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On the heels of CinemaCon wrapping up in Las Vegas with its headlining-making appearances from Oprah Winfrey, Harrison Ford and the cast of Barbie, Tao Group Hospitality (creators of Tao, Beauty & Essex and Lavo in L.A., NYC and Las Vegas) are putting the very final touches on their latest reveal, Cathédrale at Aria Resort and Casino, debuting May 1.
Designed by Rockwell Group, who also created the original Cathédrale in New York City’s East Village in 2019, the 266-seat Las Vegas iteration draws its “wow” card from a theatrical ceiling installation by Willowlamp, a South African sculptural lighting designer. The work of art is made of 25 miles of chain and weighs 6,000 pounds, referencing classical architectural motifs used in French cathedrals, a nod to the restaurant’s name. An additional installation over the bar features 22,000 individual strands of chain and weighs nearly 3,000 pounds and is an abstracted interpretation of Bill Graham’s iconic LES rock venue Fillmore East.
For those who visited Sage, which formerly occupied the Cathédrale footprint, the restaurant has been completely reorientated.
Guests arrive through blue velour cascading drapery revealing a dramatically lit tunnel with flickering candles and carved artwork by Portuguese street artist Vhils, leading to the lounge.
“It’s a real anticipatory moment when you round the corner and see the beauty of that first room,” says Jason Strauss, co-CEO of Tao Group Hospitality. “We contacted Vhils, who is one of our favorite artists and convinced him to come on board.”
In contrast to a long-held Las Vegas theory that passersby need to see into the restaurant in order to decide whether they want to patronize it, Strauss holds firm in his belief to enclose his venues completely.
“We want to control the environment, the lighting, the sound and take the guests into an immersive experience,” Strauss says. “When you’re open to the casino floor, you compromise a lot of that. We also think that our menu, food, service and experience stand alone as a destination.”
Further inside, the monumental ceiling draws attention in the main dining room, which is lined with blue leather banquettes. Great attention is paid to the lighting details, which ensure every angle photographs perfectly.
“You have to sit in almost every seat and make sure the lighting is just right,” Strauss says.
The elemental, ingredient-driven menu at Cathédrale created by Executive Chef Jason Hall and Chief Culinary Officer Ralph Scamardella, who helm the New York outpost as well, encompasses French-Mediterranean specialties — with 80 percent of it a nod to the original. New dishes range from salt-baked Mediterranean sea bass to whole Dover sole with lemon caper butter. Mainstays include black truffle fettuccine and the omelette, filled with crème fraiche and chives, topped with fingerling potato chips and Kaluga caviar.
“We added tableside service with carts and a bit more pageantry because it is Las Vegas,” Hall says.
Cocktails can be bottled like potions, appear as smoking teapots or manifest in a chiseled block of ice with caviar.
This is the company’s first new restaurant partnership with MGM Resorts, remarks Strauss. “We were excited to do something together, on the culinary side. We brought the senior leadership to New York and showed them Cathédrale. After seeing it buzzing on a Thursday night the way it does in New York, they loved it. They wanted a scene driven high energy restaurant that hit all the markers on the culinary and design.”
He is also excited that the partnership brings a 375-bottle wine list and three on-duty sommeliers. That is something they don’t have at any other venue.
“Their cellar is so dramatic. We never had the ability to tap into that kind of resource or offer this type of portfolio of wines,” Strauss says.
Cathédrale Las Vegas joins Tao Group Hospitality’s other locations at Aria including Egghead, Jewel Nightclub and Liquid Pool.
True to the Tao Group brand, the restaurant will feed their adjacent nightclub, Jewel, with lots of 10 p.m. dinner reservations.
“We were the first — 18 years ago with Tao — to introduce the nightclub-restaurant connection and have them coexist and symbiotically elevate each other,” he says. “This really allows us at Aria to finally own the guest experience from dinner into nightlife. And if they come during the day to Liquid pool …”
With this opening TGH now operates more than 80 locations in 20 markets, a number which was heavily bolstered when the company acquired Hakkasan Group in 2021.
Strauss alludes to expansion of the Cathédrale brand running through locations such as London, Dubai and Miami as potential next hits.
This opening comes after the recent announcement that Tao Group Hospitality, valued at $550 million, was acquired by investment firm Mohari Hospitality from Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. Mohari’s portfolio includes Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica, anchored by a Four Seasons luxury resort; Centro Canalejas Madrid, featuring the Four Seasons Madrid; and The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. Mohari’s expertise will come in handy on further brand expansions, including the recently announced Tao Hotel in Orlando, Florida.
Despite the sale, Tao Group retains a multi-year agreement with MSG Entertainment for ongoing consulting, marketing, and support services at Madison Square Garden and Sphere in Las Vegas.
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