There are bars, there are casinos and then there are bars in casinos.
These casino bars usually serve their purpose fairly well -- you're thirsty, you get a drink and then you head out for whatever plans you actually made for the evening.
It's a rare occasion when the casino bars are those plans. Or it was a rare occasion, until eyecandy sound lounge and bar busted onto the scene.
Laid out sprawlingly just off the casino floor inside Manadaly Bay, eyecandy is a bar and a place to hang out in its own right and, what's more, there's stuff to do that doesn't necessarily involve a Corona or a gin and tonic (not that your night can't include those things).
Now, the phrase "sound lounge" ranks right up there the phrase "ultralounge" (which, coincidentally is what eyecandy has been called in some circles) in that it's nebulous, confusing and potentially a little misleading. So to clarify, sound lounge in this context means there's a lot of things you can do with the sound in eyecandy.
But wait, you might say, things I can do? Isn't that the DJ's job? Well, yes, and it still is, but there's something thrilling about having a little hand in it.
Maybe before your plane trip to Vegas, you loaded up your iPod with the finest in club music to get you in the right mood (and annoy your poor, beleaguered seatmate). Normally you'd pack that iPod up for the duration of your vacation and see it again on the return flight. Not so fast there, chief. Bring it along to eyecandy and try to snag one of their three "iPod tables" (which are open seating, no bottle service required).
Once it's plugged in, you can "send" songs from your own iPod to the DJ to incorporate into his set or "reject," if maybe you tried to sneak some Creed in there.
Neat, no? And this is basically just the start of the way eyecandy interacts with you and not in a creepy HAL way. Technology wizard Roger Parent designed most of the features for eyecandy from the ground up, making them one-of-a-kind, with the idea of transforming public spaces toward more interaction guiding him.
"This makes it possible to give back some control to the guest," Parent said.
From the four interactive "pods" that line the back of the bar (these you'll need to reserve at $200 for an hour, but skip down a couple paragraphs if you're dying for the details on that), you can dance on a table housing more electronic equipment and costing more money than most people will ever see in their lives. The tables use some touch technology to let you draw on them and you can message and paint with the other tables (think your latest Facebook drawing application on a table).
If the Picasso in the next booth strikes your fancy, you can actually get your booth rotated to meet up with theirs -- the floors move, the planets align, and suddenly you're face to face with them. If the person you've got your eye on is elsewhere in the bar, don't worry, the table additionally allows you to access camera feeds for eight different areas of eyecandy.
There's also a sizable dance floor, which is just more than just some sad-looking tiles. Three levels of interactivity, including one in the ceiling, work with your hip-shaking moves to project, light up and generally make you look like a better dancer than you actually are.
While all these things would make up one killer club, Tony Angotti, vice president of food and beverage at Mandalay Bay, stresses that eyecandy is, "a lounge, not a club," which arguably makes it even better because there aren't as many obstacles (as Angotti put it) in the way of your good time.
The only seats in the whole place that need some forethought (and a few dollars) to secure are the interactive pods. For those, a $200 reservation fee is charged per hour, but though it may look like it, this is not bottle service. For your money, you can select a bottle, if you want, but it's not necessary, everybody's allowed to drink their own thing, too.
Every other seat in the house (and there are plenty) is pretty much open game, barring any special events. That means you can park it wherever you want and it won't come down to a choice between resting your legs and buying groceries next week.
"You can feel like a VIP without bottle service," Angotti said.
It's worth mentioning that eyecandy is actually open all the time, but is not always in "party mode." The DJ starts at 10 p.m., which nicely coincides with when most people decide to go get a drink anyway. The music doesn't stick to standard Vegas-night-out fare and shies away from top 40 and house to a more eclectic mix.
Entrance to eyecandy is actually one of the least stressful things you'll encounter in town. There are several entrances and you just walk right through them, into the bar, no cover, no hassle, just you in the casino one minute and on the dance floor the next.
Basically, eyecandy takes all the stuff that works in clubs and puts it into a bar, but there's no need to tell everyone that. Just think how impressed your seatmate will be when you take off your headphones to regale him with tales of a "sound lounge."
-- Review by Jamie Helmick