CHINA POBLANO Slips Us the Tongue

Any article or review of China Poblano (José Andrés’ China-Meets-Mexico mash-up in The Cosmopolitan) must first confront the duck tongue taco situation: [imagebrowser id=965]

Because there’s no avoiding them. They are right there. Right under the “Tacos” section…beckoning you with their clever pun description: Silencio, and begging…nay…dare we say daring you to try them.

So try them you do. And you are confronted with the biological fact that duck tongues do a lot of work…how else could they grow to be so big, cartilaginous, and chewy? Whether they pack enough flavor to justify the $9 price for two of the mastication manipulators is open for debate…and did we mention that they’re darned chewy?

So chew you do…glad that there’s some rambutan fruit in there to distract you from the hard, crunchy-yet-gelatinous texture. You chew and chew and chew and finish, having conquered another mastication mountain (yes, that’s two mastication alliterations in one post), and then dive into the rest of the menu, that is more mainstream, and pretty awesome.

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Our first meal consisted of the afore-pictured duck tacos along with some of the best dim sum we’ve had in town…ELV is tempted to call it the best…along with a panoply of pork — carnitas with rinds, slow-cooked belly — that make its way into the truly tremendous tacos they tout to trenchermen, tourists and trendees that traipse to, and are taken with, Jose’s trappings.

Those trappings come from the über-hip design firm SEED, and provide a groovy-cool environment for this mix and match menu. The best way to experience is to pick and point and prepare to be impressed. Traditional sui mai (shrimp and pork dumplings) taste about as silky and fresh as you’ve ever had…because they were made minutes before you ordered them by Chef Shirley Chung and her smiling, sui mai-stuffing staff

Lamb pot stickers “Stuck On You” come stuck underneath a latticework dome of crispy lace (thin, pan fried dough: [imagebrowser id=966]

…and give a nice introduction to the playfulness Andres brings to these cuisines.

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As outrageously good as most menu items are, there are some misfires. Neither Alex nor Caesar Cardini would recognize (or tolerate) the insipid Ensalada Cesar, the steamed pork buns (char sui bao – called When Pigs Fly on the intermittently-punny menu) are not equal to a version at even a mediocre dim sum parlor (ours contained precious little pork, and what there was was of no consequence), and the Viva China taco (containing a raw oyster alongside sticky beef tendon) should come with the warning/disclaimer: Proceed with culinary caution! Acquired taste ahead.

Other than those few failings, there is precious little not to love about this joint. The classics — pozole rojo, jiaozi, dan dan mian, carnitas — are fabulous, and Andrés’ take on things like simple scallop ceviche (served on top of Key limes dusted with ancho chile sugar) and snow pea leaf are all drop your fork delicious and a ton of fun. In two visits, we’ve worked our way through about half the menu, and can’t wait to return.

ELV’s first meal (for four), with over fifteen things being ordered, came to $159 + $41 tip (no booze). Our second, more modest meal was comped.


In The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino

3708 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109


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