Chinese food is a funny thing in Las Vegas. Casino restaurants of this culinary genre have a split personality, simultaneously serving Chinese tourists who order off-menu favorites while dishing up approachable, relatively Americanized fare for everyone else. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for creativity.
Off the Strip, Chinatown-area restaurants like HK Star, China Mama, KJ Kitchen and Ping Pang Pong are thriving because the food is just as good, if not better, at a fraction of the cost. So it’s tough to recommend great Chinese on the Strip. But it is Chinese New Year, the most special of special occasions and a good time to splurge. The place to do this is Jasmine.
- Bellagio, 693-8865.
- Daily, 5:30-10 p.m.
The room remains regal, with opulent red and gold details and floor-to-ceiling windows offering quiet views of Bellagio’s fountains. The cuisine has always been classic Cantonese, augmented by a stellar Sunday brunch. Jasmine has held steady for over a decade thanks to chef Philip Lo, who is now semi-retired. For almost a year now, the young and energetic Hiew Gun Khong, from Singapore, has been executive chef, adding a few flavorful sparks to an already dynamic experience. Remember that no-creativity thing? Jasmine is a delicious exception.
Start with lobster two ways ($28.88), first with chili, garlic and vinegar, and then wok-fried with egg white. The latter preparation, served in a nest of crispy potato strings, is a fluffy, sweet delight that defies traditional texture. Wonton soup with pork and shrimp dumplings or hot and sour with sea cucumber (both $10.88) soothe and satisfy. Steamed Chilean sea bass ($38.88) is at its best with a bold green ginger sauce, layers of delicate flavor rippling through a seemingly simple dish.
The chef’s favorite, a take on Szechuan roasted chicken ($29.88), features tender, juicy white and dark meat and separately prepared crispy skin under a layer of fried garlic, chilies, shallots and black vinegar. Eating it is a beautiful experience that shames the legion of deep-fried, over-sweetened chicken dishes the American eater associates with Chinese food. It goes nicely with a crisp vegetable mixture highlighted by monkey head mushrooms (not as weird as they sound) and pine nuts, or next to braised eggplant in spicy plum sauce.
Also featuring live seafood and contemporary dishes like braised Kobe short ribs ($48.88) and wok-fried flank steak ($28.88), Jasmine is indeed an expensive Strip restaurant, but the setting, refined cuisine and wonderful service make it worthwhile. If you’re inclined to celebrate and ready to welcome the Year of the Snake, there’s a New Year’s dim sum buffet for $68.88 per person, available from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. February 9 to 17.