Right around 8 p.m. every night, after all of Villa Azur’s late-night seatings have filtered in and the parties who dined at 5 p.m. have left, the lights go dim, the ceiling turns purple, and all of the servers drop what they’re doing to launch into a choreographed dance with cloth napkins hoisted overhead. That is the picture that Danko Hospitality’s CEO Jacobo Jafif, who operates the Las Vegas and Mexico City locations, paints for the restaurant, which is open now and celebrates its grand opening on December 8.
Villa Azur first opened in South Beach in 2012 and takes over the former Once spot at the Grand Canal Shoppes inside the Venetian Hotel. Jafif describes the restaurant as one that caters to the 35-to-60 crowd, for groups who want something more energized than a sit-down dinner, but want nothing to do with a nightclub. “There’s nothing like that in between,” Jafif says. “It’s for people who want an amazing dinner and, like myself, don’t want to go to a nightclub. So you don’t know where to end the night. You have nowhere to go.”
Jafif estimates that a party of four can easily spend five or six hours inside Villa Azur, between drinking, dancing, and dining on Mediterranean-inspired food. The fettuccini golden ossetra caviar pasta ($155) marries handmade noodles with a bright and creamy lemon sauce and generous heap of pleasantly salty caviar. A salad pairs perfect cubes of juicy watermelon with feta cheese ($18). And the salt-baked whole branzino ($57 per pound) is finished at the table, flambeed with flaming mezcal.
But the spectacle is the real draw. The entire restaurant can change colors, with LEDs built into the ceiling, the walls, and the centerpiece tree. Like many late-night Las Vegas spots, Villa Azur offers bottle service. But instead of the traditional bottle girl presentation, expect your server to disappear into the back as all the lights dim, with the exception of the one over your table. Then music from “Superman” may play throughout the restaurant as your server reemerges wearing a cape, guiding your Champagne around the room before delivering it to your table. “We don’t have the typical,” Jafif says. “It’s the customer interacting with the show. It’s a good time.”
While every Villa Azur location has its catalog of spectacle — Miami Beach’s location unleashes fog cannons on the patio — the Las Vegas outpost will have regular appearances of showgirls and burlesque performers, guitarists and roving saxophonists.
Jafif describes the restaurant as European, with touches of France and Mykonos apparent in both the menu and the design. The ceiling is draped in flowers. The walls and many of the furnishings are starkly white, picking up the color from the ceiling’s LEDs. And the room is decorated with portraits of celebrities and a bookcase full of novels and vases. A white tree sits in the center of the large room, which can hold about 300 people. But the showpiece is the chandelier over the bar, made of more than 3,000 crystals.
Some of the restaurant’s signature dishes include ravioli filled with truffle, a burrata appetizer, a pasta dish set aflame with cognac, and a Caesar salad that is prepared tableside. Many of the cocktails are sweet, like the Diddy “Love” cocktail ($26) with tequila, blood orange liqueur, lime juice, and syrup served in swan-shaped glass with herbs and flowers.
In Miami, Villa Azur is rumored to be a celebrity haunt, with A-listers such as Halle Berry, Leonardo Dicaprio, Gerard Butler, and Jonah Hill frequenting the restaurant. The Vegas location joins other Miami-based restaurants at the Venetian, such as Yardbird Southern Table and Bar, Sugarcane, SushiSamba, and Chica. Across the way, Flight Club plans to debut on December 15.