Mott 32 – Asian Fusion on a Global Scale


Palazzo’s fine dining experience is a culinary adventure worth embarking on….

What do you get when you combine the centuries-old cuisine of China with 1800’s NYC industrialism, contemporary Hong Kong’s vibrant culture and the whimsical flair of Sin City? The answer is Mott 32, a gorgeous and glorious new addition to Venetian/Palazzo‘s ever-evolving restaurant family. And this one deserves a place at the top of your must-do Vegas adventures.

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Situated on the north side of Palazzo’s casino floor (next to the popular Grand Lux Cafe), Mott 32 may be one of the most visually striking restaurants in the city. Brought to life by famed Hong Kong designer Joyce Wang, the venue is positively teeming with cultural references, subtle nods and innovative touches.

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From a film tribute to Anna Wong (Hollywood’s first Chinese-American starlet) to a giant metal abacus and artworks of stunning detail and significance, diners could easily get lost exploring the massive 11,400 square foot space. There’s even an exclusive Boom Boom Room private dining area where guests can request a special “Red Menu” designed to conjure joy, happiness and good fortune.

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The name Mott 32 is a nod to New York City’s first Chinese convenience store, which opened at 32 Mott Street in 1891. The fact that the original Hong Kong location took its name from a NYC Chinatown business demonstrates the global scope of their vision. It’s enhanced by a commitment to ethical sourcing and using organic, sustainable ingredients.

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Of course the real reason that you should visit…and will want to return…is for the food, cocktails and service. As you might imagine, all are world-class and exemplary. Recipes are primarily of Cantonese style, with influences from both Beijing and Szechaun cooking.

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After enjoying a couple of Mott 32 Mules from the lounge (more on that later), my party settled into a secluded booth beyond the main dining room. There we had the pleasure of sampling a presentation of dishes selected for us by the Chef.

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We began with a refreshing plate of Marinated Cucumber and Garlic ($9). The Starter Menu includes a wide variety of vegetables and meats like Wild Mushrooms with Black Truffle Sauce in a lettuce cup ($20), Sesame Prawn Toast with Autumn Sauce ($18) and Cubed Australian Wagyu Beef with mustard sauce ($22).

Heading over to the lengthy Dim Sum section, we sampled the unusual but stunning Hot & Sour Iberico Pork Shanghainese Soup Dumplings ($14 for 4 pieces)an absolute must. They were followed by Crispy Sugar Coated BBQ Iberico Pork Buns ($13 for 3), whose tangy flavor offered a marvelous hint of sweetness. If your taste buds long for Chinese barbecue, try BBQ Pluma Iberico Pork ($39). It’s amazingly tender and sweet thanks to a layer of Yellow Mountain honey.

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Mott 32’s astounding meat and seafood dishes are carefully prepared using generations-old cooking methods, seasonings and recipes. The house specialty is Mott Duck, a Peking duck that is air-dried in a special refrigerator, marinated then applewood-smoked in a custom oven.

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The entire preparation of Mott Duck takes two days, requiring that you order well in advance of your meal.

Click HERE to continue reading via BestOfVegas.com.

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Break The Rules (and the Speed Limit) at Police Chase LV


CHiPs actor Erik Estrada puts you in the driver’s seat for a real cops-and-robbers pursuit…

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“So, do you wanna be the bad guy or the good guy?” instructor Greg Ladner asked me as we walked towards an assortment of  high-powered vehicles. My eyes centered on a shiny Las Vegas Police Department cruiser. “A good guy, of course” I responded.

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Who wouldn’t want to rip down the asphalt in an authentic black and white, sirens blaring and adrenaline pumping? Add in the fact that I’d be chasing a highly-skilled “bad guy” trying to make his getaway in a pumped-up red sports car…..and you’ve got the makings of the most high-octane attraction since SPEED: The Ride at Sahara’s NASCAR Cafe. 

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                               Myself with trained driver Tony Acevedo…

Police Chase LV is a brand new experience at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It’s the only attraction of its kind in the United States, making it a uniquely Las Vegas experience. Genuine retired police vehicles, prison transport buses and jacked-up getaway cars immerse you in your favorite action movie. This is no sanitized, kid-friendly ride with speed limits and actors. The cops are real and so are the getaway drivers.

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The action at Police Chase LV is intense…cop chatter on the radio and blaring sirens remind you that this is no ordinary thrill. You’ll be encouraged to punch the pedal to the floor and take those curves as fast as you can! If you visit on the right days, TV’s own CHiPs star Erik Estrada will be there to greet you and get you started on becoming a make-believe cop or robber.

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If you’re worried about safety…and you have every reason to be…rest assured that protecting their participants is the number one priority at Police Chase LV (having a blast comes a close second). You’ll be required to attend a thorough seminar presented by highly trained instructors like Norman “Doc” Halliday. Then Estrada returns via video to provide additional information on the can’s and cant’s, what to expect on the course and how to maximize both safety and thrills.

Drivers must be at least eighteen years of age with a valid license. You will be required to sign a waiver before participating and not be under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. You’ll be under the constant supervision of your professional companion and must abide by their instructions.

     The good guys – Doc Halliday, Gred Ladner, Tony Acevedo and Bruce Parkin…

There are several different ways to experience Police Chase LV. This writer played the pursuit driver in a police chase, the passenger in an expertly-driven getaway car, then moved onto the ultimate option: Pursuit Intervention Techniques (PIT). In PIT maneuvers, police cruisers skillfully collide with a fleeing car, forcing it to spin, lose control and stop. Is your heart pumping yet?

Click HERE to continue reading.

Critical Care Comics: Superheroes for Ailing Children


Las Vegas volunteer organization delivers heartwarming escapism to young hospital patients….

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When I was seven years old, this writer was stricken with a condition that baffled doctors. After spending an entire summer indoors, I was transferred to a major hospital in Pittsburgh. There I was placed in isolation for a series of tests and eventually, surgery.

Being so far from home and away from my pets, friends and family was terrifying. I remember looking out my hospital window at that huge city as the sun went down, crying and wondering why my mom had left me here all alone. All I had to comfort me was a battery-operated radio and a stuffed animal that was incinerated as a precautionary measure.

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That was a long time ago, but I still carry the scars of the experience…both on my body and inside my heart. Recollections of that trauma remain, and when I hear about efforts to ease the fears of sick and suffering children, it strikes a deep chord.

            Marketing Director Danny Ballard and Dani Harter as “Captain Marvel”

While attending the film premiere of Immortal Wars: Resurgence recently at AMC Town Square, I learned about Critical Care Comics. The gentleman manning their lobby display was Richard Tango, a handsome and absurdly charismatic young man who told me about their mission.

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     “Immortal Wars” actor Ronnie Lloyd Nanos and Richard Tango at AMC…

Critical Care Comics is a local non-profit. We dress like superheroes and deliver comic books to sick kids all over Las Vegas. We visit every major children’s care facility in the city and also provide smiles to children at Cure 4 the Kids Foundation, a chemotherapy treatment center, and Care Meridian, a long-term children’s care facility.

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Not only is Mr. Tango an excellent representative for Critical Care Comics, he portrays Marvel hero “Iron Man” during visits to hospitals. Hearing about this charity brought back plenty of emotions….so much so that I had to excuse myself for awhile to regain composure.

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                Richard Tango (left) and Dan Glitch as Captain America…

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The reason Critical Care Comics was present that evening was to accept donations of comics books and funds…and also to spread awareness about their wonderful mission. Many of the volunteers have stories similar to my own…often much more severe. Mr. Tango told me that both he and founder Jason Golden are survivors of childhood cancer.

 

Mr. Golden describes the experience when the Critical Care volunteers visit children:

When we walk in, we are approaching kids who are leagues above us. Our strength, our speed, our will is nothing compared to what they’re bringing. These kids are anything but kids. There are times when they are sure they don’t have a favorite super hero. They are sure they don’t read comics. They are SURE that their situation won’t be better just because a group of people in costumes came in to say “Hi”.

And then we walk out of those rooms, and if you were to turn around just for an instant; blink and you’ll miss it. You will see those kids pick up a comic book. You would think it was a caveman inspecting the first wheel. But for them, it’s like discovering FIRE.

For a kid who was so SURE of things. We got them curious about what could be. We got them wondering about whats on the next page. We gave them an escape from what’s practical and probable and got them believing in the IMPOSSIBLE…if only for 28 pages.

Director of Marketing Danny Ballard has been passionate about comics his entire life. He created the Critical Care Comics blog to keep the public up to date on fundraisers and events. This past December he and the volunteers held a Heroes & Villains Ball downtown at The Nerd, a Cocktails-and-Cosplay nightspot at Neonopolis.

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Described as a “winter cosplay formal event”, the Heroes and Villains Ball offered a raffle, silent auction and a costume contest with prizes provided by local businesses and supporters. Of course, there was a DJ and dancing, so you could swing with Superman, waltz with Wolverine and tango with Thor.

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          Starlord and Gamora at Let’s Be More Than Super Friends fundraiser…

Last month’s fundraiser was the Valentine’s Day-themed Let’s Be More Than Superfriends. Held at Millenium Fandom Bar in the Arts District, this fundraiser also had a raffle and costume contest, but upped the ante with a special twist:

To raise money for our charity, we auctioned off dates with superheroes like Spider-Man, Spider-Gwen, Mary Jane, Deadpool, Starfire, and Wonder Woman (just to name a few). We hoped it would be fun, but we never imagined that it would help us raise over $2000!

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Despite all of that fun and frivolity at gatherings like these, the special people of Critical Care Comics know that their main reason for coming together is to help the children. And since they’re continuing to grow and expand their efforts, there’s always a need for more volunteers.

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You can help behind the scenes by collecting and sorting comics, assisting in media and publicity…or by portraying one of their inspirational superheroes. There are currently openings for Gamora (Guardians of the Galaxy), Thor, Aquaman, and any other superhero character not already on their roster (Vegas performers, take note!!!). You can offer your assistance by clicking HERE. Of course they always accept child-friendly comics books, too.

People need heroes because heroes save or improve lives and because heroes are inspiring. … Heroes elevate us emotionally; they heal our psychological ills; they build connections between people; they encourage us to transform ourselves for the better; and they call us to become heroes and help others.     Jason Golden

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If you’d like to donate to Critical Care Comics or learn more, visit their website by clicking HERE

 

Factory Kitchen Will Drive Your Taste Buds Into Overtime


New Italian trattoria brings family recipes and Downtown L.A. flair to the Venetian…

Two summers ago I penned a piece on why Palazzo Hotel Casino earned my top spot for high-end Las Vegas resorts. Since then a lot has changed, nearly all for the better. My favorite show (BAZ)) may have left, but plenty of exciting new things have opened up or been announced.

New cocktail lounges like Rosina and Electra Cocktail Club have been added to Palazzo’s entertainment line-up. The casino has been brightened with new colors and a fresh layout. And of course, the waterfall-centric atrium is a glorious, ever-changing favorite for photo ops.

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The biggest evolution, perhaps, is a more intellectual one. Venetian’s sister property has gradually been integrated into a unified operation. Palazzo is still independent and unique, but now treated more as a tower of the Venetian. The lines have also blurred with respect to their retail areas. Palazzo’s shopping esplanade has been absorbed into the Grand Canal Shoppes, allowing for greater traffic flow and clarity of identity.

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With all of these updates, I was overdue to start exploring some of Venetian/Palazzo’s updates. My first stop was Factory Kitchen, an Italian eatery in the famed Restaurant Row. This is only their second location in the country. The original opened in Los Angeles Arts District in 2013 and was an immediate success.

Factory Kitchen is a collaboration between restaurateur Matteo Ferdinandi and his longtime friend Chef Angelo Auriana. Their shared passion for Italian heritage, hospitality and traditional recipes is what makes Factory Kitchen so special.

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While details like that might not enter into your decisions on where to eat, consider this…the premiere Italian-themed resort in Las Vegas only welcomes the best…and Ferdinandi and Chef Auriana could have opened their second eatery anywhere they wished. The fact that these two powerful entities decided to team up suggests a match made in culinary Heaven.

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Heaven is indeed what you’ll be feeling when you encounter the wafting aromas from Factory Kitchen’s open, er…kitchen. Influences from their flagship inside a repurposed factory building can be felt here, albeit with designer touches and Vegas flair. Rustic colors, art-deco lighting, an industrial-style ceiling and reclaimed wood offer a masculine and inviting atmosphere to compliment distinctive family-inspired recipes.

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My companion and I arrived at noon for weekday lunch. After a cocktail in the sleek lounge, we were escorted to a table in the heart of the dining room. The server was extremely knowledgeable with their extensive menu, ingredients and preparation…and had plenty of favorites to suggest.

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We began by ordering a couple of fresh, light salads. I opted for a Cortolana ($14) with field greens, watermelon radish, white onion, dates and goat cheese topped with champagne vinaigrette. On the right is the Cremosella ($15), which features creamy mozzarella, watercress, extra virgin olive oil and black pepper.

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The next round threw my keto diet right out the window, but it was bound to happen when the Focaccina Calda al Formaggio (Cheese Focaccia) at an adjacent table looked and smelled so tempting. We shared a crisp, creamy Tradizionale ($19) made from imported crescenza cheese, baby wild arugula and Ligurian olive oil. There’s also a Pizatta ($21) with capers and anchovies and the Tirolese ($23) with Italian-cured smoked ham and peppercress.

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Pasta was on both of our minds for the main course, and why not? With the live pasta station making family recipes fresh on site, my mouth was watering before the plates even arrived. My companion chose Casonzei ($22), a pork sausage & veal ravioli prepared with cured pork belly, sage brown butter and reggiano cheese. Exquisite!

I had to go with what could be considered Factory Kitchen’s signature dish – Mandilli di Seta ($20). This unforgettable delight is a unique “handkerchief pasta”, thin sheets of egg dough tossed with a Ligurian almond basil pesto sauce. One bite (and a few moans later) and it was easy to see why this dish has been a longtime favorite.

While the pasta section of the menu might be a mid-point for some, our appetites were already satiated. I’ll have to return to indulge in Factory Kitchen’s great selection of entrees. Dishes such as Gamberoni ($26 – sautéed white shrimp, sun choke purée, roasted romanesco, vermentino, saffron), Polpettone ($19 – oven-roasted turkey meatloaf, san marzano peperonata, caramelized onion, fresh oregano and seasonal vegetables) and Tagliata ($29 – prime flat iron steak, sautéed winter greens, roasted pepper bagna cauda) along with a list of daily specials should satisfy every voracious carnivore and discerning appetite at your table.

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Despite being full, my companion and I had to, at the very least, dip our spoons into a few sweets from the desert menu. Once again we stuck to traditional favorites by requesting a sumptuous Cannoli ($13) filled with ricotta, orange marmalade and rolled in pistachio. Somehow an order of Panna Cotta ($11 – served with a pair of soft ovis mollis cookies) showed up at our table, too. Of course we had to try it…just to be polite!

Along with your meal, feel free to indulge in a selection from Factory Kitchen’s carefully-crafted wine list. It focuses on Italian varieties along with many other European choices. Several signature cocktails boasting whimsical names like Private Eye, Big Swifty, Afraid of the Dark and The Ugly should make for interesting conversation. Check out the beverage and wine list by clicking HERE.

Just last month, Chef Auriana debuted a weekend brunch menu, served from 11 am through 5 pm. Offerings include Ricotta Pancakes ($15) with kumquats, mascarpone crema, lemon zest and maple syrup, Egg Raviolo ($18) with braised greens & organic egg filled pasta, pancetta and brown butter. There’s also a scrumptious Steak Amore for $28 – pancetta-wrapped fillet mignon medallions with mushrooms and parsley. Brunch guests through 2:30 pm can add bottomless Mimosas, White Peach Bellinis and Bloody Mary’s for an additional $28.

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So the next time you’re strolling through the Venetian/Palazzo Resort and the songs of those famous gondoliers whet your appetite for superior Italian cuisine, head to Restaurant Row. Discover the joys of the new Factory Kitchen. Just tell them that Sam from Vegas Unfiltered sent you.

Factory Kitchen is open daily from 11 am to 11 pm. For reservations or more info call 702.414.1222.

Photos: Sam Novak, Factory Kitchen

 

 

 

 

‘ESTER GOLDBERG’S TOTALLY OUTRAGEOUS BRUNCH’ COMES TO THE VEGAS STRIP


New York comedienne Ester Goldberg brings the insanity of the Big Apple to the Strip…

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Not so long ago, daylight hours in Las Vegas were just a good time for rest and recovery. Then came the beach clubs, which brought nighttime excitement into the spotlight. These days, brunch shows are the “in” thing…and SLS Las Vegas has launched their own. Called Ester Goldberg’s Totally Outrageous Brunch, this is one new production that absolutely lives up to its name.

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Until recently, Senor Frog’s Drag Brunch was the height of morning-meal madness. Then Ester Goldberg and crew came to push the envelope and reach for the ceiling. Literally. Filled with aerial acts, improv comedy, burlesque, dancers, singers, a live band and the best Donald Trump impersonator on the planet, Totally Outrageous Brunch achieves new levels of lunacy.

If you’ve never heard of Ester Goldberg, don’t feel badly. This self-appointed “International Glamour Puss of All Media” is new to the Vegas scene but proudly boasts that she’s famous everywhere else on the planet. Watching Ester in action, you might be reminded of Britain’s Dame Edna…but Esther’s got a lot more pepper sauce in her Bloody Mary.

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Brunch is presented an hour before each showtime, so be sure to arrive early. A colorful array of fresh fruits, yogurt parfaits and bakery-shop specialties lead into a hearty selection of breakfast sandwiches,  gourmet deviled eggs, chicken and waffles and an incredible smoked pork belly. While dining you’ll be treated to teaser performances from a few of the stars. It’s best not to tell too much, but don’t be surprised if your table suddenly has a bawdy additional guest.

Click HERE to continue reading…

 

Dave Mancuso and the Art of the Perfect Shave


A Master Barber guides us through a classy and classic experience for men…

You may have noticed that this writer has been on a journey of self-improvement…and I’ve taken you along on the adventure. Together we’ve experienced a men’s spa day at Westgate Serenity Spa. Then we shot over to Cosmopolitan for a visit to STITCHED Haberdashery, followed by a series of sessions at Therma Slim Med-Spa. It was only a matter of time before our next must-do experience would be an expert straight-razor shave.

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There’s no question that when you look your best, you feel great too. And it doesn’t matter what brought you to Las Vegas. Even if you’re here just to sight-see or to attend a special event, those photos and memories are going to last a lifetime. Why not indulge in something that will relax, pamper and improve your looks all at the same time? You’ll get all that and more when you schedule a Premium Shave Experience at The Art of Shaving,

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The Art of Shaving at The Shoppes at Mandalay Place is much more than the usual retail outlets you’ve seen. It’s one of about fifty locations that also features a full-service Barber Spa. The AOS Barber Spas offer precision haircuts, beard trims, scalp treatments, express facials and Premium Packages. But as the name would suggest, The Art of Shaving Barber Spa is home to the world’s best straight-razor shave.

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Dave Mancuso has been with The Art of Shaving since coming to Las Vegas eleven years ago. His first nine years were spent at The Palazzo before transferring to Mandalay Place. It’s at their Barber Spas that Mr. Mancuso can fully utilize the skills he’s developed through thirty-nine years as a Master Barber.

The expertise and elevated level of service from a licensed Master Barber gives this Youngstown, Ohio native a distinct edge over traditional barbers. Dave keeps his license and craft up to date by attending regular Continuing Education courses. The fact that Dave’s also a licensed Cosmetologist ensures that your face and skin will be in the best possible care.

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A visit to The Art of Shaving is often a rite of passage. Men bring their sons here for their first professional shave. It’s also a popular must-do for Vegas visitors when arriving in the city. Just like ladies look forward to the many Vegas spas, men often make it their tradition to receive a straight razor shave when they come to town. And of course, many locals make this part of their regular grooming regimen. “We love our locals” says Dave.

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Walk-in visits are usually available, but it’s easy to schedule an appointment. The meticulously-presented retail area leads to a welcoming counter where you’ll be escorted to the Barber Spa. That short walk from the entrance will take you back decades in time, when the Barber Shop was a masculine cultural experience. The spinning barber poles and classic leather chairs set a wonderful mood for what’s to follow.

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Dave guided me through the entire process beforehand, describing every step in their famous Premium Shave. First comes the cleansing process, followed by hot moist towels to soften the beard and open pores. They’re infused with fragrant essential oils…and incredibly relaxing.

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It was at this part of the process that I started to go into a zone of deep relation. “Many of our guests fall asleep ” Dave told me. “Don’t fight it. I’ll wake you up in forty-five minutes or so” he joked. Fair enough….so I’ll let Dave take it from here in his own words.

I start with a warm steam towel, apply Peppermint Face Wash and cleanse the face using the Art of Shaving Power Brush. Next Peppermint Face Exfoliant is applied, massaged into the skin and removed. Pre-shave oil is applied and then a warm lather on top of the oil.

The Royal Shave is performed using a straight razor with a disposable blade (which is required by law so there is never any cross-contamination). I shave with the grain in which the hair grows, re-lather and shave against the grain. Another warm towel is applied to open the pores.

Rosewater Eye Pads are placed on the eyes and a Rose Clay Mask is applied to soothe and moisturize the skin. The mask is removed and then I give a face and neck massage using AOS After-shave Balm. I mist the face with rosewater and finish with a cold towel to close the pores…and more often than not to wake the guest up.

 

After that refreshing towel brought me back to my senses, it was time absorb the experience…and enjoy the feel and appearance of my smooth, immaculate face. Dave then took me into the retail and demonstrated some of the products that have made The Art of Shaving such a gold standard for men’s grooming.

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The New York City-based company was formed in 1996 by husband and wife Eric Malka and Myriam Zaoui. The two combined their skills to create the ultimate shaving products from natural and aromatic ingredients like those found in the kitchen. They published a book about their research, discoveries and a valuable guide to the ultimate shave in 2002. The company was acquired by Proctor and Gamble in 2009, so now the stores also feature Gillette razors and blades.

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While their high-end product line has been expanded to include all manners of body wash, beard care, grooming and fragrances, the core of their business is what they call 4 Elements of a Perfect Shave. These basics start with their pre-shave oil, a highly concentrated shave cream, a natural-bristle shaving brush and an after-shave balm. I picked up the 4 Elements set and was eager to try them in my own shower.

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“You only need to use a very small amount of our items to get the best results” Dave cautioned me. “One jar of our shave cream, for instance, will last for over eight months. In the rare event that someone is unhappy, it’s more than likely because they’re using too much. Once they use less, they’ll fall in love”.

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I left The Art of Shaving feeling like a million dollars and ready to enjoy a Saturday night on the town. Dave’s departing words were echoed a few days later after I’d given my Art of Shaving products a whirl at home. I wrote to express my appreciation…and my pleasure with the 4 Elements Gift Set. “I love my face again!”, I told him.

Mancuso’s response was priceless: “That is almost always the reaction we hear once someone plays with our products themselves. It will even get better with continued use. ENJOY!!!”

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The Art of Shaving/Barber Spa of Mandalay Bay is open daily from 9 am to 9 pm. It is located at Shoppes at Mandalay Place, 3930 Las Vegas Boulevard South. Call 702-632-9356 to make an appointment with Dave Mancuso.