Like a member of the witness protection program (which would have made a much better story for my disappearing act), I’ve been laying low for the last few months. The frenzied summer turned into an equally frenetic fall, and brought with it a series of seasonal travels.
On a trip to Las Vegas for a conference in October, I was determined to visit atleast one notable restaurant in the City of Sin. Vegas has its fair share of fine dining establishments, and the options left me spoilt for choice. Thankfully, being shacked up at the palatial MGM Grand made my final pick an easy one.
Hakkasan – described as one of the most exciting and successful nightlife/restaurant designs ever conceived – is acclaimed for its contemporary approach to authentic Cantonese cuisine. It has an international presence, with locations in notable cities such as Miami, Mumbai, New York City, San Francisco, Abu Dhabi, Beverly Hills, Shanghai, Doha, and my old stomping grounds of Dubai. The Vegas edition is headed up by Michelin-starred Chef Ho Chee Boon.
A nondescript little door is the portal to a dark and sultry world. As I cautiously walk in, I’m greeted by two hostesses and the restaurant manager, Nate. I ease up, and tell them I’ve had a grueling day of conference sessions. Nate suggests I’m in need of an Espresso Martini to help take the edge off. I already love this place.
I’m dining solo, but the restaurant is filled with couples and groups. Sections are separated by giant Japanese trellises, lighting is low, but the tables are well illuminated. The vibe is stylish and very Buddha Bar-esque, and I’m transported to a fabulous zen garden. From the start, the service is impeccable.
For starters, the Pork belly with fresh enoki mushrooms came as lego-block sized mashed taro wrapped in mushroom, then wrapped again with the tender pork. The firm white meat had the consistency of slightly undercooked bacon – not usually my favourite – but, was surprisingly tasty. Every bite was a meld of soft and chewy, which is probably why the crunchy strips of fried enoki mushrooms made the perfect side for this dish.
Next was the main: the Pipa duck was very flavourful and interestingly, not served with the usual trimmings of pancakes and other traditional accompaniments that one is accustomed to. Instead, before me lay a plate of tender duck meat and its perfectly crisped-skin, complemented with a generous drizzle of a sweet hoisin sauce. My server Maggie’s recommendation to order a side of fried rice to accompany the duck was another perfect pairing suggestion.
As I closed off my dinner with an order of green tea, I was asked if the bar should whip up that Espresso Martini. For the love of sleep, I declined … only to have it brought to me, courtesy of the delightful Mr. Nate. With this kind of service, no wonder Vegas keeps luring you back.
When it came to service, I have to say the Hakkasan team were exceptional, making me feel like the princess that my delusional self likes to believe I am. Beverages were regularly replaced, dishes arrived at a steady pace, and the team continued to check in on me, without being overly intrusive. Despite being a fully packed restaurant that evening, I felt like I had the entire service team to myself.
So, while sleep was my elusive friend that night, the memory of a superb dining experience in Vegas, made it all worthwhile.