China Poblano–Las Vegas

Jose Andrés is to food and restaurants what Peyton Manning is to quarterbacks and football. He is revered in his industry and everyone tries to emulate him.

And it’s no wonder. Andrés has built a growing empire of restaurants from coast to coast and beyond. He started with Jaleo years ago, a Spanish tapas restaurant in D.C. and moved on to Zaytinia, Cafe Atlantico, America Eats,  Oyamel, and minibar, also in DC.  Jaleo has been replicated in other cities,  minibar has entered the Vegas market under the name of é by José Andrés, and he recently expanded his reach to Puerto Rico.China Poblano

I’ve eaten at most of Andrés’ DC restaurants, but I was very interested to try China Poblano, his newest concept that recently opened in Las Vegas. I had read quite a bit about it  and was delighted that we were headed to Nevada so I could check it out for myself. It sounded like fusion, but once we stepped inside, we found that it’s really two restaurants in one, with two separate menus, two separate chefs and two kitchens. Diners can order off either or both menus, and build a fun and delicious meal…which is exactly what we did:China Poblano

When Pigs Fly 4pc delicate steamed
buns/Chinese barbeque pork;steamed pork buns--China Poblano

Tacos–Langosta lobster/salsa Mexicana/ arbol chile sauce and Lengua beef tongue/salsa pasilla;Tacos--China Poblano

Dan Dan Mian hand-cut wheat noodles/spicy pork sauce/peanuts;Dan Dan noodles--China Poblano

Tuna Ceviche tuna/amaranth seeds/
soy sauce/pecans;Tuna ceviche--China Poblano

Twenty-Vegetable Fried Rice with fresh vegetables/fried rice. Delicious, but probably not worth the extensive online raves it had received;Twenty vegetable fried rice_China Poblano

Col de Bruselas– caramelized Brussels sprouts/arbol salsa/chiltate;Brussels sprouts--China Poblano

Salt and Pepper Tofu–crispy tofu with shallot/garlic/fresno chile. It was the one dish our server raved about that I didn’t love.Salt and Pepper tofu--China Poblano

China Poblano is one of a vast number of restaurants in Las Vegas where you can eat very creative food without it costing an arm and a leg.  And the list seems to be growing all the time as big name chefs develop more casual eateries up and down the strip. 

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Bo Ling’s on the Plaza

This summer, Bo Ling’s moved its flagship restaurant to a space on the Plaza worthy of its designation as the top dog in the chain.  It’s stunning in its contemporary and bold design. Taking up half of the Skelly building, the restaurant would almost feel cavernous if not for the well-divided dining room that includes cocktail seating, booths, and a full bar. There are two entrances, one on 47th St. and the other on Jefferson. There are also a few parking spots reserved for people dashing in for carryout.

This location has added a noodle bar; diners choose soba, udon, ramen or rice noodles, and then add  a protein and broth. It even sells gorgeous cakes, something one does not expect at a Chinese restaurant.

Most of the menu reads the same as the one at the old venue– presented notebook style, each page is laminated and full of photos to help diners make their selections. It’s huge, so plan on several visits to discover your favorites.

We started one evening with fabulous Sichuan dumplings bathed in a luxurious garlic-soy chili sauce. We also ordered spicy vegetable lo mein, a dish not on the menu, but one of my favorite dishes to request…and they are always happy to oblige.

I love any of the vegetables Sichuan style, but the long green beans are especially satisfying.

Yu Xiang Chicken has a little fiery pepper next to it, which indicates the dish will be spicy, but I found it to be pretty mild. But tasty, with chunks of fresh peppers and very tender chicken.

I didn’t love the Dan Dan noodles, but that’s just me. I realized the minute I took a bite that I had made the wrong choice, but only because I don’t like Chinese five spice, and it was clearly the dominant flavor in the noodle sauce.

If you are with a group, consider ordering the Beijing Roasted Duck. Typically served with Mu Shu style pancakes, Bo Ling’s tucks the duck pieces in steamed buns instead.

I’ve always found Bo Ling’s to be quite expensive for a Chinese restaurant. It still is, but now with its new decor and upscale ambiance, it feels a bit more justifiable.

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Princess Garden

I’ve loved Princess Garden since the day I first went in 1981. The Chang family is still running it, with brothers Sammy and Robert taking the reins from their father some years ago. It’s a comfortable spot where everyone knows your name, they always ask about your kids and know what kind of beer you drink. The entire family genuinely wants its customers to enjoy their dining experience and is eager to please.

Normally when I go to a restaurant, I try something different each time. But over the years, my family has a set menu from which we don’t usually waver. Once we hit on our favorite dishes, we decided not to mess with success.

So, here’s my list. Most dishes are either variations of menu items or are not on the menu at all. But ask, and Sammy will make sure that you get what you want.

Hunan Egg Rolls. More substantial than the regular egg rolls on the menu. They also have a kick.

Steamed Dumplings. These come with a soy based dipping sauce, but we like them with vinegar and hot oil, too.

Crab Rangoon. One of the few restaurants in town where you can taste crab in the cream cheese filling.

Dry-cooked Chicken in pancakes. This is a riff on traditional mu-shu pork. It’s made with carrots, sprouts, and green onions in a flavorful brown sauce. Ask for plum sauce to spread on the pancake first. Better yet, ask the server to roll the pancakes for you.

Orange Chicken with Broccoli and Snow Peas. I know of no other Chinese restaurant where the chicken is not fried for this dish. It’s light and flavorful, with a strong orange essence.

Szechaun Noodles. The name would suggest that this dish is spicy, though it’s really not. It’s a fairly mild combination of chicken, shrimp and pork tossed with noodles in a tasty sauce.

Harvest Vegetables. The vegetarian version of their Harvest Beef, this is full of crisp, fresh vegetables that have been cooked in a garlicky black bean sauce. My favorite.

Ask for Robert’s special sauce. It goes with anything and everything. It’s redolent of garlic and ginger and adds an extra layer of flavor to the egg rolls, steamed dumplings or any dish you order.

For a special experience, order Peking Duck ahead of your visit. I still remember when Sammy and Robert’s father carved it at the table with great flourish. Or to wow your friends, have Princess Garden cater a dinner party with some of the dishes that aren’t made in the restaurant.  Bon Bon Lotus Chicken is a real crowd pleaser–the chicken is cooked in a hard casing and split open with a hammer at the table. Lobster with black bean sauce and stuffed shrimp with scallops and crabmeat are also a hit.

One criticism I have heard over the years is that Princess Garden dishes have too much sauce. It’s true that the serving plates are often close to overflowing, but I find that’s one of the reasons I am so fond of the place. And my husband would be happy just to have bowl after bowl of rice with any or all of those sauces.

Princess Garden recently got a face-lift and business seems to be steady, even in this economy. One reason has to be that it’s one of the friendliest and hospitable restaurants around. But I wouldn’t go back year after year  if I didn’t love the food.

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