On Rye, No Mayo
Jordan Mozer's update of Canter's deli, a Tinseltown landmark, is a hidden gem at Treasure Island
Tom Austin -- Interior Design, 3/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
It might have been the sandwiches piled with corned beef and pastrami or the old-fashioned kosher pickles, cured on the premises. More likely, it was the chance to rub elbows with Marilyn and Elvis or, in later years, to watch Madonna hanging out with K.D. Lang. But it certainly has never been the décor that attracted generations of Hollywood luminaries to Canter's Delicatessen and Restaurant. Highlights of the interior do include a few nostalgic touches: perforated spun-sheet-metal pendant fixtures, disc-shape fused-glass wall sculptures by Higgins Glass Studio, and the kind of contoured seats popularized by the 1958 Ford Thunderbird. Other than that, however, it's mostly no-frills terrazzo floors and plastic-covered menus.
Referencing the best of those elements—and reconciling them with an up-to-date setting—was Jordan Mozer's task in designing a 4,200-square-foot Canter's for the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. And that fit right in with the hotel's new game plan. "When Treasure Island began calling itself TI and remade its pirate show for adults, it was part of an effort to attract hip young customers," says Mozer, whose namesake design and architecture firm enjoys a long relationship with Treasure Island parent company MGM Mirage. Mozer also honed his expertise on crowd-pleasing hospitality and retail venues for Universal Studios, George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch, and Las Vegas legend Steve Wynn.
Mozer built on those experiences in refining the Canter's concept, a dining space to lure players from the casino. "It's about the pedestrian-friendly mix of restaurants, bars, stores, and attractions that you see in Milan's café zones or SoHo in New York," he says. "You have to watch the way people watch each other, the way the street becomes a big room. Some of those places took 100 years to develop. In Vegas, it's done overnight."
Viewed from the hotel's poker and sports-booking areas, Canter's appears as a composition framed inside a 10-by-20-foot aperture in a white plaster wall. Three purple triple-pod chandeliers (each 9 feet in diameter) make reference to the lighting at Canter's in L.A. as they line up along the ceiling plane—drawing the eye back to small three-legged pink sculptures mounted in staggered rows on an orange-painted focal wall straight ahead. Tables topped in reflective brushed stainless steel follow the same front-to-back procession. The floor is Mozer's update on the L.A. original: epoxy terrazzo. Ditto for chairs: wingbacks upholstered in quilted periwinkle and chocolate vinyl, like hot-rod seats.
The tables and chairs carry through to the moodily lit dining niche along the left-hand wall, but Mozer added chocolate-colored carpet and complementary brown ribbed velvet on the ceiling to reduce conversation noise. The wall behind the run of tables showcases another family of his organic-looking sculptures. These are pink and purple cast resin, but the shapes pay homage to the Higgins pieces in Los Angeles. Mozer gave them extra presence with halogen cove lights. To compensate for the low light overall, he placed his own lamps on each of the six tables—orchid-shape fixtures made of cast aluminum and magnesium and named after his 9-year-old daughter, Eliza.
Look at the ceiling above the stainless-steel deli counter, where everyone places orders before finding a table, and you'll notice that the fixtures there are also Elizas—a truncated version installed upside down. Behind the counter, a curved wall wrapped in horizontal ribbons of orange, red, pink, and marigold glass tile commands attention. But don't ignore the nondescript white-painted sidewall to the right. Set flush to the surface and framed in stainless steel, a glass-front refrigerated case holds old-fashioned jars filled with pickles. And, yes, they're cured on the premises.