Dat Sum PEARL OCEAN Dim Sum

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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 PEARL OCEAN

Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino

300 West Sahara Ave.

Las Vegas, NV 89102

702.579.1287

CHINA MAMA Revisited

imageWe’ve been hearing the rumors about China Mama for a couple of years now.

“Not as good as it used to be.”

“Nothing like it once was.”

“Fallen way off.”

“They’re using store bought, frozen xiao long bao, now.”

And on and on it has gone, with most of these reports coming in from our regs, loval readers, and other trusted foodie friends.

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Bits, Bites, Bitings and Beginnings

ELV — the man, the myth, the Asian food maven — has been a bit under the weather recently. Actually, what he’s really been under is a number of dentist’s, dental hygienist’s, periodontist’s, and oral surgeon’s hands, as he’s struggled mightily to correct some malfunctioning molars in the back of his mouth.

And by “struggled mightily” we mean he’s been so full of novocaine, Xanax, diazepam, general anesthetics and Tramadol over the past ten days he barely knows his own name…much less what he’s chewing on.

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