entrance to Wazuzu; deep friend sweet shrimp; "dragon balls" (black sesame filled rice dumplings in ginger black tea broth)

I’m trying to write a blog post about the food in Vegas. The excess of food in Vegas, I should say, but it’s been hard going because every time I look at my photos, just like that, like magic, my muffin top pops out above the waist of my far-too-skinny 7 for all Mankind jeans, and at the same time, I’m salivating over all the food we ate. That’s a double whammy if you haven’t already worked it out. Muffin top’s gone wild, and I’m still hungry. So you see, it’s hazardous for me to write about Vegas right now.

But I do have to write about Vegas (because I can be a little obsessive compulsive and everything needs to be chronological), so I’m gonna focus on the one healthy meal we had ~ healthy as in Asian, as opposed to mammoth burgers and such devilish temptations as white chocolate brioche french toast.

Asian we wanted, and boy did we get. Pan-Asian, to be precise, not fusion, but traditional fanfare from the vast reaches of the far east, brought together by Chinese-Thai chef Jet Tila, who heads up the kitchen of Wazuzu in The Strip’s newest resort hotel, the Wynn Encore.

By an incredible stroke of gastronomous luck, I was virtually introduced to Jet and his first lady Sophie, prior to visiting Wazuzu. And for the ethically inclined amongst you, the meal was semi-comped, which I did not expect, and in all honesty would have been happy to pay for myself.

I didn’t really know what to expect from Wazuzu. I mean, well, I expected yet another modern Japanese restaurant, which seems to be a global trend. But a glance at the menu and I was greeted with rotigalbi, and old skool Chinese dessert dragon balls, and I knew I was playing in a whole different arena. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced pan-Asian cuisine to this degree, and his ability to create traditional dishes (fuelled namely by his secondment of a thoroughly pan-Asian kitchen staff) is obviously something that Jet is proud of.

sweet shrimp, yellowtail sashimi & sea urchin; Thai iced tea; "crunch roll" (panko crusted shrimp, masago aioli, cucumber & avocado topped with Japanese rice crackers)

Maybe it’s because I’m a pig, or maybe the menu is just that divine, but I wanted to order everything. Luckily Jet took this as his cue to relinquish me of the responsibility and offered to send out a sampling of dishes, because a brain explosion amidst the crowd of high rollers would not have been cool.

Check out our deliciously pan-Asian feast:

Delectable appetisers to whet my appetite…

Japan: mixed sushi & sashimi platter, including yellowtail sashimi, sweet shrimp sashimi, deep fried shrimp heads (I ate the lot, eye balls and all – yum!) and sea urchin (which I normally cringe at, but *high five* I ate this!).

Japan: “crunch roll” – panko crusted shrimp, masago aioli, cucumber & avocado topped with Japanese rice crackers

Thailand: Thai iced tea with what I’m guessing is a big shot of condensed milk *to die for*

Thailand: miniature espresso cups of tom yum goong and tom kha gai

My winning appetiser would have been the crunch roll with the tom kha gai a very close second. It’s really not like tempura is unhealthy (God, in Vegas it would be considered on par with sucking on a celery stick – but not swallowing because *tsk tsk* to the calories) but the Wazuzu crunch roll contains a panko crusted shrimp instead of tempura, with the crunch sensations created by an outer coat of Japanese rice crackers, or rice crispies in my opinion. Equally delish, no?

The tom kha gai was a flavour combustion and then some. A big fan of tom kha gai on any given day (in London you can find me in the lunch queue at Thai 33, ordering my tom kha gai with rice), I’d say this itsy bitsy cup was one of the best I’ve had. The soup swizzled around my mouth in a delicate harmony of coconut and spice, leaving my taste buds dancing with glee.

tom yum goong soup with shimeji mushrooms; tom kha gai soup

Kicking into gear with traditional Asian mains…

Korea: galbi short ribs (this, I’m sure, is what they serve in heaven)

Malaysia & Thailand: roti panang (panang chicken curry with flat bread)

Thailand: Wazuzu pineapple fried rice

China: steamed sea-bass with Chinese vegetables

Hands down absolute favourite of the night ~ the Korean galbi short ribs. I expected this to be better than anything I’ve ever cooked for myself at the local Korean BBQ joint, but holy heck, I did not expect it to be this good. Normally too saucy or not saucy enough or too cooked or too bony, galbi is something I always order but not consistently 100% happy with. Not so at Wazuzu. The galbi here is covered in the lightest layer of sauce (galbi sauce? Am I really that uncreative?) and barbequed to what I gather is an exact science because the meat is tender, perfectly cooked, fragrant and well, it’s topped with sesame seeds and shallots. We all know how much I love my shallots.

As we lapped up the roti panang and pineapple fried rice, Jet sends out one last dish, a dish to top them all (except for my galbi of course). The steamed seabass was an immaculate way to finish off the meal, so fresh, clean and soft that it basically vetoed all the crap we’d ingested in Vegas. On par with the Kai Mayfair seabass, it’s not usually something I would order myself, but ah, this is why you let the chef pick. He knows what’s good, he works there.

Korean galbi short ribs; roti panang (panang chicken curry with flat bread); Wazuzu pineapple fried rice; steamed seabass with chinese vegetables

Dessert – because there is always room…

Dessert, my love, my true love. You know when you love someone and you truly believe that they cannot get any better? And then they do? And you’re like OMG how did I live without this new uber goodness before?! Ok, there’s a reason why I don’t write professionally, but you get the idea. I love my dessert but my whole life, thirty years, I’d Never. Had. Mochi. Ice. Cream. Balls. And that in itself is rather balls. But we’ve corrected this repulsive wrong in my life and now I’ve had mochi ice cream balls like five hundred times (God love America). And I credit Wazuzu to the introduction, so if mochi ice cream balls and I ever get married? You can totally give me away.

Wazuzu desserts blew my mind, every single one of them. The mochi ice cream balls, the dragon balls (black sesame balls in a ginger tea soup which I haven’t had for what, two decades?), coconut ice cream with itsy bitsy macaroons broken into the scrumptious cream, and a new dessert Jet piloted with us ~ we’re calling it coconut four ways:  coconut sticky rice with coconut Thai custard served with coconut ice cream and coconut anglais.

Coco, anyone?

sticky rice with Thai custard, coconut ice cream & coconut anglais; "dragon balls"; Wazuzu coconut ice cream; mochi ice cream duo

Without shamelessly plugging Wazuzu because I now consider the Executive chef my friend, go to Wazuzu. Ok fine, I’ll shamelessly plug it because you know what? It’s worth the visit. It’s truly an extraordinary whirlwind Asian foodie trip, all from your Vegas hot seat.

Wazuzu (in the Wynn Encore)
3131 Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV, 89109
(702) 248 3463

Wazuzu (Encore) on Urbanspoon

3 Thoughts on “pan-Asian dining @ Wazuzu: one meal, five countries, all from the heart of Vegas

  1. I usually get really really nervous when I see a menu spanning so many cuisines; how can the chef possibly be good at them all? It looks like it’s worked out for you though.

    (I looooooove mochi ice cream)

  2. Lizzie: I know what you mean about being nervous. Wazuzu was pretty amazing though and after having had a kitchen tour, I believe it’s because the Head Chef has pulled chefs from every Asian cuisine, so there is an expert in every area. Pretty crazy stuff. And OMG HOW GOOD ARE MOCHI ICE CREAM BALLS?? 😀

  3. Catherine on October 19, 2009 at 5:51 pm said:

    Hi! I’ve just stumbled on your blog today and I AM LOVING IT. Great energy and i love your style of writing. Pity I didn’t see it sooner though, I live in the SF Bay area and could have recommended a whole bunch of restaurants for you to check out. If you’re ever back in the area, let me know!!!!

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