Friday, May 21, 2010

The Un-frugal Foodie: Zine

On the same trip to the Palazzo where I ate at Canyon Ranch Cafe, my mom and I had dinner at Zine, an upscale Asian restaurant labeled one of the ten best in America by Chinese Restaurant News. Chef Simon To, the recipient of the blue ribbon award from my alma mater (can you say that about culinary school?), Le Cordon Bleu, has created a menu bursting with excellent renditions of the more popular items you find on Cantonese, Vietnamese, and other Eastern menus throughout the valley. I would like to try everything on his menu, however, due to the extraordinarily high prices you pay for these renditions, dining here is more of a luxury than feasting on similar versions elsewhere.

Between the two of us, we ordered four items. The amount of food was more than enough, but surprisingly, we didn't leave stuffed - a definite plus. We started with the Rare Filet Mignon and Beef Ball Pho ($18), a version of the traditional Vietnamese soup consisting of a flavorful broth, rice noodles, and a variety of vegetables, which usually contains either meat or seafood. The filet was ultra tender, the broth was rich, and the rice noodles weren't over-saturated with liquid. My only regret was that we hadn't ordered the version of the soup without the beef balls, not because they were bad, but because the filet was so wonderful. A traditional pho Vietnamese pho is probably not likely to include filet, however, so this pho is a therefore a particularly indulgent one and the hefty price tag confirms this.

We then moved on to the steamed Shanghainese pork dumplings ($9.25), which for the record, are the absolute best I've had in town. China Mama on Spring Mountain has been reviewed as having the closest version to those of the incredibly popular Din Tai Fung in Arcadia, but Zine puts those to shame. At China Mama, the technique just isn't down. The dumplings fall apart at the bottom because they are too thin, releasing the coveted broth prematurely, and the crimping at the top is inconsistent and often sloppy. Zine is the only place I've seen that can compare to Din Tai Fung, however, they don't have the great variety of options, a sad yet understandable difference. Unfortunately, they also cost twice as much, but for a Strip restaurant I'd expect nothing less. If I put myself on a food budget, which I really need to get around to doing one of these days, I'd order these alone and wouldn't need much else.

We finished with some dishes from the "Chef's Special" section, all of which end in $0.80. I think this is supposed to make the consumer lucky at the casino tables outside the restaurant. We had the sauteed vegetables ($16.80), which were impeccably dressed in a light garlic sauce and cooked beautifully. The little pearl mushrooms were a welcome and unique variation, however, I was hoping for Chinese broccoli rather than regular broccoli. The Honey Glazed Walnut Prawns ($28.80), a personal favorite, could have come out hotter but were delicious nonetheless. The dish consists of extra large prawns that have been lightly battered and fried and tossed with a mayonnaise based sweet sauce and, of course, honey glazed walnuts. Sounds healthy doesn't it? I found the quality of this comparable to same dish at Ping Pang Pong in the Gold Coast, but due to the fact they cost double at Zine, Ping Pang Pong wins my walnut prawn competition.

Other than the prices, there was nothing about Zine that would make me not go back. Each dish we had was skillfully prepared and well-balanced, so if you see a dish on the menu you've enjoyed elsewhere in Vegas, chances are it will be better here. Just don't forget to eat the lucky dishes so your gambling habit might pay off and cover the cost of your meal.

Tonight's Food Ratings:
Filet and Beef Ball Pho: 8.5
Steamed Shanghainese Dumplings: 9.5
Sauteed Vegetables: 8
Honey Glazed Walnut Prawns: 7.5


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