MGM Grand Hotel & Casino
3799 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/12/13
London-based Hakkasan first appeared strong on my radar when it opened in San Francisco late last year. I had heard great reviews but just couldn’t fit it in while I was up there during Christmas. That location was the tenth in the worldwide chain, known for its high-end Chinese cuisine; in fact, two of its locations (NYC and London) have garnered Michelin stars, a relative rarity for a Chinese restaurant. Hakkasan’s eleventh location marks its biggest splash of all, with a $100 million, 5-floor, 75,000 square-foot restaurant/nightclub. Literally and figuratively, it’s Las Vegas’ biggest opening this year.
The ground floor is the main dining room; above it, the private dining area overlooks the main room. The third floor is the exclusive Ling Ling lounge, followed by two additional floors for the nightclub. The dining room, dim and full of blue hues, is divided into many sections making the room appear to be full of smaller, more private dining areas. Although this location is more known for its huge club and all-star DJ lineup than its restaurant, the cuisine here is supposed to be just as serious as the rest of the chain.
A long, beautiful bar fits in nicely with the decor – I imagine this as a nice place to grab a small bite and a couple of drinks before heading upstairs.
Our meal began with a colorful lineup of cocktails – two alcoholic and two non-alcoholic (pictured left to right).
Eden black grapes, rose sugar, lychee juice, soda water
The Chinese Mule ketel one vodka, masumi junmai sake, cilantro, ginger, lime, ginger beer
The Hakka belvedere vodka, masumi okuden junmai sake, coconut, passion fruit, lychee juice
Mandarine Sunshine kumquats, apple, ginger, fever-tree ginger ale
We each enjoyed our drinks. I had the Chinese mule, their Asian twist on the classic. I thoroughly enjoy cocktails with savory ingredients, and this was no exception.
As with many Chinese restaurants, the menu at Hakkasan is fairly vast. We picked out one item from each section of the menu focusing in on the house specialties (signified by the Hakkasan logo).
Salt and Pepper Squid
The salt and pepper squid was a relatively simple dish not unlike one you’d get at a typical Chinese restaurant. Tender squid was covered in a crispy batter with much of the flavor coming from fried chilies and shallots. Whereas I find this dish to be somewhat inconsistently prepared across restaurants, this one was well-executed.
Crispy Duck Salad with pomegranate, pine nut and shallot
The server highly recommended this, spending a good five minutes selling us on it. The duck was pretty tasty, with a crispy skin that held up with the lightly dressed salad. A little bit of pomegranate seeds and fried lotus root added some additional texture. We all thought this was a great, well-balanced dish.
Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with Chinese honey
This was one of the best dishes of the evening, a succulent piece of fish roasted in honey. The earthiness and texture of fried mushrooms was the main accompaniment, but the real star was the rich, moist fish.
This was another highlight, simple but very well done. Thin strips of sweet duck were served with its own crisp skin. I think some of the fat was trimmed, leaving a nice balance of meat-fat-skin in these delicious pieces.
Stir-Fry Black Pepper Beef Ribeye with Merlot
The beef here was very tender, similar to a tenderloin in texture. A savory sauce didn’t add a ton of flavor to the meat, but they were tasty chunks of meat nonetheless. Note to self: the woven fried noodle ‘basket’ isn’t really edible.
Three-Style Mushroom Stir-Fry with macadamia nut, gai lan stalks and water chestnut
This dish was more interesting texturally than flavor-wise. Assorted chewy mushrooms and crunchy stalks of gai lan made for some lighter bites in between the meat and fish.
French Beans with minced pork and dried shrimp
Dried shrimp and a porky flavor stood out with these beans, cooked just enough to be tender with a firm snap to them. A very nice side dish.
Hakka Noodle with mushrooms and Chinese chives
Our primary starch component, in addition to Jasmine rice, was this dish of stir fried noodles. They were good with a light spice, though altogether unspectacular.
Upon completion of the savory dishes, we ordered a trio of sweet ones.
‘PB&J’ peanut butter parfait, sour cherry jam, banana and passion fruit sorbet
Chocolate and Black Sesame Cremeux sesame florentine, yuzu ice cream
Strawberries & Champagne vanilla panna cotta, organic strawberries, rhubarb, Champagne foam
Each of these were beautifully plated. My brother got the PB&J, featuring rich peanut butter and sour cherry flavors, complemented by passion fruit sorbet. My dad opted for the chocolate and black sesame dessert, with creamy flavors accented by a bright yuzu ice cream. My mother went lighter with the vanilla panna cotta topped with Harry’s Berries strawberries, an interesting Champagne foam, and a crumble for texture. And me? I just got an extra spoon to sample each. My favorite was the last one.
Hakkasan was the consensus choice (in my family) for best meal of this quick Las Vegas trip. The food was as beautiful as the decor, and just about everything was pretty tasty. The cuisine primarily stays true to traditional Chinese, not moving towards more Western fusion influences that a lot of other high-end Asian restaurants do. As a result, the food felt very comfortable in a way; but make no mistake, it was also significantly more refined than the average Chinese restaurant (and the prices reflect that). I’m excited for the LA location, set to open in Beverly Hills later this year.