The duck tour starts at the bar of all places, where there are no ducks.
Instead there are drinks, Hakkasan’s classic Hakka cocktail, with Belvedere vodka, junmai sake, passion fruit syrup and lychee juice, and the Chinese Mule, with Ketel One vodka, sake, cilantro, lime and ginger beer. They’re refreshing and bright, as suited to a poolside lounge chair as the dark black-and-blue confines of MGM Grand’s new Cantonese restaurant. It’d be tempting to sit at this long, white bar and leisurely sip the afternoon away, but the kitchen’s calling.
Ho Chee Boon is international development chef for Hakkasan, and the baby-faced cook (whose age no one apparently knows) makes sure the company’s kitchens are up to snuff and that classics like crispy duck salad or silver cod with Champagne taste the same Strip-side as they do in London, Miami or Mumbai.
- MGM Grand, 212-8804.
- Sunday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m.-midnight.
Today isn’t about classics, however. Today is about Vegas-only delicacies, dishes on the Hakkasan menu that you can only get at the weeks-old location at MGM Grand. With a tentative smile, chef Ho welcomes us behind the pass and into Hakkasan’s gleaming, expansive kitchens. The duck tour has begun.
The dish in question is crispy roasted duck with kumquat and mustard sauce—a playful balance of sweet, tangy, spicy and rich that takes almost 24 hours to create. Chef Ho starts by stuffing the cavity of a large duck with kumquats, mustard, soy and spices then pinning it shut and bringing it to the wok line for a bath. He rinses the duck with hot water and vinegar to prime the skin, then hangs it overnight in the refrigerator with its brethren, a whole slew of kumquat-filled fowl waiting to hit the plates of stylish diners inside the Hakkasan cage.
After hours of rest, the duck is ready to cook. Ho hangs it in a large Chinese roasting oven, where air circulates around the bird, crisping its skin to a bright reddish brown. A final rinse with sizzling hot oil and it’s ready to be served.
Chef Ho carves the duck and watches as we dig in slowly, swiping slices of succulent meat through tangy-hot kumquat mustard and crunching through the skin. Long before I’m ready, my plate is clear, an only-in-Vegas taste lingering deliciously on my tongue.