Life at the Dragon
Life at the Dragon
Welcome to an ongoing series of features detailing life at Lucky Dragon Las Vegas.
First up from our Writer in Residence, Gareth A. Davies of London’s Telegraph.
The Lucky Dragon of Las Vegas is one of my great finds in twenty years spanning sixty sojourns into Sin City. The fact that it is a new, beautifully formed, themed boutique hotel, is just a brilliant bonus. I’ve been involved in covering the combat sports of boxing and mixed martial arts for newspaper and magazine, radio and television for almost twenty-five years and Las Vegas remains the Mecca for the grandest of fight nights. My life in the sport began with Mike Tyson and endures until today, the thrill of this visceral sport enhanced by the glamour and excitement which a trip to the city, which at times evokes a mirage in the desert, brings with it. Now and forever.
Nothing beats a great fight night in Las Vegas when the lights go down – and choosing a location to live from is just as important. From the rise and rise of Floyd Mayweather, to the visits of Britain’s own blue collar hero boxing Ricky Hatton – who brought 20,000 adoring fans to the Mojave Desert – through Oscar De La Hoya, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, and Manny Pacquiao, the city never ceases to surprise with its novelty and sense of re-invention.
I happed upon this little Chinese oasis one day almost mystically, dropping laundry off at Sparkle Dry Cleaners in the short strip mall just a stone’s throw away. Just like I discovered a love for China 30 years ago, fresh off the graduate train. Like most things Chinese, the Lucky Dragon is quirky, intimate and captures the spirit of that great, unfathomable country dominating the continent of Asia. For years, my home has centered around the southern end of The Strip. But that changed after living for three weeks at the Lucky Dragon in January this year. A whole new world opened up, and it is without doubt one of the most interesting areas of Las Vegas at present, connecting the shiny new giant town with the old town, Fremont Street.
It’s location, near the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara is playing a major part in what has been a long-promised resurgence at the north end of the Strip. Roads are being changed, resurfaced, re-aligned, and businesses are coming in. It really is the wondrous thing about the Lucky Dragon, given its position, allowing you to trip easily down the bustling strip – the hotel runs shuttles south but also to Chinatown – but at the same time affording the luxury of being ten minutes walk from the Arts District, a newly thriving area which offers a different kind of charm with antique and vintage shops, artists’ studios and a vibrancy far from the tackiness which emanates from some of the casinos.
In short, the Lucky Dragon is a gem in the developing quarter of the city, hipsters mixing effortlessly with locals and visitors from around the world. That is a serious part of its charm. I’m convinced, knowing the city pretty well, that it will soon be a go-to area for tourists. And for the young entrepreneurs of the city. There is even an area behind the Lucky Dragon known as ‘the naked city’, which by implication, has its own edginess. In my view, within a few years, it will be one of the most sought-after, fashionable areas to both live in, and in which to enjoy time out.
As for the Lucky Dragon itself, I adore its miniature status – at least by Las Vegas standards –with a less is more, boutique feel, with just over 200 suites. Within a few days being there, it had a familiar feel, a return to Sinophile ways, and a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of The Strip. There is a beauty in its simplicity, and it will now become my home from home in Vegas, where fortunes are won and lost, where love affairs are resolved, where the real world is just suspended for a moment in time. The Lucky Dragon has a distinct brand all of its own, catering to middle and upper-middle class visitors. It retains a fun element of Chinese life and culture. Truly authentic. Like the elevators, for example. There’s a No 10 button, though it’s a nine-story edifice (there’s no official fourth floor -as the number 4 is considered unlucky in China).
Conversely, with the number 8 bringing good fortune, the casino bar has been designed octagonally. Love that. A great little touch. It has a main casino, four restaurants, a tea garden with a huge array of the most exquisite cha, and serves authentic Chinese cooking, as distinct from Chinese-American meals. It’s so authentic – the Phoenix restaurant offers kurobuta pork, deer tendon, and abalone among a list of rare and carefully prepared dishes as long as your arm. Its other haute dining location, Pearl Ocean, can be found next door and is a little more casual but still intriguing. Tanks of live seafood are visible next to the main dining room, offering an exotic catch of lobster and whole Dungeness crab flown in daily. This is also where you’ll find the best dim sum in Las Vegas.
For a quick getaway meal, next door is the Steer Steakhouse, at one time one of crooner Frank Sinatra’s favourite haunts. I sampled all of these eateries, and would recommend to all visitors. Unlike many other resorts I’ve frequented, there are no sprawling hallways or vast gaming areas in the Lucky Dragon where you can easily become lost in both time and space. I liked that. The layout is simple, efficient, and with little wasted space. The casino — connected to the hotel tower by a pedestrian bridge — is circular in design, with a bar at the center and a massively hung 1.25 ton glass dragon sculpture hanging overhead. It is extremely beautiful and eye-catching.
In keeping with its dimensions, the pool on the ground floor is tiny, but intimate, next to the cha bar. Quite stunning on the eye, moreover, is the red shell that covers the exterior of the Lucky Dragon, which once inside any one of the suites, reflects an exoticpink hue as you look out either on the Strip or the old town. Little China, Lucky Dragon. Lucky me. I’ve been invited to a be ‘Writer In Residence’ when I stay, and can’t wait to share more of my experiences and adventures on my next stay there in June and July this summer.
Gareth A Davies
Telegraph Boxing Correspondent Gareth A Davies is also an authoritative name on MMA, school and Paralympic sports.