Ever since Richard Chen departed earlier this year, we’ve been a little concerned about the fate of Wing Lei — the gorgeous, seductive dining room tucked into a far corner of the Wynn. Under Chef Chen, it became the only Chinese restaurant in America to merit a Michelin star. Them’s purty big shoes to fill — if you get our drift — and whether it can maintain that level of quality and consistency is something only time (and a few more visits) will be able to tell.
But the good news is Chef Ming Yu has risen from the ranks inside the restaurant and is toeing the line (or hewing close to the Beijing bone – pick your metaphor) by presenting a mixture of Mandarin and modern dishes that will keep fellow travelers and lao-wai (non-Chinese) customers plenty satisfied.
That’s the trick, of course, in every high-end Chinese restaurant on the Strip. Have a kitchen that can cook the expensive, very Chinese dishes that Mr. and Mrs. Chow Dawn Fat insist upon, whilst being ever at the ready to keep Mr. and Mrs. Tyree Retiree from Temecula happy with upscale versions of whatever Panda Express is doing these days.
One thing you won’t find the Fannypacker’s eating (because it takes ordering days in advance) is Yu’s crispy chicken stuffed with sticky rice and Chinese ham. A whole bird is de-boned without rupturing any of the skin, then carefully reconstructed with the firmly packed stuffing, then carefully carved tableside. It is a technique and presentation so impressive it makes Peking duck look like a ham sandwich.
Equally arresting were Yu’s sampan-style Australian lobster — an Indonesian incarnation of this crustacean — chock full of crispy fried onions and chili peppers, and two salads — an Alaskan king crab and mango and a spinach walnut — that would be right at home in any new American eatery.
Only his seafood pumpkin soup didn’t seem up to snuff — it being a puree of squash dotted with chunks of the sea, but woefully under-seasoned just the same. Western chefs who have spent considerable time in China, such as MGM Executive Chef Christian Rassinoux, will tell you that the Chinese palate (at least as relates to Mandarin and Cantonese cooking) can be very flat when compared to the spiky, spicy, acid and herb qualities most Americans (and Hunan, Yunnan and Szechwan Chinese) are used to. This soup fit that flat flavor profile perfectly, and would be right at home at a Mandarin banquet, but left us yearning for an accent of any kind.
The pretty presentation of East Star cod with chili XO sauce brought some heat back to the table, and the stir fried ginger pineapple duck was impeccable — as all stir fries are here — and just the thing to keep your Aunt Edna happy while you dive into the good stuff.
Dessert, as you can see above, was simple ripe fruit of unimpeachable provenance, but, as our staff is fond of saying: “If you want a great dessert in a Chinese restaurant, go to a French one.”
With that one exception, it seems Yu is attempting to modernize the menu at Wing Lei — mixing the classic and intricate dishes of traditional Chinese with a visual style that will appeal to Americans and adventuresome palates of all nationalities. We at ELV think it’s probably just what this beautiful oasis needs to keep up with the fast moving pace of American gastronomy, and the demands of fussy gourmets.
Wing Lei Dinner
September 21, 2010
(Lychee Prawn, Vegetable Spring Rolls,
Crab with Osetra Caviar)
Spinach Walnut Salad
Alaskan King Crab Salad
Sampan Style Australian Lobster
Seafood Pumpkin Soup
Stuffed Chinese Sausage Rice
East Star Cod
Steam with Chili XO Sauce
Ginger Pineapple Duck