At Hakkasan, the Action Starts at First Bite

This chic Chinese spot creates positive energy with delicious flavors and meticulous presentation


Hakkasan’s steamed dim sum platter. | Photo by Anthony Mair

In Asian culture, the feng shui of a space has everything to do with creating a positive energy flow, from the way a building is situated to the way furniture is arranged in a room. And the same goes for Asian cuisine, which Hakkasan (in MGM Grand, 891-3838) does immensely well under executive chef Ho Chee Boon. The upscale Chinese fare is elevated not only by high-end ingredients and innovative flavors, but the presentation is also meticulously taken into consideration.

You may think you know Mongolian beef, but this is a far cry from your neighborhood Chinese takeout joint. Large slices of beef tenderloin marinate in a chili garlic sauce, imparting a little heat and punch to the dish. After the beef is cooked, coated with savory, peppery jus, the pieces are stacked upon one another with smoky, sliced green poblano peppers. Forget the pile of fried noodles that usually serve as the base for Mongolian beef—Hakkasan elegantly presents its stacked creation on a yellow edible basket made of rice flour, potato starch and custard powder to resemble the cross section of a lotus root. You still get the spicy, meaty flavors and the crunchy texture you love from the noodles.

Another important element of Asian culture is numerology. Eight is the luckiest number out there, and in Las Vegas, we need all the luck we can get. That’s why there are eight dumplings in Hakkasan’s dim sum platter: two carefully crafted pieces each of har gow, scallop shumai, perch dumpling and black pepper duck. A well-trained dim sum chef, who understands the proper balance of ingredients that goes into a dumpling wrapper, painstakingly assembles each.


Fruit plate. | Photo by Anthony Mair


Mongolian-style beef | Photo by Anthony Mair

But it’s not only the food that is well structured and balanced. Hakkasan’s mixology team created two new cocktails for fall, playing with the flavors of the season. Blood and Sand is a classic drink from the 1920s, which Hakkasan turns on its head. Typically what makes a Blood and Sand is red-hued blood orange juice and Scotch. Instead, this Asian-influenced version is made with umeshu plum liqueur and Dalmore 12-year single malt Scotch. The orange finally comes in with orange wood smoke and dehydrated blood orange slices, which adds brightness, but enhances the smokiness of the Scotch.

After dinner, if you’re looking for something exotic and a little sweet, the Cantonese Flip is what should touch your lips. Rhum Clément VSOP carries typical fall notes of caramel and dried fruit, while Dancing Pines chai liqueur gives off five spice and black tea notes. It gets more autumnal with pumpkin juice, while Rhumchata and egg whites add creamy body to the drink. If fall could be embodied in a glass, this would be it.

Hakkasan is a stunning space, no question about that. But there is method to the madness, even in the cuisine. Every ingredient has its place and its purpose, built to not only be architecturally and visually pleasing, but to create harmony on the palate as well.