China Poblano is one of my favorite restaurants in Las Vegas. I have dined there many times, but always with clients, which isn't exactly the most appropriate setting to say, "Hey, can you not touch your food until I take a picture of it?" I am so happy I was able to return with a friend so I can share all of this deliciousness with you!
China Poblano is located in The Cosmopolitan and is a José Andrés restaurant. For my fellow Top Chef fans, Shirley Chung (a finalist in this year's competition), used to be executive chef. Chef Andrés describes the restaurant as "combining the flavors of Mexico and China to create a breakthrough restaurant experience that encompasses both authentic dishes and inspired new favorites."
The restaurant is located on the second floor of the hotel, next to Holsteins. The exterior is festive and bright, with a street food / food truck vibe.
There are two order windows facing the outside, one labeled "Chinese food" and one labeled "Mexican food."
I love this Buddha-shaped doorway into the bar.
The bar area feels like a Chinese night market. How cool are the red lamps and bicycle wheels on the ceiling?
We were seated on the right side of the dining room, which is my preferred spot. There are long communal tables underneath rotating LED photos.
This one of the surprised little boy is the best! They also have a great one of Frida Kahlo.
We took our seats and a friendly waitress appeared with menus. She offered to walk us through the most popular cocktails and the most ordered food items.
We both decided to try the signature salt air margarita (classic for her, pomegranate for me), a José Andrés specialty.
Instead of a salt rim, the drink comes topped with a salt foam, which is meant to last for the life of the drink, so you get a hint of the foam with every sip.
Personally, I didn't enjoy the foam. I kept getting it on the tip of my nose (like latte foam) and it distracted from the flavor of the margarita itself. I was so focused on not being covered in foam, that I couldn't really savor the drink. My friend added, "I would have had another round if it weren't for the foam."
When it came to food, there was no question we would get the tableside guacamole. My travel buddy for this trip may be the only person on the planet who loves guacamole more than me. A server whizzed over and set up the guacamole station with the speed of the Tasmanian Devil.
Our waitress returned to scoop, mash and mix. I let my dinner date select the spice level and she chose mild. For me, the guacamole was definitely missing the kick of jalapeños. That being said, it was super fresh and creamy.
We were also given a generous basket of chips that never ran out.
As we looked at options for the next course, my friend was digging the taco offerings, but I was more in the mood for Chinese.
There are 11 kinds of tacos on the menu and each is served individually, so it's very easy to try a bunch. My dinner date started with the cochinita taco, which was Yucatan-style BBQ pork and marinated onions.
She commented, "This was very simple, but the BBQ flavor was excellent."
Next she sampled the shrimp taco with avocado, cabbage and a chipotle sauce. After the very first bite she explained, "This is amazing. The chipotle sauce was so creamy and delicious and there was tons of avocado hiding underneath."
My first dish was the Happy Buddha vegetable spring rolls. I am glad I was eating this solo, because I definitely would not have wanted to share!
Each crunchy shell was stuffed with cucumber, carrot, zucchini, mushrooms and jicama. These were fantastic and addicting. Even better when dunked in the salty soy sauce.
Next I had the open sesame noodles, which I have ordered every single time I have come to this restaurant. The dish is chilled wheat noodles, cucumbers, carrots, peanuts and the most flavorful sauce.
I never learned to eat with chopsticks (an embarrassing truth which is usually revealed on a first or second date) so I had to attack this bowl with a fork. The long pieces of carrot and cucumber were sliced so thinly that they were nearly impossible to stab with a fork!
Though this dish is a bit messy to eat (sort of like ramen), the rich and spicy flavors in that sauce make it all worth it. I started to get full around the half way mark, but I forced myself to keep going because I didn't want to leave any behind!
Not knowing how stuffed I would be from my spring rolls and noodles, we also opted to share an order of the papas fritas with mole, crema and queso fresco.
With the very first fry my friend exclaimed, "Now this is street food!" I wish we had these earlier in the meal, when I wasn't so stuffed. In my noodle coma, I couldn't really enjoy them.
China Poblano continues to be one of my favorite spots in Las Vegas. When we were planning for this trip, we were thinking about where we could eat dinner before the Backstreet Boys concert that would have the right vibe (get us excited for a night out) but also wouldn't be too far away since we were going to have to teeter there in heels. China Poblano was the perfect solution!
After dinner, with fully bellies and giddy hearts, we headed across the pedestrian bridge to Planet Hollywood.