I learned all I really needed to know about Mr Chow days after I’d eaten there, on a short drive from the airport to the Strip. First, I saw a huge black-and-white billboard very simply stating that this was a “world famous experience,” posted in the heart of the tourist corridor along with outdoor advertising for nightclubs and shows—there wasn’t another restaurant ad in sight. And right then, on the radio, I heard Fabolous rap, “Mr Chow’s girl, not a P.F. Chang thang.”
This is certainly not the first time Mr Chow has been name-dropped in song. Off the top of my head, I recall Usher offering his date the choice between Nobu and Mr Chow. I just didn’t think the modern classic Chinese restaurant, originally opened in 1968 in London, was still considered, well, cool. But it is, and not just according to billboards and rappers. And the Vegas version feels very cool, even though it was supposed to open years ago. It’s finally here at Caesars Palace, and there’s no reason to think it won’t be a success or won’t draw the celebrity clientele it has cultivated for decades.
After a short elevator ride and maybe a quick stop in an artsy lobby-lounge, you’ll enter an all-white dining room representing the early-’70s version of what science fiction looks like. Sit down and be ready for the signature Champagne trolley, the only vehicle we’ve ever seen selling glasses of Dom Perignon ($79) or Veuve Clicquot ($40). The bubbles pair perfectly with first-course selections like chicken satay ($7.25 per piece) with ultra-creamy peanut sauce or lobster shumai ($20). The hand-stretched and cut Mr Chow noodles ($19.50) are deliciously fresh, but if you need a little more kick, opt for the squid-ink rice noodles ($23.50) and the meaty spare ribs ($18.50) for appetizers.
Mr Chow’s food is mostly subtle and pretty, and far more satisfying than it appears. If the fancy spin on these family-style, largely traditional dishes are confounding, the staff is happy to help you create a special semi-prix-fixe menu for your party. I say stick with your favorites, because pretty much everything here is done very well. Fiery beef ($46) is far from spicy, but the meat is crispy and tender and the sauce is bold and vibrant. The well-known green prawns ($39) are a must-try, doused in a bright sauce made with spinach for fun color. The vegetable sides ($7.50) are particularly lovely, from garlicky sautéed baby bok choy to lily bulb with mountain yam or crisp green beans with rich XO sauce. Beautiful whole Beijing duck is also available as a three-course dinner ($74 per person).
Mr Chow is certainly unique, even on today’s Las Vegas Strip, which might be the only place in the world where a certain kind of flashy, high-priced Chinese fine dining can flourish. If you need a little drama with your steamed sea bass and crispy beef, you’ll appreciate this experience.
Mr Chow Caesars Palace, 702-731-7888. Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5-10:30 p.m.