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November 17, 2017

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Photos: Elegant Hakkasan at MGM Grand is an intimate dining delight


Hakkasan Las Vegas

Chef Ho Chee Boon at Hakkasan Las Vegas at MGM Grand.

Hakkasan Las Vegas at MGM Grand

The main bar at Hakkasan Las Vegas at MGM Grand. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Crispy duck salad at Hakkasan Las Vegas at MGM Grand.

Tiesto, Calvin Harris and R3hab at Hakkasan and Wet Republic

DJ Tiesto at Hakkasan Las Vegas in MGM Grand on Friday, May 3, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Dining at the new restaurant Hakkasan Las Vegas at MGM Grand is akin to flying to Hong Kong and Shanghai for a monthlong culinary adventure — without the 16-hour flight. The epicurean experience comes with total comfort and elegance instead of the rigors of economy class on China Air.

The Asian-themed restaurant is an intimate dining delight with individual dining areas known as “cages” separated with latticework. The Cantonese-style cuisine is similar to the dishes served in the original London parent restaurant that won it a prestigious Michelin star.

The menu is extensive with a total of 80 items, 15 of which are unique to Las Vegas. And that’s before you reach the desserts. If you’re a high-rolling big spender, there are supreme special dishes including a braised whole Japanese abalone for $450 or a more modest abalone with black truffle for $188.

I was among the first diners at Hakkasan, so I asked expert Hong Kong chef Ho Chee Boon to include his favorite signature dishes and select six courses that added up would come in below the Supreme Specials cost. He rose to the challenge and had me dazzled.

I’m still dreaming of the two ducks he served: black truffle roast duck and crispy roasted duck with kumquat and mustard. The Jasmine tea-smoked chicken was another knockout, as were the pan-seared Shanghai dumplings and roasted silver cod with champagne and Chinese honey — feather light and melt in your mouth.

We also worked our way though jasmine tea-smoked beef short ribs, black pepper beef rib eye with merlot wine and stir fry lotus root with royal trumpet mushrooms, shredded duck udon noodles and Hakka noodles with mushrooms and chives.

It was a platinum parade of pleasures. If you go to only taste one item, I recommend the $28 crispy duck salad with pomegranate and pine nuts. You’ll be hooked and want to stay or return another night to work through the remaining taste treasures. The dish is already a favorite of Hakkasan resident DJs Tiesto and Calvin Harris, who insisted on being early diners.

I never managed to reach the soup or seafood courses. I never thought I’d have room for dessert but somehow quaffed the sorbets and trademark macarons. It was one of the best Chinese dinners I’ve ever enjoyed from start to finish — and the first time after an hour had passed that I wasn’t hungry again!

Chef Boon told me that he delayed the opening of the restaurant by 30 days to ensure that all of his woks in the kitchen had been broken in properly for maximum cooking tastes. He’s been training his chefs, some flown from China, for the past six months to ensure that the newest of the nine Hakkasans — from Miami to Mumbai and Dubai to Doha — would be just as awesome.

The Las Vegas kitchen designed by the chef was entirely new construction on the first level of the 85,000-square-foot Hakkasan created at the former Studio 54. All of the culinary equipment was shipped from Hong Kong.

Upstairs on the second level of this jewel box are private, white marble, gray slate dining rooms for larger groups, and behind those Ling Ling Lounge for goodnight drinks. Unless of course you want to dance off what you ate in the Ling Ling Club, the Oriental Garden clubroom with its two-story water feature and the two-level main nightclub with special DJ booth and hanging stage for performances and fashion shows.

The China Air fare to Shanghai in business class is about $4,500. That will buy well over a dozen monthly visits to Hakkasan. And under this roof, there are no TSA agents, just beautiful smiling servers all happy to walk you through the dining adventure of a lifetime.

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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