Is it us or is “sanctuary” already the It word of 2010? Located not far from Barefoot Sanctuary yoga studio, which opened last year inside the Whole Foods at Town Square, and following close on the heels of the newly-opened Reliquary Water Sanctuary and Spa at the Hard Rock, a new sanctuary is poised to debut on the south end of the Strip—or rather a Nu Sanctuary.
When it opens in mid-March, Nu Sanctuary Lounge aims to enchant, enlighten and entertain all who pass through her doors. Positioned at Town Square’s date-night crossroads—that is, where Rave Theater, Yard House, Blue Martini, Louie Bar and Cadillac Ranch collide—Nu Sanctuary holds court with a massive footprint occupying the first floor just opposite Yard House, and possesses the same wrap-around patio as its neighbor.
Beyond the patio (complete with infinity water/fire features, solar shades, patinated copper, mister and heaters, statues, sliding glass walls and weathered wooden shutters) guests will enter via a small bridge over a crystal garden and yet another water feature. From the hostess stand, they can proceed to one half of the dining room, which is heavenly and innocent in its décor, or to the other half, which favors a more diabolical look. The dining room seats 155 with the capacity to hold more than 340. A private dining room—the Nu Supper—takes its name and theme from the famous Da Vinci work depicting the Last Supper. All religions will be represented in the room, which can hold 18 to 24 diners.
In the center of it all stands the Tree of Life, the multi-theological motif representing everything from the interconnectivity of all things to man’s loss of innocence. This massive $200,000 tangle of resin and flickering LED “buds” appears to have sent its powerful roots out from under the central bar through the restaurant’s concrete floors, straining and in some places breaking free. Designer Amit Apel and a team of Hollywood artists, who have worked for Disney and on the Lord of the Rings films, crafted Nu Sanctuary’s Garden of Eden setting around this iconic symbol.
“It will look like it uprooted this whole space,” says managing partner and veteran nightlife luminary Gino LoPinto. Nu Sanctuary is his baby, the first major project he has truly been able to call his own. “All my experiences, every idea I’ve ever held back—this is it, it’s all here,” he says proudly. Nu’s Director of Operations, Zaher Fakih of Almaza Hookah Lounge and Restaurant fame, put together the investor group comprised of five doctors, including Dr. Tim Beckett and his wife, Dr. Naz Wahab.
Another famous local talent is lending his name and expertise to the project. Chef Kerry Simon—also a partner—has signed on as Nu’s Executive Chef with Chef Brian Howard of Kerry’s CatHouse kitchen controlling the day-to-day as Chef de Cuisine. In a style that has become Kerry’s signature, Nu’s menu will feature small and large plates, dishes typical to five regions: the Mediterranean, America, Italy, Asia and the Middle East. LoPinto, Fakih and the Doctors took their inspiration from history’s spice routes, therefore, LoPinto says, Kerry was simply the best man for the job.
Serving from around noon through dinner time, the kitchen remain open into the wee hours, as late as 6 a.m., to accommodate the nightlife crowd once the supper club has transitioned from prime-time restaurant to a more late-night loungy vibe. On a triangular stage, LoPinto and Nu’s French-Persian resident DJ/producer Pierre Ravan will present DJs sourced from far and wide, and pair them with vocalists, musicians, percussionists and interactive dancers for a feel that is distinctly European. Hookahs will also lend a mystical air.
Dr. Beckett stopped by during the Weekly’s tour of the Nu construction site, still wearing his O.R. scrubs. So why would a group of presumably very busy, successful doctors want to delve into the harrowing, all-consuming world of food and beverage operations? Dr. Beckett cites the increasing costs of running a medical practice and of malpractice insurance and the endless distraction of today’s healthcare issues. “We’re just diversifying,” he says of the five-investor team, accepting a “welcomed risk” as a fallback in case being his doctor gig becomes a break-even proposition someday. Seems they, too, are seeking sanctuary.