As someone who writes about food and wine, my favorite experience at a restaurant is not to prove my knowledge by ordering from the menu, but to allow the chef to choose my entire meal for me. The best meals of my life, the most delicious, most decadent and most expensive, have all been chef’s tasting experiences where my only job was to enjoy and eat the food. One of my most decadent, most epic and most memorable dining experiences was at the uber-trendy Hakkasan Las Vegas, inside the beautiful MGM Grand. The exclusivity and exotic interior will stun you, but it’s the food that will blow you away. I had the best, most decadent meal of my life there.
The club and restaurant are both beautiful and over-the-top as you would expect in Las Vegas. I would call the style a mix between Oriental bordello and fancy opium den and it all works perfectly. As one of the hottest spots in Vegas (Hakkasan is a restaurant, bar and full nightclub), even having dinner here involves navigating your way through the velvet ropes and nightclub crowds waiting outside. The main dining area (there’s a private dining area upstairs) is gently separated by carved wooden panels, referred to as “the cage” allowing for a nice degree of privacy, within that very public space.
I love tasting dinners and chef’s dinners because I get to eat things I would not normally try or even order. For example, I’m not a usually a big seafood eater, but often try and love it during tasting dinners. Hakkasan’s Cantonese fusion cuisine is deftly prepared by their Michelin-starred chef, Ho Chee Boon. Chef Boon, who oversees the kitchen at all the Hakkasan locations, spent time in Las Vegas for the restaurant’s opening. His experience with that stylish, nightclub restaurant world and food style shines in the delicious menu, it’s what you want to eat before a wild night of Vegas clubbing.
My amazing dinner started with a dazzling array of small plates, including the Hakka Steamed Dim Sum platter. This wonderful selection included har gau (translucent shrimp dumplings), scallop shumai, black pepper duck dumplings (one of my favorties of the whole night) and perch dumplings. Next up were seared scallops with fresh mango and chili sauce. The mango and chili was a great sweet and spicy combination and the scallops were deliciously fresh. The last starter was a crispy duck salad, tossed tableside, also delicious and quite light.
Next we had the main courses, served one after the other in an orgy of Chinese food that put everything I’d had growing up at my local Chinese food place (King Tien in Dresher, PA) to shame. Being a carnivore, I loved the Mongolian-style beef tenderloins, which would be something I would order had I been choosing the meal. Next up were spicy prawns, tender, perfectly cooked with the right amount of kick. A roasted Chilean seabass was next, prepared with Chinese honey. I’m not a big fish eater, but this was light, flakey and just perfectly cooked. Crisp roasted duck, a Chinese specialty, came next, made differently here with kumquat and mustard. The duck, along with the Mongolian beef and duck dumplings were my favorites. After the duck we were served lotus root, which I’ve had frequently during my trips to Hong Kong. Hakkasan served it with a sweet XO sauce and it was a nice vegetable course after the beef, duck and fish. We also had some egg fried rice, which was delicate and tasty, a wonderful take on the traditional take-out version we’re all used to.
So for those of you keeping track at home, we’re about three hours into the meal now, and all beginning to feel a bit happily overwhlemed. But any truly decadent meal needs a decadent dessert and Hakkasan Las Vegas did not disappoint with their “PB & J”. PB for a peanut butter parfait, served with sour cherry jam (the “J”) and some banana and passionfruit sorbet. We were all blown away, as each individual item was a sweet delight and they worked together flawlessly to put us into a near sugar coma. If all that wasn’t enough, a huge tray of fresh and exotic fruit followed. I am a big fruit eater and really appreciate and enjoy fruit picked at the peak of freshness. This was pineapples, assorted berries, kiwi, passionfruit, dragonfruit and various other tidbits I devoured but did not specifically recognize.
After dinner, some dancing
The party didn’t stop with the four hour dining experience as we ventured upstairs to Hakkasan’s main club area to enjoy the sound experience of R3HAB, one of EDM’s hottest DJs. The nightclub at Hakkasan Las Vegas is one of the city’s best and most exclusive, and has been since they opened in April, 2013. Like with the restaurant and dining experience, the club’s ownership set out to create the ultimate nightclub, with no budgetary or other restrictions and I can confirm they’ve been successful in achieving that goal. The space is well-planned, with a lot of room to move around, even when it’s packed (as it usually is). The circular nature of the dance floor and the raised stage means its easy to see the featured performer or DJ. The sound and light system are probably the best in Las Vegas and that’s so important to a great club experience. A bottle of fine champagne allowed us to toast what had been a truly decadent evening in Las Vegas.