sahara and Decatur.

Yet as the years went on, the Adelsons and other Las Vegas Sands executives started dreaming of bringing the family-run operation to the Strip. And Rob Goldstein, the president of the Venetian, finally made the Woos an offer they couldn’t refuse: Las Vegas Sands would build them a $6 million space on the second floor of the under-construction Palazzo’s shopping area.

There was a catch, though. A tragic, weird, totally unnecessary catch. According to Woo, Goldstein required the family to close the Mayflower. And so, in January 2008, they did.

Woo Restaurant opened shortly thereafter. It’s beautiful and spacious, all dramatic high ceilings and bamboo and worm-eaten butternut. Oh, and, for most of the year that it has been open, hardly the jammed house the always-busy Mayflower was.

We’ll get back to that in a moment, but first you ought to know that there are few classic Vegas stories more charming than that of the Woo family. Ming See, Theresa’s mom, was 6 when her family fled the Chinese mainland for Hong Kong amid the Communist takeover. She met Henry Woo, had two of their three children and then moved to Vegas to become American citizens. Henry dealt cards; Ming See worked as a dishwasher at the Dunes.

Read the rest HERE


mike_ch said...

Downturn aside, are they really suffering? They have a Chinese restaurant in the heart of a stretch of high-roller property (Venetian, Palazzo, Wynn, Encore) and the only real competition for that kind of food nearby is Wazuzu unless I know nothing about Asian food (this is very possible.)

Sure they're losing money here and there, but so are most Strip restaurants.

David F. said...

Interesting perspective, in some respects is a microcosm of what is happening to LVS and MGM, except it’s a personal and not stockholders paying the price.

They apparently had a local following, why did that not follow them to the Mayflower? Did the move to fancier Digs also come with a raise in menu prices? I know they now give a discount for Locals, but that may be too late.

I wonder if they are getting any sort of break on the lease payments, but the same question could be asked of anyone in there, after all better to have something than an empty space.

>>>>he Venetian and Palazzo have restaurants from Charlie Trotter, Charlie Palmer, Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse. I doubt any one of them regularly cooks on the property<<<<<

I think in that quote you should substitute the word ‘regularly’ with ‘ever’