- Associated Press - Thursday, February 7, 2013

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Japanese celebrity chef with restaurants in Beverly Hills, New York and London added “hotelier” to his resume Monday with launch of the world’s first Nobu Hotel Restaurant and Lounge.

The opening of the 181-room boutique hotel inside the Roman-themed Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip was three years in the making. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa launched the venture with longtime U.S. business partner Robert De Niro.

It’s the first venture into hotels for Nobu Hospitality, which operates Japanese restaurants in major cities around the world.

“It’s offering boutique services right in the middle of Caesars Palace, and that’s really unique,” general manager Gigi Vega said, adding that the Nobu team has five more branded hotels in the works.

The hotel’s Range Rover SUV has been shuttling guests from the airport all day. A couple celebrating a 30th birthday with their daughter were among the first guests, Ms. Vega said.

The hotel also offers shuttle service from Los Angeles, though no guests have yet reserved that service.

Following a trend on the still construction-shy Strip, the new hotel is opening in an existing building: Caesars’ 40-year-old Centurion Tower.

Over the weekend, Caesars held media bashes featuring taiko drumming, sampler plates and a ribbon-cutting with Mr. De Niro, who played the mobster head of the fictional Tangiers casino in the 1995 movie “Casino.”

The hotel within a hotel aims to delight sophisticated foodies. It features minibar Pocky pretzels, a room service menu prepared by the famous chef, and the world’s largest Nobu Restaurant.

Concierge workers greet guests as they pull into the Caesars complex and escort them to their rooms for iPad check-in.

Housed within one of the Las Vegas’ most famous mega-resorts, the hotel bucks the maximalist style of the Strip and aims for what promotional materials describe as “comfortable simplicity.”

Guests stroll to their suites past Zen gardens, origami-inspired decor and artwork from up-and-coming Japanese artists. The rooms themselves feature teak fittings, black tiles and a newly created scent the hotel is calling “rosemary and white tea.”

Weekend room rates start at $299.

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