Aria’s Blossom intrigues with inventive Chinese cuisine
There are few ethnic cuisines more integrated into the fabric of American culture than Chinese food. No matter how small of a town you hail from, you had a local Chinese joint dishing out chop suey, egg foo young and General Tso’s chicken—all hallmarks of Chinese-American cuisine. But not all Chinese cooking involves takeout containers and fortune cookies, so if you’re in search of an elevated experience, look no further than Aria, where tucked off the expansive main casino floor, Blossom waits.
Entering the clean, contemporary room, awash in stone and wood, gives you a good idea of what’s to come. Blossom strives for authenticity with a menu that favors lesser-known fare. So while house-made pot stickers with pork and cabbage are available as an appetizer, so is a salt-and-pepper rendition of crispy fried eggplant, delivering a bit of heat. And the most decadent of menu items—a hearty slice of goose liver wok-fried at super-high heat with a crisped exterior giving way to an unctuous interior—is an atypical offering.
From the sea, a ginormous Santa Barbara spot prawn arrives shell-on. Don’t be afraid to tear it apart with your hands and devour it completely, as the paper-thin carapace is where the intense ocean flavor is concentrated. For a land-based option instead, beef tenderloin, normally served with portobello mushrooms in a black pepper sauce, can also be ordered with a healthy helping of toasted garlic. In fact, Blossom prides itself in offering off-menu items; so don’t be afraid to inquire about your favorites.
Which brings us to the pièce de résistance in a house specialty that has amassed its own cult following: the ma la fish. Its Western name—spicy water fish—hints as to what you’ll encounter with Chilean sea bass bathed in a Szechuan pepper and red chili-rich broth consisting of a combination of Chile and grape seed oils. The dish is complex and mind-numbingly hot, which is exactly why it remains off-menu, as chef Chi Kwun Choi refuses to lessen its spiciness for anyone. For an even more profound experience, pair it with spicy XO lobster fried rice. While rice typically cools the palate, this incarnation has a lingering heat. Mingling with it the Szechuan peppercorns of the ma la creates unforgettable electricity and mouth mayhem.
Quench the heat with a drink as Blossom offers an intriguing selection of baijius: a high-alcohol spirit typically distilled from sorghum and similar to vodka. Baijiu isn’t for the faint of heart, so it might be best to explore the Baijiu Colada as an introduction to the Chinese liquor. The tropical juice base will transport you to a desert isle or a bar called O’Malley’s where you can plan your escape. If this isn’t enough, then save room for the mango pomelo sago: a cold, sweet tapioca dessert akin to soup, popular in Hong Kong. Sago may not be on your local Chinese restaurant’s menu, but that’s because Blossom is not your local Chinese restaurant.
Aria, 5:30-10:30 p.m. daily. 877.230.2742