A man cannot be too serious about what he eats. – Confucius
Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to pause, collect ourselves, relax a bit, and reflect upon…Chinese food!
Yes, Chinese food. The world’s oldest and greatest cuisine.
For as big a Francophile as we are, there is no gastronomia that competes with China’s for venerability and deliciousness.
To put things in perspective, China cooks were selling food to strangers, and codifying their cuisine, 500 years before Romans started feeding Christians to the lions. It is fairly undeniable among food historians and anthropologists that Chinese culture is the most keenly food-oriented in the world. And it’s no coincidence that the phrase “Have you eaten?” is the most common of daily greetings in the Chinese language.
Confucius himself advised never to eat anything not fresh or out of season, 2,500 years before anyone heard of the word locavore. It was during his life (551-479 BC) that gastronomy started to become a form of high art, albeit one steeped medicinal concerns for bodily and mental health. Chinese food is all about balance — the harmonious interplay between flavors, textures, starches, vegetables and meats — all done in a quest to achieve the perfect harmony in one’s physical intake of food. Eating right is essential to one’s well-being, and the culture revolves around what it considers a moral imperative to eat well and properly at all times.
In other words, Chinese food is the polar opposite of the way most Americans eat….which is one of the reasons all of us should pay more attention to it after Thanksgiving week.
And the place all of you should be so doing (should you have the renminbi) Wing Lei in the Wynn.
Because Wing Lei is not only our most elegant Chinese restaurant, it’s also one of the most elegant restaurants in all of Las Vegas, period. It is a space that will sweep you off your feet from the first moment you walk in, until the last nibbles and sips are done. From the smooth-as-Shantung-silk service (performed with white gloves, natch) to the best Peking duck in the business:
…to garlic beef tenderloin of uncompromising tenderness:
….this is cuisine fit for a Mandarin, especially those who like a little posh and circumstance with their Sichuan prawns.
Lest you be one of those who might complain about paying $38.88 for those shrimp, or $46.88 for the filet, keep in mind that the Chinese also invented the whole shared plates thing a couple of millennia ago — they just called it family-style — and it’s the perfect way to keep portion and check sizes down, and keep that whole yin-yang-harmony thing going. And remember: these dishes are made with first class groceries (unlike many a run-of-the-mill Chinese restaurant), and two recent trips (one anonymous, one not) have convinced us that Executive Chef Ming Yu doesn’t know how to put out anything but an exquisite plate of food:
We’re not one for superlatives when it comes to steamed fish, but Yu’s sea bass with peppers (lower left, above) was as graceful a blend of spice and seafood as we’ve ever had. It’s a special item, not usually on the menu, but ask for it, and if you’re real nice to the wait staff, they just might convince the kitchen to make it for you.
We could go on and on about the food here — the perfection of the stir-fries, the nuttiness of the fried rice, the crispy, sweet-sour-spice of General Tao’s chicken — but suffice it to say that if you’re a fan of any classic Chinese dish, from hand-pulled noodles to Kung Pao chicken, you will feel like you’re tasting these things the way they were meant to be made…not a version you’re settling for in some past-its-prime China dive.
There’s nothing past-its-prime about the wine list, which is stocked with the usual big hitter bottles for big ego showoffs. The good news there are (relative) bargains to be found therein, and the lower-priced nuggets — the bottles bending your wallet for less than a Benjamin — are the ones that go perfectly with this food. Just look for anything with an unpronounceable German name, or a any Alsatian white (or ask the somms for help), and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how well Rieslings, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris goes with this food. No one is a bigger critic of Strip wine lists than yours truly, but here is one spot where the cheapest labels are well-chosen and beyond reproach.
As for desserts, they give lie to our usual advice about sweets in an Asian restaurant (“If you want a good dessert in an Asian restaurant, go to a French one”), by having the good sense to let the Wynncore pastry folks do their thing:
No offense to Confucius, but when it comes to things like sesame créme brûlée, and kalamansi cheesecake, the dude really could’ve learned something from these chefs.
(ELV’s two meals for two came to $157 and $263 respectively – the second one with cocktails and a couple bottles of wine.)
In the Wynn Hotel and Casino
3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109