A Lucky Star

Woo’s Fú has the stuff to charm the Hard Rock Hotel’s gamers and partiers alike

Fú—no puns, please—is the new Chinese restaurant in the HRH Tower at the Hard Rock Hotel, the name taken from a Chinese pictogram for “luck.” The chef is a local dynamo named Ming See Woo, a fixture on the local dining scene since the mid-’70s.

Max’s menu picks

Shrimp and pork wonton soup, $8.
Pan-fried shrimp dumplings, $10.
Drunken crab, market price.
Half roast duck, $20.

Longtime Las Vegas residents will remember her from the Chinese restaurant Mayflower Cuisinier, which she closed in order to open the short-lived and underappreciated Woo at the Palazzo. Now, the chef is back in her element, cooking a combination of Chinese delicacies for Asian high-rollers and Cantonese-American fare for the party set—she is a master of both idioms. Fú rates to be a lucky addition for all concerned.

Like her previous restaurants, this, too, is a family affair. Her son, Tony, runs the dining room, ably assisted by her daughter, Theresa, both of whom grew up here. Ming See has the magic touch with traditional dishes such as a Dungeness crab marinated in Chinese rice wine (here called Drunken Crab) and Sichuan spicy pig’s ear, but is equally at home preparing Panda Express-like items, such as kung-pao chicken or pork fried rice.

The room is easy on the eyes, with a simple, rustic design. You enter through a tunnel composed of red-tinted bamboo and will be seated at a table with a surface lacquered in black, polished to a mirror-like sheen. The only decorations to speak of are a series of framed Chinese brushstrokes, depicting auspicious conceits.

One good menu strategy here might be to attack the Asian Tapas page first. From it, choose pan-fried shrimp dumplings, or, if you dare, the pig’s ear, cut into thin, chewy slices with a hint of sesame oil added to give them more depth. I’d pass on the baby-back pork ribs with a honey-plum glaze—they’re tasty enough, but I’m not much for oven-baked ribs.

If you come for lunch, there are a number of beguiling soups from which to choose, including jook, or rice porridge, a soothing bowlful of food which the chef does with seafood; dried scallops; or salty pork with preserved egg. I’m especially fond of the shrimp and pork wonton soup from Ming See’s native Hong Kong. One suspects the ginseng chicken soup—really a traditional Korean hangover cure—is on the menu expressly because, hey, we’re at the Hard Rock.

The entrées take you to a fork in the road: Cantonese-American or more authentic Chinese. The chef always keeps a stock of Chinese delicacies in her larder, such as sea cucumber or fresh abalone, but she probably sells more Mongolian beef or wok-fried salmon than anything else on her menu.

Half roast duck kind of skirts the line between both, and it is nicely flavored and properly crisp after having been hung for several days to let the excess fat drip off. I’m not so enamored of her Korean barbecue beef short ribs (kalbi). Unlike those you’d get at a Korean restaurant, these are boneless, and short on the garlic and sesame oil marinade.

If you fancy a sweet, the best choice is probably the mochi ice cream, served in a trio of flavors (green tea, lychee, and mango), which the hotel buys from the famous Bubbies of Honolulu.

There’s also a chocolate layer cake topped with a rich ganache. The party set might go for it, but I’d have my Chinese visa revoked if I ordered one.

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