Mmm good festival, a golden chef and a hidden noodle gem

An impressive crowd gathered recently for the poolside Epicurean Charitable Foundation Gala at the M Resort, with benefits going to culinary scholarships. Chefs from the Strip and local restaurants displayed their wares, and the food and drink was truly outstanding.

One of the best items was prepared by the Light Group’s corporate chef, Brian Massie, who butchered a whole side of roast lamb, from which he made a great gyros sandwich for the crowd.

Rao’s at Caesars Palace did a wonderful pair of dishes: sweet Italian sausage with Savoy cabbage, and fiochetti, little beggar’s purses with ricotta cheese and Bartlett pear filling. Jean-Philippe made little mojito shooters and strawberry panna cotta topped with beignet doughnuts for dessert. In all, more than 30 restaurants participated.

The next day it was formally announced that Penn Gaming acquired the M for $230 million, a bargain in this or any economy. There’s no denying the talent pool of Las Vegas culinary professionals is deep and impressive. Now one of our unheralded chefs, Ze Zheng of Mandalay Bay, has distinguished himself in high style. On Oct. 3, Zheng won the Gold Medal in Cantonese cuisine at the third NTD International Chinese Culinary Competition in New York City, beating out chefs from Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and the United States. Zheng, who is originally from Canton, China, is a third-generation chef. Next time you slurp Chinese noodles in the hotel, you’ll know why they taste so good.

Talking noodles, Noodle Palace, a small, mezzanine-level haunt at 5115 Spring Mountain Road (798-1113), is one of the Chinatown’s hidden treasures. It’s the restaurant of choice for local and visiting Cantonese hungry for wonton min, pork- and shrimpfilled wonton with noodles in soup, which is served in a portion that would easily feed two.

Noodle Palace is laughably cheap, as evidenced by the $4.50 lunch menu. But the wonton noodle soup is what most Chinese come here for, and after one bowlful, you will be among the fans. There must be a dozen wonton in this bowl, and the broth is delicious. The secret is shrimp roe, along with an intense chicken stock.

Other exotic dishes are written on paper signs are posted on the walls. Try green beans with XO sauce, a thick sauce based on dried scallops, or the stir-fried lamb.

Hungry, yet?

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