KJ Chinese Dim Sum, Rio Hotel
I had an impromptu day off and my mother suggested that we have dim sum. Sure, I love dim sum and I was looking forward to seeing Chinatown in LV. Needless to say, I was surprised when we pulled in to the Rio Casino parking lot; this was not the authentic experience I was looking for. But, my mother assured me that it was good and the place was packed with Asians (which is always a good sign). We had a quick 10 minute wait, at noon on a Wednesday and then were seated at our own table.
We ordered all the usual suspects: har gow, shumai, pork spareribs, stuffed bean curd, shrimp wrapped in long rice noodles, tripe, and coconut filled buns. My litmus test of good dim sum is always the har gow and these shrimp dumplings were good, not great. The shrimp was large and plump, but the wrapper was slightly too think and doughy.
I think the large dishes were $3.25 each, which is a tad more expensive than usual, but not unreasonable. Service was quick and efficient and there were a decent number of carts traveling around the room, ensuring the items were fresh and hot.
Nobu, Hard Rock Hotel
The week before I left, I noticed a Groupon offer for Nobu: $95 for a Signature 5-Course Tasting Menu for 2. It seemed like a great deal, so I asked my foodie friend, Cookie Lee, to join me for dinner. We got all dolled up and shared a great meal. I'm sorry the pictures are so dark.
We started with the yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno ($24). 6 pieces of finely sliced yellowtail were arranged in a pool of soy, each topped with a thin slice of jalapeno. The fish was the right thickness and temperature, and the jalapeno added a much needed kick to the mild fish (Plus, I was still a little sick, so I appreciated the flavor boost). It was a nice way to start the meal.
The sushi course was next; we each got a tuna, salmon and fluke nigiri, as well as 3 pieces of a cucumber and cod roll. Like the yellowtail, the fish was sliced correctly and the rice was well prepared, but YAWN. Salmon? Tuna? Cucumber roll?? Boring.
Luckily, the next 2 courses redeemed the meal. The rock shrimp tempura ($24) with the spicy aioli was excellent. They were perfectly fried nuggets of tender shrimp, dressed with a creamy sauce that had enough heat to wake me up. It was my favorite course of the might.
The black cod miso ($37) was also outstanding. The fish was tender and flaky, beautifully glazed with a sweet miso and soy paste. I thought the glaze was a bit too sweet and I wish the skin had been crisped up. Those are minor complaints; it was still really delicious. I think Ming Tsai at Blue Ginger (Wellesley, Ma) does a better version of this dish.
We finished with a trio of desserts: a flourless chocolate cake with a white chocolate sauce, green tea ice cream and Suntory (a Japanese whiskey company) cappuccino. The cake was perfunctory, but good. I have never been a fan of green tea ice cream. The cappuccino was the most interesting dessert; it was layers of chocolate crunch, coffee cream, whiskey foam and milk ice cream.
Our service was great, and Cookie Lee loved her grapefruit cocktail. I think that the $95 Groupon was a great value, but I wished that the sushi course was a little more innovative.