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August 21, 2017

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Photos: Chinese New Year in Las Vegas is fit for emperors and high rollers


MGM Resorts International

Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.

Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing

Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. Launch slideshow »
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2013 Chinese New Year at the Palazzo in Las Vegas.

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2013 Chinese New Year at the Palazzo in Las Vegas.

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2013 Chinese New Year at the Palazzo in Las Vegas.

It’s the most expensive and exclusive dining experience that will celebrate Chinese New Year in Las Vegas. The eight-course meal in the Bellagio’s Tuscany Kitchen is $500 per person, and the once-in-a-lifetime experience is available for only three days. This is a feast fit for an emperor.

First, the jewel box-sized dining room will be transformed into the high-level Diaoyutai State Guesthouse from Beijing complete with the food, the staff and the hallowed plates and tableware flown over from China. Secondly, the historic dishes will be modernized from ancient menus dating back as far as the 11th century Jing Dynasty.

With only nine tables, a small number of privileged guests here will be treated like a world leader and head of state. That’s because the Diaoyutai Palace is reserved solely for royalty and leaders. Executive chef Hao Baoli, who has led the culinary team there for 30 years, is flying here to ensure that the reputation of the prestigious State House is upheld with the finest standards.

His team will be dressed in traditional Chinese attire. He’s overseeing the transportation of rare and exotic ingredients and the decor to ensure that the Tuscany Kitchen’s transformation is as authentic as possible. There will be gold drapes, Foo Dogs, lanterns, trees and gates resembling the moon.

Chef Hao also promises that there will be extraordinary fruit-carving demonstrations and presentations and the amazing Dragon Bearded Noodle ritual. Champagne, cognacs and Chinese wines will be served.

This will be only the second time in history that the Chinese chefs have traveled to America for such a culinary event. I had the honor several years ago of attending a Diaoyutai luncheon at MGM Grand’s Mansion and can testify that it is an experience never to be forgotten.

Bellagio President Randy Morton, who will host the Chinese culinary creme de la creme, said: “Food is an integral symbol of togetherness during the Chinese New Year. Joining two of the highest standards in hospitality is an honor and will make for a very special occasion.

“The celebration menu will feature a diverse selection of dishes showcasing rare ingredients and skillful techniques. Strict nutritional requirements will ensure that all dishes are low in sugar and sodium and high in protein. The result is cuisine that is visually stunning, legendary and nutritionally holistic.”

The starter course consists of 12 items set out on three platters of pastry, cold and small dish delicacies. The main course consist of six items, including boiled lobster claw and whole abalone in oyster sauce with three side dishes, including the revered Dragon Beard noodles made in front of guests.

Diaoyutai dates back to the Jin Dynasty of 1115-1234 and the imperial residence in the Qing Dynasty. It has hosted 1,220 heads of state and government leaders.

ART INSTALLATION: Over at the Palazzo is a unique Chinese New Year creation towering 40 feet high. It took 10 months to design, build, deliver and install. To celebrate the Year of the Snake, the art includes a giant peach tree and snake produced by 77 worldwide artists from as far away as the Czech Republic and as nearby as Tustin, Calif. The tree is adorned with 8,800 blossom vines bearing 193,000 flowers.

The snake measures 98 feet in length, and the tree stands 38 feet tall. Additionally, there are 28 custom dancing lanterns in the display. A ceremonial dragon dance and eye painting ceremony will officially kick off Chinese New Year on Saturday. The dragon dance will wind through The Venetian and Palazzo with firecrackers, dancers and drummers in authentic costumes before winding up at the Palazzo waterfall and atrium gardens.

On Sunday, there will be a traditional Chinese fan dance in The Shoppes at the Palazzo rotunda with more than 500 red envelopes distributed to guests filled with prizes. Try to count all the traditional I Ching coins that represent wealth that sit amid the snake and in the Lalique statues of the Palazzo.

Chef Simon To of the Palazzo’s Zine Noodles Dim Sum has created a special menu including firecracker Manila clams infused with Chinese white wine. Toast your Chinese friends with the Jaina cocktail of lemon grass-infused sake, dragon fruit and lotus root syrup.

Gong Xi Fa Cai -- Happy Chinese New Year! May you be happy and prosperous!

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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