In baccarat, the number 9 is a winner. At Caesars Palace, around the corner from the baccarat tables, that auspicious number is paying delicious dividends at a beyond-stylish Chinese restaurant called Beijing Noodle No. 9.
In Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley spoils residents with a wealth of restaurants showcasing regional Chinese cooking. Dozens of unique Chinese options exist in the Valley, and while a few of them meet the culinary standards of Beijing Noodle No. 9 Executive Chef Li Yu, none of them can match their Vegas counterpart’s look and feel. Not even close.
The Japan-based architect Kawai was inspired by the Olympic “bird’s nest” stadium in Beijing. As a result, he created a wraparound metal shell with cutouts of woodland images like tulips and leaves. He also installed rows of fish tanks with hundreds of shimmering goldfish, imparting some contrasting color and movement.
A dedicated noodle maestro was recruited from Hong Kong to tame flour noodles behind the bar at the restaurant’s entrance. This example of Vegas showmanship definitely improved our odds at the table…the dinner table.
Racks of colorful spice jars line the top of the open kitchen, including garlic cloves, peppercorns and chile powders.
Flaky baked pork buns were studded with sesame and filled with none of the sickly sweet pork gelatin you’ll find in lesser versions.
A seemingly simple beef dish employed wok-seared cubes of filet mignon, blistered macadamia nuts, bell peppers and onions. This dish was similar to Vietnamese shaking beef, but with a different flavor profile.
We had to order a noodle dish, selecting a chow mein-like dish with pork strands and cabbage. Searing the ingredients at high heat in a wok imparted smoky flavor.
Potstickers sported crispy skins that were probably a tad to dry, and the pork was high quality but didn’t offer the desired spurt of hog juice. The overall result was above average.
Jumbo shrimp were pan fried in Chinese wine sauce. The sweet crustaceans were terrific, plump and blistered from the high heat.
I probably would have done without a green vegetable, and that would have been a mistake. My tablemate decided the dish would provide balance. It did, with sautéed asparagus and snow pea shoots.
The last top-flight dish was a bubbling clay pot filled with moist chunks of pan-fried sea bass. Our knowledgeable waiter Tommy revealed the sauce is made using chicken powder, salt, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and onion, with water and starch acting as thickening agents.
Pork with garlic was the only dish with any discernable heat, due to a liberal bath of chile oil. The firm strands of pork were cooked with wood ear mushrooms and crunchy julienned bamboo, which provided some textural contrast.
In Los Angeles, the ethereal soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung have spoiled us. Beijing Noodle No. 9’s soup dumplings are significantly larger, and the skins aren’t quite so whisper-thin, but the pork flavor was still winning.
The only dish that really fell flat was the kung pao chicken. The ingredients weren’t noticeably superior and the chef could have ratcheted up the spice at least a couple notches.
Beijing Noodle No. 9 had style points to spare and delivered several standout dishes. The price point was about double what you’d find in L.A.’s San Gabriel Valley. Then again, the ingredients were generally higher grade. If the owners ever want to expand, Beijing Noodle No. 9 would play great in a section of Los Angeles like West Hollywood or Beverly Hills.
Note: This meal was part of a media trip hosted by Caesars Palace for Los Angeles food writers.