Monday, May 14, 2012

China Poblana Noodles & Tacos by Jose Andres




I randomly stumbled upon this casual but buzzling concept restaurant, China Poblana at the Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas.  First thought, "Mexican and Chinese food?" followed by, "by Jose Andres???".  I was curious since I knew very little of the history and relationship between the two cultures.


I've visited the popular Bazaar by Jose Andres in L.A. and is a fan of his innovative cooking style, so I was thrilled to discover what this restaurant was all about.  Looking in, I could see there are 2 kitchens at each side of the restaurant, one for Chinese cuisine such as noodles and dim sum, while the other end is strictly for preparing Mexican cuisine.

I brought my family in and seemed to be the only one who was excited about this place.  Since nobody was hungry, nor interested, I ordered a few dishes from the Mexican side just to try for myself.  On the menu, the restaurant concept of bringing Chinese and Mexican cuisines together are explained through the history of Chinese trades in Mexico.  It reminds me of Above Eleven's concept of Japanese meets Peruvian cuisine.  The name of the restaurant, "China Poblana" refers to the colourful, traditional Mexican dress that is tied to a legend of a kidnapped foreign girl who traveled between continents during the colonial era and transcending the 2 cultures together through the style of a dress.

What?

For a better explanation, Wikipedia does it better than my version.
Thus, the decor of the restaurant is very eclectic, with a blend of both cultures in design.  I didn't feel too comfortable sitting at a long, cafeteria-style wooden table and bench.  They did have regular seatings which were occupied at the time.

I asked some questions regarding the adventurous menu, whether or not the items are fusion, but I was told they are strictly non-fusion.  After looking at the menu, I don't quite believe him that there's no fusion going on here.  Anyways....

I ordered only from the Mexican side and started with lengua, or beef tongue taco with salsa pasilla, ever since I fell in love with its tender texture at La Taqueria.  Silencio, I love that name for duck tongue taco with lychees.  It reminded me of a spell from Harry Potter.  The meat on both tacos were super tender.  I wish there was more salsa on lengua.  The duck tongue was quite nice paired with fresh, sweet lychees.  At $5.50 each, these babies do add up and they won't fill you up like at La Taqueria.

A basket of chips and salsa for those family members who had to wait for me.  The tortilla chips were warm, thin, and crisp.  The addicting kind you can keep eating forever.  The chipotle salsa was house-made with roasted tomato and pepper.  It was a darker colour, slightly charred with smoky, very robust flavour and not as acidic.  My mother wasn't too impressed by the version as she preferred fresh tomato salsa compared to chipotle.

Last but not least, I tried a dish I haven't tried before, a traditional Mexican soup called Pozole Rojo which came bursting red with a side of chicharones, diced onions, cabbage, lime, half an avocado, and a shot of tequila.  When asked how do we eat this, our server replied, "however you want".  So we just cluelessly mixed everything, including the tequila shot and dug in.    My father loved this dish since most of we could taste now was the tequila.  My sister and I on the other hand, were still trying to rid ourselves of the tequila aftertaste lingering from the night before.  It didn't put us to a good place.  But it was new for us who had never tried this flavour before.  The soup wasn't acidic as I imagined, but had a bold, rustic flavour from the guajillo chili. The shredded pork was tender and I enjoyed the crisp chicharones swimming in there.

The waiter asked how we liked the traditional soup, and I told him it was "different".  I later asked him for some salt and I think he was offended I couldn't appreciate an authentic flavour.  Well, it's not that I couldn't appreciate it, I just wanted to bring it up a notch.  I'm just so used to fiery Thai flavours like Tom Yum when it comes to red-looking soup!

I wasn't quite content and there were more dishes I really wanted to try, like the scallop ceviche and Like Water for Chocolate--fried quail, dragon fruit, rose petals, and dragon fruit sauce (whattt).  But I was with the wrong crowd that day :(  The dishes I ordered didn't blow me out of the water, but I knew there was more out there to explore.  Maybe on my next trip to Vegas, I will just hit it solo.

Food: 3/5
Price: $$$
Ambience: 2.5/5
Service: 2/5
Value: 2.5/5

China Poblano (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

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