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September 7, 2012

It used to be that Las Vegas was known as a place you could visit with just a few bucks in hand and eat like a king at a cheap, but not always good, buffet.  While some of those institutions may still exist, Vegas these days is known more as a place where top restauranteurs have opened restaurants, and where the food scene is both electic and electric.  Five star restaurants serving every type of food you can imagine abound up and down Las Vegas Blvd., also known as “The Strip.”  It’s no wonder that on a recent trip to Las Vegas, my husband and I wanted to try some of this fantatic cuisine for ourselves.

After a long drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for our getaway weekend, the last thing we wanted to do was navigate The Strip to try to make our way to a restaurant not at our hotel.  Besides, we were staying at a 5-star resort, why not take advantage of the more than one dozen food offerings in our hotel, plus the dozen or so more at its sister hotel right next door.  Since it was a Friday night, in a city that never sleeps, and restaurants that don’t close until 1 am, we were never in danger of never being able to find a place to eat.  In fact, when we went down to the restuarant we had chosen for dinner at around 10 pm, we had a 30 minute wait for a table!

The restaurant we chose was Wazuzu at the Encore.  Wazuzu features a pan-Asian cuisine highlighting the flavors of China, Japan, Singapore, India and Thailand.  The restaurant itself has a dining room that looks out over the casino floor.  But the central art piece of the restaurant is a 27 foot long crystal dragon that hangs on the feature wall of the dining room and looks out over the guests that dine at Wazuzu.  The dragon is quite the eye catcher as you walk by the restaurant.  It’s hard to miss something that large and stunning.

After perusing through the menu, my husband immediately zeroed in on a drink he just had to have.  Called the Blue Lychee Cooler, this drink features muddled blueberries mixed with lychee nectar and lemonade garnished with lemon peel and some fresh blueberries.  The drink looked somewhat like a pink lemonade, but that was due to the muddled blueberries.  The drink tasted heavenly; crispy, refreshing and just a little sweet.  The lychee and the lemonade were a perfect combination.  The drink was a wonderful palate refresher.

Not surprisingly, I ordered the Thai iced coffee.  I can’t go anywhere that has Thai iced coffee on the menu and not order it.  I always love how the cream is poured into the iced coffee right before being brought to the table, because you can see the play in colors as the cream and the coffee combine.  Like iced coffee should be, this drink was both rich with coffee flavor with just the perfect amount of sweetness to it.

We started our meal by ordering a cup of Tom Yum Goong soup to share.  The waitress had told us that all spicy dishes at the restaurant had a spiciness rating of 1 to 5, 1 being not spicy to 5 being spicy.  So every spicy dish we ordered, we could tell them what number we wanted.  While I’m sure that a spicy 5 is probably not that spicy compared to how spicy Thai food can get, just because this is food being served to a broader taste palette and they can’t burn someone’s tongue off, I was still weary since I’m not a fan of spicy food to begin with!  So, my husband and I agreed to keep it neutral and order the soup at a spiciness of level 3.  I would assume looking at the amount of chilis in the dish that they feel that’s what they use to control the spiciness level.  The soup was good and tasty, not super spicy, more a latent heat that hit you afterwards.

For our entrees, since the food was served family style, we ordered a beef dish, a seafood dish, and a noodle dish (instead of a rice dish).  Admittedly, it was probably too much food, but we figured we might not ever come back here to eat again, we should just go for it and try a couple of dishes.

We started by ordering Drunken Noodles with chicken, which are described as fresh rice noodles, Thai basil, sweet soy sauce, chillies and onions.  Again, since this dish was made with chillies, we ordered it at a spiciness level of 3.  Giada DeLaurentiis on the Food Network once described the “Drunken Noodles” at Wazuzu as the “Best Thing I Ever Ate: Noodles” which made me really excited to try the dish.  In the end, I thought the dish was ok.  It had some good flavor, and I liked the ingredients in the dish, but there didn’t seem to be anything special about it.  It was also mildly spicy, and I did see the chili flakes in the dish, which I’m not a fan of seeing.  Since I don’t like spicy dishes, I don’t particularly like seeing the chili flakes and knowing that I’m ingesting them.  So, I guess that’s just personal preference, nothing wrong with the way the restaurant prepared the dish.

We also ordered the wok tossed Mongolian beef which is described as tangy, spicy Mongolian-glazed beef, bell peppers, Chinese broccoli and scallions.  interestingly enough, we weren’t asked what level of spice we wanted this dish, I assume that the dish is already pre-set at a certain spice level because I did see the use of chili in this dish as well.  I thought that the beef was ultra tender, so much so you could cut it with a fork.  The dish packed a punch and was full of flavor and texture since the Mongolian beef was served atop a bed of crispy noodles which then softened under the heat of the dish.  That was a nice touch.

However, the piece de resistance to our meal was the Cantonese sea bass.  This was the dish that made my husband choose to dine at this restaurant.  The menu’s description of the dish states that it is served with ginger scallion, steamed or crispy panko coated.  As we figured that the sea bass would really shine if it was steamed, whereas a crispy panko coating more or less covered up the sea bass, we chose steamed.  And we weren’t disappointed.  The fish came out to the table steamed and served with Chinese broccoli, which I thought was a really nice touch.  Topped with a light soy sauce, the fish was perfect.  Tasty, delicious, light and flaky.  You couldn’t have asked for a better fish dish!  We devoured this dish.

To finish the night, we decided to go with a light dessert of Thai crepe.  Thai crepe was their very own creation of roti pancake topped with condensed milk, powdered sugar, toasted coconut and topped with a scoop of coconut ice cream.  The dessert is very reminiscent of a popular street food dessert in Thailand where you get roti pancake topped with sugar and condensed milk, and then rolled up so that it’s easy to eat and take with you on the go.  The addition of the toasted coconut and the coconut ice cream to this dessert was wonderful.  It was flavorful and light and the perfect finish to our delightful meal at Wazuzu.

My husband and I had a fantastic dining experience at Wazuzu, one to rival any nice restaurant you’d find in any major metropolitan city.  Restaurants such as Wazuzu emphasis the fact that this isn’t the Las Vegas of yesteryear anymore, but rather the place to go for top-notch food and top-notch restaurants.

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