It's speculated, and it's been put into print by both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, that booming American cities with an otherwise diverse and expansive collection of ethnic restaurants, sometimes lack a number of authentic cuisines of mainland China. Maybe there are simply too many nooks and crannies of Asian cuisine to properly celebrate them all. Or maybe the ones in existence aren't as traditional as they could or should be.
Beijing Noodle No. 9, in Caesar's Palace Las Vegas, works to fill this void. The restaurant features a range of authentic regional Chinese cooking, effectively boasting a rich history of culinary tradition. The casual restaurant menu offers hand-pulled noodles, hand-rolled Shanghai house-made soup dumplings, Cantonese-style a la carte dim sum, roasted and braised meats, and live-to-table seafood.
During my recent visit to Las Vegas, I was able to spend an afternoon with Beijing native and executive chef of Beijing Noodle No. 9, Yu Li, and watch as he swirled, stretched, sliced, and spun a few different varieties of noodles. The man is an expert. Watching his precision as he threaded the dough into a million round strands made me appreciate all of the dishes the restaurant serves. If this was the level of attention being paid to the noodles, I thought, what finesse do the rest of the menu items receive?
Turns out, the chefs at Beijing Noodle No. 9 take tremendous pride in their skill and the maintenance of their culinary art. After our noodle-making session, our group headed for lunch inside the restaurant, a chance to sample the specialties. Walking in, patrons have an open view of the noodles being rolled and stretched from scratch. And to the back, there is a sprawling counter area to seat diners in view of an open kitchen. White-suited chefs are poised, purposeful, and quiet in what may be one of the cleanest of kitchens I've come across.
The design of the eatery is fresh, open, and contemporary. At the front of the restaurant, six massive aquariums filled with goldfish act as a corridor to an airy dining room. Since it was built during 2007 and 2008, as the Beijing Olympics were on everyone's radar, designer Yukichi Kawai attributes his inspiration to two Olympic landmarks, Bird's Nest and Bubble Pool. The ceiling and walls are completely covered in an ornate, laser-cut, Chinese flower motif, back lit with bright white light. The whole place seems to glow.
The dumplings and noodle dishes I sampled were delicious. Noodles are fresh and doughy and the pork broth they were steeped in for my first bowlful, Beijing-Style House Made Noodles with Sliced Pork and Mushrooms, was deeply layered and rich.
Sauces are savory, much less sweet, and lighter on the oil than ones I've tasted at other Chinese restaurants. A very welcome surprise. I'd recommend sipping one of the hand-squeezed fruit juices that the menu offers alongside your meal. The play of savory and sweet go a long way in terms of satisfaction.
The dim sum, too, was fantastically flavorful. Ground pork and shrimp were stuffed inside chewy steamed wonton skins, with just the right notes of spice.
And as my friend and dining companion pointed out, "One hint that a Chinese restaurant is serving authentic dishes is the presence of Chinese customers." Looking around the restaurant, and hearing the various languages spoken, I gained a sense that Beijing Noodle No. 9 is pleasing the taste buds of all visitors, native and foreign alike.
Click here to view the menu and learn more about viewBeijing Noodle No. 9
-Andrea Mitchell, Foodista staff and blogger at CanYouStayForDinner.com