Photo: Krystal Ramirez

Into the Mouth of the Dragon

Seven auspicious, delicious ways to experience authentic Chinese cuisine at Lucky Dragon

Photography by Krystal Ramirez

When you enter Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino, you are immediately immersed in Asian culture. From the signage displayed prominently in Chinese (followed by the English translation) and the crimson and golden hues of the decor, to the bricks imported from a Beijing government housing alley and the grab-and-go cans of mangosteen juice available at Dragon’s Alley—the Far East is as close as Las Vegas and Sahara boulevards.

The same goes for those who delight in authentic Asian cuisine. All the chefs at restaurants Pearl Ocean and Phoenix hail from either Hong Kong or China. Rare ingredients such as wild morel mushrooms come from Tibet, and extraordinary teas are shipped straight from family-owned Chinese farms.

Here, five unique concepts provide total immersion in regional Chinese cooking. Property executive chef Phuoc Luu collaborated with consulting chef Willy Ng of the San Francisco Bay Area’s Koi Palace—which is widely regarded as one of the best places for dim sum in the U.S.—to deliver dining experiences of undisputable authenticity. Phoenix is geared toward the adventurous guest, offering Kurobuta pork, deer tendon and abalone, among the many rare and exquisitely prepared dishes. Pearl Ocean is the place for dim sum featuring a tank filled with exotic, live crustaceans within view of diners. Cha Garden tea bar and lounge boasts 50 of the best teas from China, one of them available in the U.S. only at this location. For people on the go, there’s Dragon’s Alley. Modeled after China’s street markets, the stations present an abundance of food choices, including wok-fried noodles, meat dishes, custom-made noodle soups, barbecue pork and duck, boba teas and artful sweet confections. Finally, Bao Now is a 24-hour grab-and-go counter featuring quick snacks, as well as hearty meals such as congee and stew.

If you’re up for the challenge, here is your culinary route to Asia from Las Vegas.

Photo: Krystal Ramirez

Bird Nest in Coconut at Phoenix

The bird nest at the heart of the famous bird nest soup contains no twigs or feathers. The edible nest is crafted by a particular tropical avian, the swiftlet, which uses its own spittle to create a sticky frame that hardens into a functional structure. Swiftlets build their nests on the sheer limestone walls of dark caves. When harvested, the nests are dry and hard, but become jellylike when immersed in liquid. Once reserved for emperors and their courts, the bird nest has become a luxury item in China. Prized for its alleged health benefits—aiding in lung, kidney, stomach and spleen function and providing cell growth—it is also one of the most expensive foods in the world. This natural delicacy, also called “the caviar of the East,” can be prepared savory as a soup, or sweet, as it is at Phoenix, where it is braised and combined with cubed sugar, coconut milk and young coconut. $168

Photo: Krystal Ramirez

Sautéed Assorted Mushrooms and Jalapeño with Tenderloin Beef Cube at Phoenix

A house special, succulent cubes of tenderloin are wok-tossed with assorted mushrooms and jalapeño peppers, then drizzled with wasabi aioli. $58

Photo: Krystal Ramirez

Beef Stew at Bao Now

This hearty braised beef stew is unique, with deep flavors that develop from the use of star anise, five spice and other classic Cantonese ingredients. Large chunks of beef are simmered with bok choy, onions and carrots and served with either rice or noodles. Choose from thin (pho) or thick (hor fun) egg noodles. $13.88

Photo: Krystal Ramirez

Vegetarian Chow Fun at Dragon’s Alley

Made from wide hor fun rice noodles, chow fun is a Cantonese staple that is popular in southern China, particularly in the Guangdong province. An important factor in the creation of this dish is quick stir-frying over extremely high flames. You can watch the chefs make this dish  in the glass-enclosed Jewel Kitchen. Chow fun’s smoky flavor comes from the intense heat of the wok. The vegetarian chow fun combines noodles and bean sprouts in this simple and light, yet filling, dish. $2

Photo: Krystal Ramirez

Five Guys Xiao Long Bao at Pearl Ocean

As seen on billboards around town, Lucky Dragon’s signature dish arrives as a steam basket consisting of five colored xiaolongbao. The popular sampler features a collection of Shanghai pork soup dumplings in a variety of flavors. The traditional dough dumpling is filled with juicy pork; the red dumpling contains a fresh beet filling, its skin infused with beet juice; the squid-ink dumpling has a black truffle center; the green spinach dumpling surrounds a kale center; and the golden turmeric dumpling is stuffed with crab roe. $12.88

Photo: Krystal Ramirez

Dungeness Crab Meat Sautéed With Egg Whites at Pearl Ocean

Cool-water-loving Dungeness crab is in season during the winter months, and they are plentiful at Pearl Ocean. Here, a whole crab is prepared two ways. Fried with five spice and salt and pepper, the key is to crack the shell to get at the succulent meat and then nibble the golden crust. In the second preparation, the crab is sautéed in a fluffy cloud of egg whites, then topped with a fresh yolk. Market price

Photo: Krystal Ramirez

Five Spice Soy Sauce Duck Wings at Cha Garden

Cha Garden specializes in tea but also offers a selection of small cold bites, presenting the ideal opportunity to explore pairings with the tea sommelier. Seven braised duck wings, marinated in five spice and soy sauce, pair well with a tea that is equally as complex. Coupled with the full-bodied Phoenix Mountain Oolong (Mi Lan Xiang), the hearty flavors of the duck stand up. The leaves of this tea are oxidized to at least 30 percent and then roasted repeatedly to bring about a honeylike aroma and flavor. The resulting tea is sweet, with a subtle floral character of orange blossom honey. Duck wings, $9; Mi Lan Xiang, $20