Pearl Ocean: Lucky Dragon's gem
the world’s fourth-largest country, China’s enormous land mass encompasses a myriad of climates and cultures. Ranging from a subarctic north to southern areas bordering on tropical—with deserts, mountains and rivers between—the range of geographic conditions in China is reflected in the diversity of its cuisines, where local conditions and ingredients drive decidedly different cooking styles across the country.
To experience this culinary diversity here in Vegas, you don’t have to seek out dozens of different restaurants across the valley; instead, just make your way to Vegas’ newest resort, Lucky Dragon. The destination prides itself on authenticity, which includes its dining options.
On the second floor is Pearl Ocean, which, while serving dim sum during the day, transforms into a versatile Chinese dining destination when the sun sets. It is here, against a backdrop of live seafood aquaria teeming with denizens of the deep, where the chef presents the Taste of the Qing Dynasty, a multicourse dining experience allowing the chef to showcase his staff’s versatility.
A recent journey started with chrysanthemum tea to soothe the stomach. The only caffeine-free option on the menu, the lightly floral yet sharply flavored tea complemented the meal throughout. Our culinary travels began in the eastern municipality of Shanghai with pork xiao long bao, the tender wrappers accentuated by vinegar sauce swaddling a pork-laden interior characteristic of the classic soup dumplings. Simultaneously, Guangdong-roasted pork belly reflective of southern Cantonese cuisine was an epiphany, its crispy skin providing an effective foil to the unctuous, melt-in-your-mouth meat served with house-made hot mustard for dipping—sooo good.
Next, Peking duck by way of Beijing arrived two ways. The crispy fowl was first carved tableside, served sandwich-style in bao buns with traditional accoutrements such as hoisin sauce and scallions. The remaining meat was mixed in a fried noodle and corn medley and wrapped in lettuce, the noodles balancing the duck’s inherent fattiness.
A trio of dishes followed the duck duo. Fujian fried rice melded a mixture of meats, including scallops, shrimp, duck and chicken, in a rich brown gravy. And while the name would lead you to believe the dish is Fujian, it in fact originated from Hong Kong. Also hailing from the former British colony is the sautéed scallops with XO sauce. Rife with morels, the sauce consisting of dried seafood exuded umami and hints of heat. And from the traditionally spicy Szechaun region, peppercorn frog strewn with peanuts was a dish requiring some concentration, as the miniature amphibian appendages contain equally as tiny bones.
Our journey drew to completion with a very special dessert: Turtle Essence. The surprising treat, traditionally known as guilinggao and revered for its restorative qualities, derives its name from the turtle shell shavings used to instill it with a gelatin-like consistency. The addition of ginger syrup contrasts the herbal undertones of the pitch-black dessert.
Lucky Dragon, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 702.579.1287