For a town swimming in great Asian food, Las Vegas has always been a dessert when it comes to  dim sum.  Sushi is everywhere, pho parlors seem to breed like rabbits, and Korean bbq is fast becoming the chop suey of this generation. But finding decent dim sum can be tougher than spotting a slot junkie with a savings account. Considering that just three hours down the road — in the San Gabriel Valley of California — you have some of the best dim sum joints this side of Hong Kong, it’s a little sad that we have a bare handful of (barely adequate) places to indulge in our passion for these little bites of steamed succulence.

And when we say “barely adequate,” we mean it. The few off-Strip places that offer these treats put forth limited offerings of standard issue dumplings served with all the passion of a stewardess flinging airplane peanuts. It’s gotten so bad over the past few years that the only places we can get excited about are Noodles in the Bellagio (only on weekends) and Wing Lei at the Wynn (serving for only a couple of weeks a year – around New Years and Chinese New Year).

Then, along came the Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino last month, and with it Pearl Ocean — the first dim sum I’ve had in Las Vegas that reminds me of what you find all over Alhambra. To begin with, there is the selection. Here you order off a menu (like you do in the tonier spots of SoCal, and Hong Kong) and what the helpful picture menu shows are dozens of off-beat offerings like “whole abalone minced chicken tart” to “spicy Szechuan dumplings” to “Five Guys Xiao Long Bao” —  five different buns (spinach, squid ink, flour, beets, and turmeric) stuffed with everything from kale to crab roe:

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Each highlight the delicate way the Chinese play starches, veggies and proteins off each other. Each will disappear fast, as will the superior cha siu bao (baked pork buns) and the pea shoots and shrimp dumplings.

Besides the selection, the easy-to-navigate menu, and the friendliness of the staff, the thing that distinguishes Pearl Ocean from the tired joints serving this type of food along Spring Mountain Road is the quality of the groceries. No gristle-y pork here, at least not on my three visits, and the shrimp in the har gow actually sparkles, instead of tasting flat and freezer-burned. Some of this food is more about texture than flavor — such as the bright red “fish chip red rice roll” in the montage above — but all of it is about one of the tastiest lunches in town.

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Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino

300 West Sahara Ave.

Las Vegas, NV 89102


Ciao Bella!


Ed. note: ELV – that notorious nosher of noodles, inveterate investigator of ingestion, and lover of all things Latin — will be out of the country for the next week re-calibrating his pasta palate. Three guesses as to the city he will be visiting…and the first two don’t count.

To say we are a tad bored with the Las Vegas food scene these days is an understatement. (Perhaps it’s a post-coital-like letdown after the recent publication of our book. (And by post-coital letdown we mean Anita Ekberg.)  Or maybe it’s just that we’ve eaten in every Las Vegas restaurant worth eating in so many times (see graphic to your immediate left) , there seems to be little point in revisiting any of them, unless there’s either a seasonal menu change, or a new chef.

Sadly, even seasonal menu changes fail to excite us, because usually only about 10% of the menu gets changed…because that’s the way the bean counters like it.

FWIW: The new Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino does offer some respite from the tedium of our corporate/convention dining rooms. It may be tiny (203 rooms, 3 restaurants), but the F&B program is the real deal — bring superb dim sum and that wonderful gongfu tea ceremony to a niche casino that fills a niche in our need to eat legitimate Chinese food closer to the ELV palatial manse.

We will be reporting in depth on that dim sum (and the other food venues at Lucky Dragon, once we return.

In the meantime….

Arrivederci to our loyal readers (for the next week or so), and buon appetito to all. (We will resume our weekly postings on December 20.)

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