The best of both worlds. That's the spirit of China Poblano, José Andrés' Chinese-Mexican fusion concept at the Cosmopolitan. But it also applies to the famous chef's love for food and drink splitting right down the middle.
The liquid side of the restaurant was recently refreshed with four seasonal cocktails. Tahona ($16) layers the crisp agave notes of blanco tequila with the complexity of ginger, the freshness of mint and a sweet jolt of maraschino. Also in the tequila camp, Gift from Oaxaca ($16) has a foundation of reposado and smoky mezcal, balanced with sour orange and ancho perez, a liqueur made in-house from dried poblano peppers and rum.
Gold in Mexico ($16) has a solid hit of heat from serrano pepper, with the tasty sting of Bacardi lightened by house-made ginger-laurel syrup. Laurel is native to Mexico and similar to bay leaf, and the syrup's herbaceous undertone rounds out passion-fruit purée in an espuma that gives the cocktail a crown of creamy brightness. (It literally makes you smack your lips.) Maggie Myers, a manager at China Poblano, says the cocktail menu needed “something that would be very appealing to a summertime crowd, with the spice and the little bit of sweetness you get from the syrup and the purée together on the top—just a good summertime-sipping drink.”
Another new sipper is the Empress ($15), Weekly’s Cocktail of the Week. The flavors are much more subtle and light, ranging from the aromatic citrus of yuzu to the tang of yogurt-based Calpico soda.
Two of these drinks are among the four showcased (on a smaller scale, to make the booze intake reasonable) in a $32 pairing with the Chef’s Experience, a meal in five robust waves for $55.
The first wave is the Empress with dim sum, featuring When Pigs Fly (barbecue pork steamed buns), traditional sui mai dumplings and fried wontons with sesame dressing.
Then José Andrés’ signature Salt Air Margarita paves the way for Palmitos, a salad of Hawaiian hearts of palm, grapefruit, tamarind dressing and a dusting of chile pequin. The course also includes ahi ceviche in soy-lime sauce with avocado, pickled Fresno chile and amaranth seeds, and guacamole “purses” wrapped in slivered jicama.
The next wave wakes up the palate with the China Paloma, a twist on the Mexican favorite that blends tequila, soda and house-made grapefruit-lavender syrup. It’s a nice foil for Dan Dan Mien (hand-pulled wheat noodles with a drizzle of hot oil, peanuts and spicy pork sauce), Swallow a Cloud (Hong Kong-style wonton soup with egg noodles and baby bok choy) and Happy Buddha Vegetable Spring Rolls.
Richness builds with the new Gift from Oaxaca, complementing Shrimp Mojo’s sweet black garlic and roasted poblanos, as well as the famous Twenty-Vegetable Fried Rice and a carnitas taco of braised pork, pork rinds and spicy salsa verde cruda.
The final taste is sweet: churros rolled in cinnamon and sugar with a chocolate dipping sauce and mango “sticky rice,” the rice cooked down and strained to the point of being like a thick custard filled with icy mango granita and topped with a coconut espuma, caramelized rice crisps and fresh mango.
Think of the Chef's Experience as a finely curated tour of China Poblano—and great motivation to take a long, post-feast walk down the Strip.
China Poblano Daily, 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Cosmopolitan, 702-698-7000.