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molto e

Wing Lei / Wynn (Las Vegas)

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Wing Lei at the Wynn

Dinner: 5:30 pm - 10:30 pm (Casual Elegant)

Reservations: (702) 248-DINE or (888) 352-DINE

While I wish it would have been bestowed upon me at the casinos during my last trip to Las Vegas, all of my good fortune came with the simple decision to dine at Wing Lei at the Wynn. The cornucopia of fine dining options in Las Vegas these days continually causes me much consternation when trying to settle on a restaurant choice for the evening. However, Chef Richard Chen's establishment at Wing Lei has resolved many of my Las Vegas dining issues.

Prior to being lured to the Wynn Resort by Elizabeth Blau, Chef Chen was running Shanghai Terrace at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. With Chef Chen at the helm, Shanghai Terrace was a foodie favorite in Chicago and his departure saddened his devoted fans.

Chef Chen was born into the restaurant business in Taiwan, where his family ran their own restaurant. When Richard was a young man, the Chen family moved to the United States and settled in Chicago, where they once again settled into the restaurant business. Richard attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, where he received formal training to complement his experience in the family business. After graduating from C.I.A, Richard moved to New York City and honed his craft for two years before moving back to Chicago to work at the Ritz Carlton under Chef Sarah Stegner. Soon thereafter, the Penninsula Hotel in Chicago hired Richard to be the chef at their new concept, Shanghai Terrace. The original intent was for Shanghai Terrace to be simple noodle concept, but after sampling the dishes at Richard's tasting, that concept was abandoned for his haute Chinese cuisine. Richard became known for using the highest quality ingredients while fusing Western ingredients and techniques into the preparation of classical Chinese cuisine.

In typical Steve Wynn fashion, he gave Chef Chen carte blanche to enable Wing Lei to deliver to its patrons the finest dining experience possible. Richard offers Cantonese, Shanghai and Szechwan specialties, and for the high rollers that come from Asia to try their luck at the Wynn, Richard will prepare special custom menus. The special menus use ingredients that are not familiar to the Western palate like shark fin, dried abalone and various species of selected fish. The selected fish is flown in live from Asia and requires special handling on the flight over so that they arrive in good condition. Wing Lei also offers a Peking Duck tasing menu that has become very popular.

Docsconz and I wanted to sample as much of Chef Chen's cuisine as possible and the list of dishes that we wanted kept growing until Chef Chen offered to prepare a tasting menu for us.

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Table Setting at Wing Lei

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Tasting Menu

We started with cocktails prior to dinner...

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Coach K. was dining with his family at the table next to us

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Amuse - Lobster, Melon with Yuzu Dressing

The lobster was tender and accentuated by the melon, crunch of the endive, slight acidic component from the creamy yuzu dressing and the briny caviar. This was a great way to start the meal and a preview of Chef Chen's ability to have his flavors meld seamlessly together.

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Seafood Dumpling with Saute Pea Leaves and Superior Broth

The melange of seafood stuffing was encased in a tender wrapper that lay in a little pool of the broth. The broth was delicious and thicker than I have had with this kind of dish. GREAT DISH...

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Tempura Lobster with Jalapeno, Garlic Seasoning

We did not know what our menu was because Chef Chen was preparing it on the fly. So when this dish was presented at the table, there was a communal whiplash effect between Doc and I. The sight of the whole lobster prepared tempura style brought a smile to my face. The lobster was deftly fried but the seasoning of this dish was spectacular. The dish was scattered with little pieces of garlic that resembled granola and when combined with the pepper made a great union. Chef Chen is able to balance the flavors in his dishes without one nuance overtaking the other.

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Sorbet

We had initially planned on ordering one Peking Duck tasting menu and then adding a number of dishes that we also wanted to try. The table on the other side of us had ordered the Peking Duck tasting so as each course came to the table, I had a serious case of Peking Duck on the brain, until...

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Peking Duck Salad with Almonds, Crisp Orange Truffle Vinaigrette

The salad was presented to both of us and ...

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wonton bowl being broken up and salad mixed

Nice clean salad with the cruchy wonton and the meaty duck

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Braised Pork Belly with Abalone Mushroom, Green Bean

At Shanghai Terrace, Chef Chen's pork belly dishes were legendary so we very happy when this dish arrived. The unctuous belly was delectable and the mushroom and the slight crunch of the green bean rounded out one of my ATF pork belly dishes.

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Wok Fried Kobe Beef with Scallion, Red eye Chili Sauce

Before tasting the dish, I was worried that the sauce would take away from the Kobe beef. I have had Kobe beef before and enjoyed the marbling that only Kobe can have. One bite into this beef was like putting a piece of Freshen-up gum in your mouth with the EXPLOSION of juices that came from this amazing piece of meat. The sauce was a good complement with a bit of heat but nothing could over run the Kobe explosion.

Dessert Sampler

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Chocolate Bar

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Pineapple Coconut Delight

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Sorbet Sampler

The desserts were good...

Wing Lei was a delight and Chef Richard Chen is a true talent, this feeling was echoed from every table within earshot. Any future trip to Las Vegas will definitely include a stop at Wing Lei!


Edited by molto e (log)

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Wow, great post.....I had read an article about Wing Lei recently and it certainly sounded like an amazing place but never seem to have heard about it before...... Thanks for sharing the experience.....food looks great.

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Coach K clearly has good taste.  Then again, if we were winning he'd have been busy in April.  Looks like a great meal nevertheless.

I am a fan of Coach K but I left the meal even more impressed with Coach K then ever.


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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I shared that remarkable meal with Eliot and concur with every one of his points. The meal was outstanding in very respect. The sensation of the Kobe beef exploding in the mouth was reminiscent of the first time I tried a spherical olive at elBulli. I don't have anything else to add to Elliot's outstanding report except to also say that any future visit to LV will also need to include a visit to Wing lei. It is a cuisine that I have not experienced anywhere else at this level of quality and preparation.

Having done my medical specialty training at UVA, I have always had a healthy respect for Coach K. We had a brief but very nice discussion with he and his family that only increased my respect for him even more. He also appears to have good taste in restaurants.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I'm travelling to Las Vegas later this week for some food events sponsored by Bon Appetit. I was thinking of trying Wing Lei. I'll be travelling alone to Las Vegas this trip, so was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on a single person dining at Wing Lei? I often go to nice restaurants when I travel, and dining alone can be an unusual experience, but I've found the restaurants in Las Vegas tend to be more than welcome to a single diner. Any thoughts?

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I'm travelling to Las Vegas later this week for some food events sponsored by Bon Appetit.  I was thinking of trying Wing Lei. I'll be travelling alone to Las Vegas this trip, so was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on a single person dining at Wing Lei?  I often go to nice restaurants when I travel, and dining alone can be an unusual experience, but I've found the restaurants in Las Vegas tend to be more than welcome to a single diner.  Any thoughts?

David,

You should not hesitate at all, they are extremely convivial at Wing Lei.

Molto E


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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I wouldn't hesitate to dine there alone either. It's a very inviting place.

We had our first dinner there last week...did the Peking Duck Tasting Menu....WOWSER we had a fabulous meal in every respect.

The food...sheer perfection

The rooms...lovely

Service...outstanding in every regard.

We'll definitely be back !

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I would like to thank my fellow e-gullet writers who encouraged me to dine at Wing Lei. I had dinner at Wing Lei, table for one, on Friday, May 19.

This is an excerpt of a review I wrote about my experience. I write restaurant reviews just for fun and for practice to work on my writing skills, so this is part of a larger review. Enjoy.

I have to apologize for not getting any photos of the dining room or the dishes that were served.

I had pre-reserved the Seasonal Tasting Menu for one. It is normally only served to a minium of two people but they had no problem accomodating my request.

Course #1-"Grilled Beef Salad with Rice Noodles."

This was a simple description to describe a simple dish. It was simple merely because there were only a few ingredients-but the flavors were anything but simple. The salad was a light and refreshing introduction to the heavier flavored dishes to come. The beef tenderloin had been lightly grilled to medium-rare. The rice noodles were flat and thick like pappardelle pasta. The salad was dressed lightly with soy sauce and rice vinegar and garnished with shredded green onions and sweet red pepper.

Course #2-"Chicken Soup."

The description of the dish on the menu was almost too humble. Then again, maybe the chefs were trying to fool me? List a dish simply as "Chicken Soup" and you probably are thinking it isn’t fancy enough for a restaurant like Wing Lei. ‘Shouldn’t they be serving me Bird’s Nest Soup with Gull’s Eggs?”

The waiter brought a covered porcelain bowl to the table. He placed a wide gold spoon next to the bowl of soup. He removed the cover from the bowl, releasing a fragrant cloud of chicken steam. Soft little dumplings that enclosed a center of chicken mousse floated in the 'essence' of chicken broth. A few strips of julienne carrot and zucchini squash were the only garnishes.

Course #3-"Live Santa Barbara Spot Prawns."

The waiter told me that the next dish was Spot Prawns that had been brought over from Santa Barbara that morning. "I like these prawns better than lobster” he said. “They have a sweet yet delicate flavor. And Mr. Ross, you know they were swimming in the live tank in the kitchen just a few moments ago."

Two large prawns were served on a small, rectangular plate. The prawns had been taken live from the tank directly into a pot of simmering liquid and then gently braised for a few moments to keep them moist.

They were served with the head on and the ruby red roe running down the tail. There was a tiny, whole mustard green served on the side. The mustard green was steamed and garnished with a little fried garlic. The idea was for the bitter mustard green to counter the flavor of the sweet prawns.

Course #4-“Miso Glazed Salmon, White Bamboo Mushroom Fungus and Pi Leaf Greens.”

Miso is salty and can overpower the delicate flavor of salmon if too much is slathered on fish.

In this case, the Miso added just a hint of salty taste and the characteristic scent of miso and soy to the tender, medium-rare, salmon. Not too much, not too little.

There are hundreds of different types of greens used in Chinese cuisine, but tonight the chef had chosen the leaves from the tender ‘Pi Leaf’ green. The steamed Pi Leaves served as a bed for the salmon.

Another foundation for the salmon were shoots of Bamboo Fungus.

The waiter told me that “Bamboo Fungus is usually stuffed with dried shrimp or mined pork,” but tonight the chef had only braised the tender, white cylinders. The fungus had a delicate, yet crisp texture and a hint of bamboo flavor.

A sauce made from reduced soy sauce and miso was drizzled around the plate.

Course #5-“Jasmine Tea-Smoked Chicken, Soy Reduction, Shanghai-Style Pan-Fried Noodles.”

A baby chicken had been smoked with the tropical flower scent of Jasmine tea.

The chicken was then braised in a sauce based with soy.

There must have been a final cooking stage in a hot oven to crisp-up the golden brown, shiny skin of the chicken.

Shanghai-Style noodles are thin egg noodles that are the size and texture of angel hair pasta. The noodles were stir-fried with sliced, fresh shitake mushrooms and a mixture of other vegetables.

There was a ribbon of reduced soy sauce around the chicken. The sauce was thick, gooey and sweet. It was so delicious I thought I would name it ‘Chinese Molasses’ and bottle it.

Course #6-“Dessert Trio.”

At one base of the trio was a finger of creamy chocolate mousse encased in a chocolate shell and served with milk chocolate sauce.

Next to the chocolate mousse was fresh strawberry sorbet served with poached fresh Lychee fruit.

Lychee fruit are juicy little white orbs that taste like a cross between apple, pear and pineapple. The exotic scent of the Lychee smells of roses and tropical orchids.

The third side of the trio was a tapioca based dessert.

A small glass held tiny pearls of tapioca suspended in mango mousse with a base layer of coconut. The mango mousse was topped with a little scoop of icy mango sorbet.

The trio of desserts was just the right balance of sweet, refreshing and refined flavors and light textures.

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Excellent report, David. Thanks for getting back to us. Interesting to see that your dishes were quite different from the ones Eliot and I had. Those spot prawns in particular sound amazing!


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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David,

Chef Chen is so talented, my meal at Wing Lei opened my eyes as to how refined Chinese food can be. I put Wing Lei on a "not to miss" list, when I go to Las Vegas. There were so many things that I wanted to try on the menu that it would take me a couple of meals there to get to them all.

Molto E


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Another thing that makes Wing Lei special is that it is not a "chain". Chef Chen and the restaurant can only be found in Vegas. It is not a clone of some other restaurant somewhere else. As much as I loved L'Atelier, I can get it elsewhere. This is not something that one finds every day in Vegas.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Another thing that makes Wing Lei special is that it is not a "chain". Chef Chen and the restaurant can only be found in Vegas. It is not a clone of some other restaurant somewhere else. As much as I loved L'Atelier, I can get it elsewhere. This is not something that one finds every day in Vegas.

Doc,

Don't start knocking Atelier, that is another restaurant that I would not miss while in Vegas.

Molto E


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Doc and Molto e, just let me know when you might be going to Las Vegas again. I'd glady join you both at Wing Lei so we can try some more of the menu. I was really intrigued by all those Peking Ducks I saw wheeled by my table.

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Hello all Las Vegas friends. I hope you don't mind the lengthy review. I did an earlier review of Wing Lei that I posted in this thread. But it wasn't really complete so I reworked it and I am posting the revised review today.

I mentioned on my weekly foodblog a few weeks ago that I do food writing for fun and practice. So this is simply a piece I wrote for fun and to hone my food writing skills. Hope you like it. And thanks to John Curtas at KNPR in Las Vegas who has given me many good tips on food writing.

Steve Wynn is known to have a reputation for superior customer service and an eye for detail when it comes to the planning of the restaurants that inhabit his casino-hotel properties.

While it took the other casino-hotel developers in Las Vegas a very long time to realize the importance of fine dining, Mr. Wynn seemed to sense early on that fine dining was just one more element that would set his properties ahead of the competition. Mr. Wynn set a standard that raced ahead of the old-adage that people only came to Las Vegas to gamble.

Under his direction, Mr. Wynn set the bar high when it came to designing the restaurants that would be housed in his properties. The element of fine dining at a Wynn property is just one more piece of the luxury puzzle that includes the casino, the hotel rooms, the convention services-it is part of a larger package that keeps people coming back.

Mr. Wynn was responsible for bringing Alex Stratta onboard as the head chef at Renoir at the Mirage when he opened that property in 1989. Renoir went on to become one of the few restaurants in America that has ever garnered five-stars from the prestigious Mobil Travel Guide.

Mr. Wynn literally topped himself with the opening of the Bellagio in 1993. As he did with The Mirage, Mr. Wynn filled Bellagio with more fine dining restaurants under one roof than any other hotel in Las Vegas. No one else could claim a restaurant stable with such notable thoroughbreds as Todd English at Olives, Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his Prime Steakhouse, Chef Julian Serrano at Piscasso and the eponymous Maccioni family from New York and their two restaurants at Bellagio-Le Cirque and Osteria del Circo.

It wouldn’t be for years after the restaurants at Bellagio opened that the bosses at the MGM and Caesar’s Palace would follow Mr. Wynn’s lead by opening tworld-class restaurants. The MGM opened two restaurants operated by the famed French chef Joel Robuchon and Caesar’s Palace lured Guy Savoy and his son Frank to open a restaurant at their flagship Las Vegas hotel.

While some may attach the moniker ‘control freak’ or ‘difficult’ to Mr. Wynn’s passion for excellence, it is a method of madness if you will, that seems to have served Mr. Wynn and his customers quite well over the years.

Most of the large casino-hotel resorts in Las Vegas offer some form of Asian restaurant, most often a restaurant serving Chinese cuisine.

The Asian demographic is particularly important to the casinos because a large portion of their gambling revenue comes out of the wallets of visitors from the Far East. It is almost a given that any new hotel that rises from the hot desert sand will have a Chinese restaurant with a menu that caters to both Eastern and Western tastes.

In Las Vegas, one doesn’t rest on one’s past laurels. It must have been a monumental task for Mr. Wynn to top himself when it came to the planning of the restaurants that would inhabit his newest creation, Wynn, which opened on the Las Vegas strip in the spring of 2005.

It has been written that Mr. Wynn did not want to have a bevy of ‘celebrity chefs’ missing in action in his restaurants at the new hotel. Mr. Wynn and I would agree that chefs who send a menu via fax from New York and then show up once every six months to check out the kitchen are not paying attention to the details that will insure quality in the kitchen and in the dining room. Mr. Wynn pursued chefs that would work and live in Las Vegas and devote their energies solely to the stoves at Wynn.

It would be a tall-order to pry one of the best Chinese chefs in America to transplant to Las Vegas. But knowing a man like Mr. Wynn can afford to get the best, that is what he set out to do when it came to staffing ‘Wing Lei’ at Wynn.

Chef Richard Chen was enticed to relocate to the Wynn from the ‘Shanghai Terrace’ at the Peninsula in Chicago. Chef Chen is a graduate of the CIA-Culinary Institute of America, and is the product of a family raised in the tradition of Chinese restaurants.

If you have stayed at a Peninsula hotel somewhere in the world, you are aware that the hotels are on a par with Four Seasons Hotels and Wynn-all five star properties in their own right. Any cook skilled enough to hold down the title of head chef at a Peninsula Hotel is pretty much pre-qualified to work at Wynn.

The name ‘Wing Lei’ literally means ‘forever prosperous’ in Chinese and you will be ‘forever prosperous’ after dinner at Wing Lei because of Chef Chen’s unique style of combining traditional Chinese dishes with fresh, seasonal ingredients, a style not found in other high-end Chinese dining rooms in Las Vegas.

Chef Chen has said that while he was working in Chicago he learned from Chef Charlie Trotter to set himself apart from other chefs by making his cooking unique-marrying the French concept of using fresh, seasonal ingredients in Chinese cuisine.

Chef Chen is said to be fond of using black truffles to make small Chinese style dumplings. Imagine the marriage of Dim Sum with Black Truffles, a French and Chinese culinary match made in heaven.

Another unique touch that Chef Chen has instituted at Wing Lei is to offer seasonal tasting menus. I have become a big fan of Tasting Menus. Chefs who push the envelope of creativity by offering tasting menus are breaking out of the mundane and the ordinary.

Most Chinese restaurants offer the same 125 dishes every day listed in the requisite categories like Soups, Noodles, Rice, BBQ, Seafood, Poultry, Beef and Pork. You may see other categories like Dim Sum, Fried Appetizers, Cold Appetizers or “Chefs Specialties,” but you probably aren’t going to be offered a Tasting Menu.

If you do happen upon a tasting menu at a Chinese restaurant, order it. Tasting Menus at most Chinese restaurants give you the experiences of tasting odd, unknown ingredients you have never heard off, much less eaten before. It is a truly authentic experience to sample ethnic dishes that are not normally served off the regular menu.

I made my reservation at Wing Lei online at the Wynn dining reservations website. I inquired in my e-mail if they would serve the tasting menu for a party of one, even though I realized it is normally reserved for a minimum party of two. "Phil" at the Wynn was the gentleman in charge of my reservation and he responded to my request within an hour. In his e-mail reply, Phil warmly informed me that the tasting menu had already been reserved for me and that the entire staff of the Wynn looked forward to welcoming me to Wing Lei for dinner on May 19.

I have worked in customer service for 28 years and I congratulate “Phil” on his quick and thorough attention to the details of my dinner reservation. It is apparent to me that Steve Wynn has successfully passed down his ethic on superior customer service to his employees.

As you pass through two large doors at the front of Wing Lei, you enter into a dimly lit, small reception area with a tiny bar off to the right. The hostess greets you and then escorts you into the dining room-a space that is light, airy and with open ceilings that tower upwards of 30 feet.

On one end of the dining room there is an immense pane of floor to ceiling glass that looks onto gardens and the signature Wynn water feature. There is a small semi-private dining room on the other end of the main dining room. (The night I was there, I witnessed a convoy of silver trolleys being wheeled into the private dining room-each cart laden with a different course celebrating a Chinese wedding).

The main dining room appeared to have 25 tables-small, square tables against the walls and large, round tables for parties of 8 or more in the center of the dining room.

It is not a large room, but there is a sense of largess to the space and enough room between the tables so that the conversations at your dinner table are kept private.

I didn't write down the details of the decor, but it is elegant without being over the top-imagine the finest silk wall coverings rather than decadent 1970’s brushed velvet.

The designer's of the room rightly intended the focus to be on the food first and the furnishings of the room to take a seat in the back row so that the food is the star each night.

I mistakenly left my digital camera back in my suite at The Venetian. In today’s world of restaurant reporting, it is “de rigueur” as the French would say, to take photographs of the dishes you are eating. Those who find an interest in your writing want to ‘see’ what you are eating as they read through your review. As in all things in American society today, we want instant pleasure, and food photos sate our appetite for putting pictures of food with words about food.

I tend to get odd looks from other diners when I am eating alone in a fine dining restaurant-not because I am a single diner, but because I have digital camera in one hand and my pen in the other hand. I somehow find time to take a photo, put down the camera and pick up the fork, take a bite, then pick up the pen and write down my thoughts about each delicious morsel. At least I hope it will be delicious.

In addition to the ala’ carte menu at Wing Lei, there were two tasting menus listed on the night I had dinner. Based on my observations of what other people were eating, it appeared as though most of the other diners were ordering off the ala’ carte menu, followed by a few tables that had ordered the Peking Duck Tasting Menu and finally, one happy little man was having the Seasonal Tasting Menu.

I was excited that Wing Lei was offering two Tasting Menus in addition to the regular menu. That told me that the Chefs were serious about their food. I was not excited that other diners didn’t appear to be sharing in my enthusiasm for the different menus.

I have never understood why people come to Las Vegas and make a reservation at a fine dining restaurant like Wing Lei with the intention to get in and out in time to make the early magic show.

It is beyond me why someone would pay upwards of $50.00 for Shark’s Fin Soup, only to slurp it down in record time so they can head across the casino to the newest Cirque du Soleil show.

Wing Lei is the type of restaurant that commands you devote an entire evening to enjoying the dining experience. In order to truly appreciate the subtleties of the cuisine of Shanghai, you need to savor each bite and you just simply cannot ‘dine and dash.’

There was a table of 6 seated at one of the large round tables in the center of the dining room-a gentleman and his wife, their three daughters and son-in law.

They spent no more than 40 minutes at dinner from the time they sat down until they left the table. One round of drinks, one entrée per person-no sharing, no dessert, no tea, then out the door. They denied themselves a wonderful opportunity that night to leave Las Vegas with the memories of a unique dinner at Wing Lei.

When the waiter introduced himself he simply greeted me with "Mr. Ross we have the tasting menu ready for you, will that be satisfactory?" Imagine how comfortable I felt after such a gracious welcome. I explained to the waiter that I was in town to attend the Bon Appetit Food and Wine Focus and that I dabbled in food writing as a hobby.

It is always a bit of a tense moment when you are facing down the person who will be spending the evening serving you dinner. You wonder if you will mutually like each other. Will the waiter anticipate your needs? Do they know about the food they are serving? Can they give you insight into each dish on the menu?

After our initial exchange, I got the sense that the waiter realized we had something in common-we were both serious about food-especially Chinese food

Over the course of the next three hours, he would serve me six unique Chinese dishes. Each dish was gently placed on the table in front of me with the same introduction-“Mr. Ross, your next course is…...”

He would continue that introduction of each dish by describing each ingredient in detail and how it was prepared. We talked about flavors, we talked about textures and we talked about Chinese cooking.

Course #1-"Grilled Beef Salad with Rice Noodles."

This was a simple description to describe a simple dish. It was simple merely because there were only a few ingredients-but the flavors were anything but simple. The salad was a light and refreshing introduction to the heavier flavored dishes to come. The beef tenderloin had been lightly grilled to medium-rare. The rice noodles were flat and thick like pappardelle pasta. The salad was dressed lightly with soy sauce and rice vinegar and garnished with shredded green onions and sweet red pepper.

Course #2-"Chicken Soup."

The description of the dish on the menu was almost too humble. Then again, maybe the chefs were trying to fool me? List a dish simply as "Chicken Soup" and you probably are thinking it isn’t fancy enough for a restaurant like Wing Lei. ‘Shouldn’t they be serving me Bird’s Nest Soup with Gull’s Eggs?”

The waiter brought a covered porcelain bowl to the table. He placed a wide gold spoon next to the bowl of soup. He removed the cover from the bowl, releasing a fragrant cloud of chicken steam. Soft little dumplings that enclosed a center of chicken mousse floated in the 'essence' of chicken broth. A few strips of julienne carrot and zucchini squash were the only garnishes.

Course #3-"Live Santa Barbara Spot Prawns."

I am intrigued by these basic menu descriptions-what keeps coming to the table is just not basic. I think the chefs are purposely fooling me with their plain menu descriptions. They want to entice me with the written word-then surprise me with food that is exotic and intense in flavor.

The waiter told me that the next dish was Spot Prawns that had been brought over from Santa Barbara that morning. "I like these prawns better than lobster” he said. “They have a sweet yet delicate flavor. And Mr. Ross, you know they were swimming in the live tank in the kitchen just a few moments ago."

Two large prawns were served on a small, rectangular plate. The prawns had been taken live from the tank directly into a pot of simmering liquid and then gently braised for a few moments to keep them moist.

They were served with the head on and the ruby red roe running down the tail. There was a tiny, whole mustard green served on the side. The mustard green was steamed and garnished with a little fried garlic. The idea was for the bitter mustard green to counter the flavor of the sweet prawns.

When the waiter saw I was sucking the juices out of the prawn head, he bent over and said "Mr. Ross, I see you really enjoy the prawns. Most Caucasians don't suck the heads, usually only the Chinese know that's where most of the flavor is."

In the outside world I suppose one who is concerned with being politically correct would have taken offense to his remarks. But in my world of food and cooking, I took his comments as a compliment to my tastes. It was another small gesture on his part that said ‘welcome, you are having dinner with friends.’

Course #4-“Miso Glazed Salmon, White Bamboo Mushroom Fungus and Pi Leaf Greens.”

Miso is salty and can overpower the delicate flavor of salmon if too much is slathered on fish.

In this case, the Miso added just a hint of salty taste and the characteristic scent of miso and soy to the tender, medium-rare, salmon. Not too much, not too little.

There are hundreds of different types of greens used in Chinese cuisine, but tonight the chef had chosen the leaves from the tender ‘Pi Leaf’ green. The steamed Pi Leaves served as a bed for the salmon.

Another foundation for the salmon was shoots of Bamboo Fungus.

The waiter told me that “Bamboo Fungus is usually stuffed with dried shrimp or mined pork,” but tonight the chef had only braised the tender, white cylinders. The fungus had a delicate, yet crisp texture and a hint of bamboo flavor.

A sauce made from reduced soy sauce and miso was drizzled around the plate.

Course #5-“Jasmine Tea-Smoked Chicken, Soy Reduction, Shanghai-Style Pan-Fried Noodles.”

A baby chicken had been smoked with the tropical flower scent of Jasmine tea.

The chicken was then braised in a sauce based with soy.

There must have been a final cooking stage in a hot oven to crisp-up the golden brown, shiny skin of the chicken.

Shanghai-Style noodles are thin egg noodles that are the size and texture of angel hair pasta. The noodles were stir-fried with sliced, fresh shitake mushrooms and a mixture of other vegetables.

There was a ribbon of reduced soy sauce around the chicken. The sauce was thick, gooey and sweet. It was so delicious I thought I would name it ‘Chinese Molasses’ and bottle it.

Course #6-“Dessert Trio.”

Those two words, “Dessert Trio”, described the final act in my Chinese banquet for one.

The large, square, white platter held three desserts.

At one base of the trio was a finger of creamy chocolate mousse encased in a chocolate shell and served with milk chocolate sauce.

Next to the chocolate mousse was fresh strawberry sorbet served with poached fresh Lychee fruit.

Lychee fruit are juicy little white orbs that taste like a cross between apple, pear and pineapple. The exotic scent of the Lychee smells of roses and tropical orchids.

The third side of the trio was a tapioca based dessert.

Asians enjoy drinks and desserts filled with little jelly knobs of tapioca. Although I consider myself a connoisseur of Asian foods, I’ve never ventured into the arena of tapioca pearls and chocolate milk.

I was served horrific, slimy, tapioca pudding in the cafeteria at Hayesville Grade School in Salem, Oregon, when I was a kid. That memory of reconstituted plastic balls in vanilla pudding has stuck with me for 40 years. I trusted the pastry chef at Wing Lei would help me overcome my tapioca phobia.

A small glass held tiny pearls of tapioca suspended in mango mousse with a base layer of coconut. The mango mousse was topped with a little scoop of icy mango sorbet.

The trio of desserts was just the right balance of sweet, refreshing and refined flavors and light textures.

I mentioned to the waiter that I would like “black tea” with dessert. The tea would be the final trick on the part of the chefs to fool me into thinking that “black tea” is ordinary tea-only to leave me with one lasting, memorable taste sensation.

The waiter brought out a small, green, stoneware pot of tea on a tray with one teacup.

Before he poured the tea, he described it as “Pur” (pur-eh), black Chinese tea. He asked me if I had ever heard of this variety of tea. Of course I hadn’t, so I indulged him as he gave me a short course on Chinese tea.

He explained that the darkest Chinese black tea is called ‘Pur’ and is fermented in blocks of tea leaves. The fermentation process draws out the tea’s flavor, much like the process of fermenting and aging wines. The tea had a smoky, sweet fragrance.

The hot tea was satisfying, almost therapeutic, after six generous courses of Chinese delights.

The true gauge of an exceptional meal is one that leaves you with memories weeks, even months or years later, of a wonderful dining experience.

Wing Lei left me with memories of the flavors of each dish, the aromas wafting through the dining room that evening and the conversations at the table.

Chef Chen’s creativity in developing a series of dishes into a seasonal tasting menu is a testament to his creativity and the diligence of his staff to prepare and serve dishes using the freshest, seasonal ingredients available.

It is incredibly rare in today's world of poor customer service and bad restaurant food to actually have one's expectations exceeded. Wing Lei excelled on all fronts-the food, the service and the gracious atmosphere that Mr. Wynn and Chef Chen and his staff have created for this special Chinese restaurant at the Wynn Las Vegas.

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I dined at Wing Lei one week ago today..

It was a good experience. 6 of us in total. Four of us had the duck tasting menu. The other people just ordered off of the regular menu. Not a problem at all.

They actually DID offer a wine pairing with the duck menu. Something that surprised me as a I didn't recall seeing it when looking at the menu on-line a few weeks prior to the meal.

Not too long after we ordered, they wheeled out the cart with the duck. Actually TWO ducks, since four of ordered the duck menu. We had an army of guys at our table carving up the ducks. It was neat. They started with the duck pancakes. And then the sommelier came with the first wine. Put down two champagne flutes and presented the wine. And started to pour. And pour. Uhh... That's pretty close to a FULL pour I thought and commented to my friend. We're in for some fun tonight!!

The food kept coming, as did the wine. Got to try something I had never had before (a gruener veltiner, which seems to be hard to find for me here in Dallas and a nice rose. I had never had a rose before.. Oh, and a sherry with the dessert). At this point, the people who ordered off the regular menu just sat there. They each ordered a soup, but that came out with the first duck course. They wouldn't get anything else until the main course came..

The main course was served family style. Two LARGE plates of the main duck dish and the mains for the people ordering off the regular menu. us duck people were more than happy to share our stuff with the non-duck guys as there was PLENTY of food to go around. For dessert, they did the same. The non-duck guys didn't order any. And really, there was no need to as there was enough from the duck dinners to go around (the chocolate bars pictured above, plus a sorbet sampler)

anyway, a really nice meal. Friendly service, too. The friendly service even started long before I got to the restaurant with the reservation agent at the Wynn who took my reservation. Very nice. Very enthused.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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What a great thread. Since stumbling across this site about a month ago, I have spent many nights reading it and related links till 2am. I also appreciate the time and effort it takes to write posts like the ones in this thread by Eliot and David. They are thoughtful and through. How can you not want to eat at Wing Lei after reading about it here?

And like David, I do not mind dining alone to try an exceptional place. The food and staff are almost always enough to keep my mind busy. I would much rather eat alone at Alinea in Chicago than go with business associates for the 12th time to Gibson's.

I knew a very high up executive at Caesars that admitted he was dead set against the Forum shops and high end restaurants coming in. He did not think it would work at all but now admits he was totally wrong there. But Caesars recognized early they had to cater to the Japanese and had the "high end" Empress Court which has had more face lifts than a 70 year old society queen. Wing Lei is light years past that.

I can not imagine a better restaurant at Wynn than Alex, but I will give Wing Lei a try next time I am in Vegas.


Edited by hemingway (log)

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Definately try Alex. If you met Chef Alex Stratta without having seen the dining room or tasting his food, you would never imagine that he is one of the top chefs in Las Vegas. Probably America for that matter.

When I was in Las Vegas in May, I went to a private winemaker's lunch at Alex. As we descended the stairs that have been described as 'out of the movie Hello Dolly' and entered into the dining room, there was Chef Stratta, meeting the guests with crystal flutes of champagne. He is soft-spoken and unassuming. Chef Stratta simply said "welcome to 'Alex,' I hope you like the lunch we have planned for you today." He was almost surprised when I asked him to sign my menu. I got the sense that he was surprised that someone would think highly enough of him to even ask for an autograph, yet he appeared to be quite pleased that I asked. Of course, he gracefully signed my menu and shook my hand and quipped "welcome to Las Vegas."

The staff at our lunch was hand-picked since it was a special event, but I would imagine that any of the staff at Alex for dinner would match the seamless service we found at lunch.

Just imagine having a very expensive meal and wonderful wines in a very sumptuous, almost ornate room, yet with service that is so friendly you can't believe you aren't in a more casual setting. They make you feel that special and relaxed at Alex. If you aren't a 'foodie,' I am sure they would gently describe to you what the difference is between 'white' and 'green' asparagus and what cheese they used to make the 'white asparagus gratin.' We actually had the delicious gratin as an accompaniment to one of our entrees at lunch.

Alex gets plenty of press and good reviews, but since Guy Savoy and Joel Robuchon have moved into town, Alex tends to get put on a tier under their French counterparts. I would disagree with anyone who would say Alex isn't as 'good' as Savoy or Robuchon. It's just a different style of cooking in a different type of setting, but every bit as good in my opinion and in many ways, not as stuffy or formal as Savoy or Robuchon.

Try Alex. I doubt you will be disappointed.

And since this is the Wing Lei thread, Alex is only a few steps to the right and down the foyer from Wing Lei. Dinner at Wing Lei on Friday. Dinner at Alex on Saturday.

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Mr. Ross, are you sure you're not Chinese? :wink::wink:

I'll be staying at the Wynn in early August. I'm definitely going to eat at Alex and Wing Lei.

Unless something changes, I'll be eating by myself. In your opinion, do you find that Wing Lei should be experienced more as a group than as a solo diner? Mind you, I've read the excellent accommodations Wing Lei made for solo diners.


Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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Superb report, David. Wing Lei is the only restaurant in Las Vegas right now that I would make a point of returning to the next time I am there. I haven't been to Alex yet.

One point about eating the spot prawns. Your waiter would have been correct to say that most non-Asian Americans do not suck shrimp heads, but he was wrong to apply the term to Caucasians in general as the practice is standard in Europe, especially along the coasts. I very much enjoyed doing that with the langoustines and Denia prawns that I recently had in Spain - magnificent! One difficulty is that in the US it is quite unusual to ever be served the heads - such a pity. It is almost impossible to buy head on shrimp, for example, retail other than at specialty markets or direct from the fisherman. Any degree of processing and the heads are gone. But that is one of the beauties of Wing Lei.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Mr. Ross, are you sure you're not Chinese?  :wink:  :wink:

I'll be staying at the Wynn in early August. I'm definitely going to eat at Alex and Wing Lei.

Unless something changes, I'll be eating by myself. In your opinion, do you find that Wing Lei should be experienced more as a group than as a solo diner? Mind you, I've read the excellent accommodations Wing Lei made for solo diners.

Russell, you addressed your question to David, but being this is a discussion forum, is any meal unenhanced by dining with a convivial group of people interested and knowledgeable about food? For my part, a shared experience is always preferable, though I am not averse to dining alone when necessary and would prefer to do so at a fine restaurant if my company would detract from the meal.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Russell, you addressed your question to David, but being this is a discussion forum, is any meal unenhanced by dining with a convivial group of people interested and knowledgeable about food? For my part, a shared experience is always preferable, though I am not averse to dining alone when necessary and would prefer to do so at a fine restaurant if my company would detract from the meal.

John, I bring up this question from a certain cultural context. In my multi-course dining experiences in Chinese restaurants, the dishes are usually served communally, either "family-style" or "banquet-style." When I was looking through Wing Lei's menu, I did notice the tasting menu, as in each course is individually plated and served to the individual diner. That is not usually offered in a Chinese restaurant. The only time a course is served like that to a certain extent is the soup course, where the soup is brought out to the table, and then tableside, ladled into individual soup bowls already arranged, and finally served to each diner. And then there's the order of mu shu pork. But that's it!

I'm used to having tasting menus at "Western" restaurants by myself. Mind you, having a tasting menu dinner at a Chinese restaurant is having me do a double-take, just a bit. It would be a different dining experience for me, because of my previous dining experiences of eating a multi-course Chinese meal more communally. Mind you, I do eat Chinese food as a solo diner, mainly one-item meals like chow mein or a large bowl of noodle soup.

I hope this helps you (and others) understand where I'm coming from.


Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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