Jasmine sounds the Khong, and Town Square gets more Fine fare

Bellagio’s Jasmine has a brand-new bright-red carpet, a new general manager (the affable, efficient Roberto Liendo, formerly of Michael Mina) and, best of all, a new chef, Singaporean Hiew Gun Khong.

Khong landed the job after an international search to replace the restaurant’s longtime chef, Philip Lo, now retired. His food has a lightness and sophistication that make Jasmine (693-7111) a destination for anyone serious about Chinese cooking.

Many of the menu’s new dishes remind me of ones I ate at Lung King Heen in Hong Kong, the only three-Michelin-star Chinese restaurant in the world. I have to say I’m still pulling up my socks after what I had here.

Khong’s fare is a departure from traditional Cantonese. His menu features the Oriental Trilogy of crabmeat salad, soy-braised foie gras and chicken dumpling with lychee glaze, delicate marinated and pan-fried beef tenderloin with an accompaniment of fresh mushrooms and paper-wrapped Hokkaido scallops on rice noodles.

But have no fear. Jasmine still does a mean General’s Chicken, a two-course Peking duck carved tableside, and a plethora of rice and noodle dishes that have come to be old friends. Service is impeccable, and an alluring tea service from an ornately carved cart caps the evening.

Meanwhile, new restaurants continue to rise from the ashes like mushrooms after a spring rain. If you missed our story last year (“Brotherly Competition,” Oct. 6), then you’re probably still wondering what is to become of that 18,000-square-foot space that housed Cadillac Ranch. Wonder no more: Sometime this month, it will be rechristened Ranch House Kitchen, where the concept is, says owner Jonathan Fine, “contemporary comfort food.”

The restaurant will feature creations by chef Yvonne Maatouk, fare such as jumbo cinnamon rolls and breakfast burritos in the morning, a number of gut bombs such as fried green tomatoes with Cajun remoulade and cheddar-stuffed barbecue meatballs, and a Bloody Mary bar. Visit RanchHouseKitchen.com for the full story.

The Orange County, Calif., restaurant Javier’s, which serves somewhat evolved Mexican fare, is slated to open in the space once home to Union, in Aria. A late-fall opening is anticipated. And as if we don’t have enough Mexican watering holes on the Strip, May 15 is official opening date for Carlos ’n Charlie’s, a famed chain serving casual Mexican soups, salads, appetizers and specialty dishes. The restaurant already has locations in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, and Austin, Texas. The Flamingo location will be a first for Las Vegas, and should give Margaritaville a run for its money.

Hungry, yet?

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On a Friday afternoon in April, Mandarin Oriental’s tea lounge feels miles above the chaos of the Strip. A couple sits in opulent club chairs sipping champagne and taking in the view from the 23rd floor. A group of four women, with shopping bags at the feet, murmur in their native language as they pour tea for one another. A dozen women frosted in pastel suits and flirty dresses are ushered to the next room for an elegant bridal shower. Meanwhile, tea-lounge supervisor Ann Hwang readies her bamboo tray. She’s about to perform the Gong Fu Cha service, the Chinese tea ceremony.