It’s been well established that world-famous chef and restaurant impresario Wolfgang Puck can talk the talk. Chinois, a critically acclaimed fine-dining fusion restaurant located in Santa Monica, California is, in the estimation of many, proof that he can also “walk the wok.” So successful was his original Asian and French influenced fusion restaurant that he launched a branch within the confines of the people watching Mecca of the Forum shops at Caesar’s.
Prior to visiting Chinois, I read several reviews in which fulsome praise was lavished on the über celebrity chef’s Asian masterpiece. I’ve been accused of hyperbole, but compared to what I read about Chinois, my favorable reviews are understated. One reviewer proclaimed Chinois as “quite possibly the best restaurant in Vegas” while another described the menu as “a banquet of creative and flavorful tastes from beginning to end.” Some reviewers were even more profuse in their praise.
After reading several diatribes of effusive burble, my expectations were sky-high. Those expectations were hardly dashed when I arrived too early for a sushi bar one critic described as “super fresh.” Studying the lunch menu delivered the promise of an exciting meal even sans sushi–even though the menu listed fewer than ten appetizers and a like number of entrees.
Somewhat surprisingly, most of the entrees are fairly commonplace in Chinese restaurants: General Tso’s Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, Pepper Beef and others. Surely these pedestrian entrees had to be prepared spectacularly well to earn the applause of seemingly every critic in Vegas.
A spectacular strawberry salad helped me understand why Puck is considered one of the pioneers of contemporary California cuisine which emphasizes the freshest locally grown ingredients. The salad greens had a crisp, garden-fresh taste while the strawberries were of equal parts sweet and tart. Crisp won tons and a tangy (but not overpowering) ginger vinaigrette adorned the salad.
Alas, my entree of firecracker shrimp (shrimp, bok choy, water chestnuts, basil and a “spicy” sauce was as much a disappointment as the salad was a treat. Despite its nomenclature, the entree had the explosiveness of the most banal of fireworks–the snake (pellets which coil out like a black, ashen snake when lit). The shrimp was fresh and delicious, but the sauce was lacking.
Although my meal met with mixed results, the esthetics at Chinois are worth the price of admission to a museum. Several rare artifacts from around the world, a jewel-toned decor and an exhibition style kitchen combine to make the restaurant one of the most attractive in Las Vegas where most restaurants decorate to impress.
3500 Las Vegas Blvd. S
Las Vegas, NV
LATEST VISIT: 29 March 2006
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Strawberry Chicken Salad