Vegas: Jose Andres' China Poblano

Las Vegas has always offered something for everyone.  

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If you want it, they can pull it out of their fabricated hat of tricks.  Gambling and partying 24-7, top shows, re-creations of European cities - they've built it all for you.  

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They've even drawn in large name chefs to open copies of their restaurants here. I've never been a big fan of the chain, even if there's a well regarded chef behind it, because chances are, that chef ain't in the kitchen in Vegas.  It doesn't feel like a personal experience.  It's an imitation.  There are however, a few unique restaurants in Sin City where a notable name has opened a new concept, and that was what I was interested in exploring.

I won't go into the still fresh, painful details of how it took Delta nearly 24 hours to get me to Vegas causing me to miss a fabulous Thai meal with friends at Lotus of Siam.  

  Lotus of Siam

Lotus of Siam

Instead, we'll talk about how I landed in the 105 heat, immediately passed the pool and went directly to Jose Andres' China Poblano in the Cosmopolitan Hotel.  While most are over the small plates idea, I can never get enough.  Since I like to eat a variety of tastes when I dine out, make 'em small so I can try more things.  Not only does Andres do this with China Poblano, he also mixes ethnicities as the name suggests, with offerings from China as well as Mexico. 

  Jose Andres' China Poblano

Jose Andres' China Poblano

Overwhelmed with the choices from 10 different kinds of tacos to a selection of dim sum, noodles, soup and ceviche, I needed help to maximize the room in my stomach.  Luckily help was everywhere.  Two different, extremely helpful and knowledgeable servers indulged my request to discover the most unique items on the menu.  

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Being from LA, I am exposed to a pretty good selection of tacos, but one that I hadn't consumed before was duck tongue.  I've had beef tongue, which tastes mostly like beef, but the duck had a very different consistency, even after hours of braising.  It was a little slimy with some chew, but a fairly robust peppercorn sauce brought the tongue to life and it was balanced with the sweetness of whole, fresh lychee.  I was a big fan.

  Duck tongue taco with fresh lychee

Duck tongue taco with fresh lychee

In search of a vegetable, I also had a setas taco with mushroom and avocado.  Again, great fresh, flavors in a homemade tortilla. 

  Wild mushroom and avocado taco

Wild mushroom and avocado taco

The restaurant is bright and cheerful with open kitchens on both sides of the entrance - one cooking Mexican and the other making the homemade pasta for the Chinese items.  

  China Poblano

China Poblano

I sat at the bar overlooking Mexico so I could watch all the action.  There were 9 people in the kitchen while I was there, and they were all women, and all under 5' with smiles on their faces.

Wanting to try some dim sum, I was talked into the Golden Pigs.  I was leaning towards When Pigs Fly, steamed barbecue pork buns, but of course I can get those anywhere, so I went with the pigs that were golden, which means lightly fried, and pure heaven, or purely sinful depending on your perspective.

  Golden pigs

Golden pigs

The buns were served with a handmade condensed milk.  I asked how they made it, and the helpful waiter went into the kitchen to deliver the good news/bad news that it was made "purely" with whole milk, sugar and butter.  It was like a sweet and savory dessert, which is the best of all worlds in my book.

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What else can you expect from Las Vegas?   It's a little sin, and a lot of fun.