What to Order: Wing Lei at Wynn Las Vegas
Refined Chinese dining has for a long time been something of an open secret in Las Vegas: nearly every major resort has an elegant, somewhat secluded Chinese restaurant, catering to the Asian gambling clientele, some more attuned to Western tastes than others.
Wing Lei at the Wynn Resort has been one of the more noticed among this pack since it opened, garnering a rare Michelin star (the first for a dedicated Chinese restaurant in the US) in 2009, and maintaining a four star Forbes rating since then. But with increased competition, the resort decided to have their decor revised by in-house designer Roger Thomas to a lighter, brighter palette (an enlarged main dining room offers more outside influence from a full glass wall) in time for the Year of the Horse.
That was as good a reason as any for me to join a tasting luncheon by current Chef Xian Ming Yu which included some entertaining demonstration stations (hand-pulled noodles, carved suckling pig, Wynn mixologist Chris Hopkins making cocktails) in addition to the restaurant's typical tableside services.
Though nearly every dish was excellently prepared, the meal was undoubtedly highlighted by the dim sum, a virtual must here: very refined, creative and flavorful, including abalone-pork siu mai, truffled pork, lobster dumplings, crispy shrimp balls and a variety of vegan dim sum that were every bit their complement. A lobster salad was accented by a dramatic presentation; both the suckling pig and Peking duck were crispy outside, tender and savory inside; and the black pepper Wagyu and three-cup sauce grouper were also excellent. The last two are also strong recommendations.
Of the two mixed drinks, the cocktail made with Kai coconut pandan passion vodka, Velvet Falernum and lime was the most rewarding, a complex sip that paired with the dim sum well.
Although the menu here is full of familiar favorites, I might be tempted to bring along a Chinese speaker to dine here and ask the Chef to prepare some off-menu specialties, or just to cook for the table as to his suggestions. I'm confident that Ming Yu would be up to the task (it's a typical request among Chinese gamblers of a certain status) and that it would be rewarding.
Desserts are sweet and creative palate cleansers. I enjoyed the coconut panna cotta with dice of lime gelee and fresh mango the best.
An experienced diner can tell when a serving team has been well trained and isn't just putting on airs for a special event; The service level is definitely on the high-end here, even by Vegas standards. There is a surfeit of Asian-oriented dining at Wynn and its sister property Encore, and one could easily get confused when trying to choose between them. In regard to Wing Lei, clearly the strongest distinction is in service and presentation. More casual Chinese can be found at Red 8, and other Chinese dishes on the menus at Wazuzu and Andrea's, if not elsewhere.
Prices are higher here than at a typical Chinese restaurant, but only to the extent that they seem merited. Unless you're sparing no expense, you'll likely only pay about twice here what you might at an average off-Strip establishment. And it's unlikely you'll feel cheated by it.