Saturday, January 3, 2009

Double Woo. Woo & Sam Woo BBQ

It's a cold day in Las Vegas. The wind is howling which reminds you of last year. When you leave your hotel, you see the nearby tree branches moving. Even the street signs are moving. And you are hungry.

You have been pondering all afternoon on what to eat for dinner. Shall we use the Restaurant.com Rosemary's Restaurant certificate? Or shall we use our 2 $30 credit's at Palazzo's Woo? A family member speaks up about wanting to try some Pan-Asian food. After all, you did have some great experiences before at these types of restaurants, like Grand Wok in MGM Grand. And so, the choice is made for Christmas dinner. A quick phone call to ask about the credit as well as about Woo, and you have just reserved a table at Woo.



5:30PM. It's time for dinner. You have left your room which has given you comfort, as well as astounding views of Las Vegas from up from the top. After a quick search, Woo is found. It is dark looking restaurant- the lights are dim, and it is very modern. After a quick talk to the person at the desk you are seated, near the entrance.

You've heard some things about Woo, but unfortunately you haven't checked anything about reviews. A quick question ask on Tripadvisor gave you some results, saying Woo was good. The concierge who helped you book a table said it was REALLY good. And it seems interesting too...as you have read in Palazzo's website as well as Woo's own website.

" Woo brings savory Pan-Asian cuisine to Las Vegas at The Palazzo. Chefs Peter Woo and Ming See Woo collaborate to create exceptional, contemporary Asian dining. Their interpretive dishes are forged using a distinctive blend of Japanese sensibilities and Californian ingredients.

Featured cosmopolitan items include Alaskan King Crab with Orange-Jicama Salsa, Tenderloin of Beef in Ginger Shao Hing Wine, and Maine lobster with forbidden & Bhutanese Rice . Serving Las Vegas for over 30 years, the Woo family is among the few local restaurant groups invited to open in a major Las Vegas Strip resort and is proud to bring progressive Chinese cuisine to The Palazzo." ...From the Palazzo website. They also call Woo a "Fine Dining" Establishment.

Woo's website said that the owner's older restaurant took familiar Chinese cuisine and mixed it in with innovative ingredients. This is what you'll see this evening.

And so, you are intriguied and ready to enjoy some great food this chilly evening. You look at the menu and think about what you should eat. However, you don't really recognize some things at all, like "Lobster on Forbidden and Bhutianese Rice". However, background knowledge tells you that is red and black rice. Somehow though, during your meal, you see someone get a plate of fried rice. Since there is no fried rice dish, and this is the only rice dish, this is probably that dish, but as you look, there aren't any black or red rice! Lying... not good.

After some looking around the menu, you want to capture in how the restaurant in. And so off you go, snapping some quick photos. Later on you find out someone else with a DSLR also tried to take a picture of you outside, but since you gave him an no-no look he took his picture without you.

Interior Pics:

Pick up window & Inside the restaurant
Near the outer area of the restaurant. A huge nice wine cellar it is!
Table Setup. Interesting chopsticks holder- stones!
The interior looks very modern, but also very casual. Lots of red and gold tones as well as black. There is an abundance of wood, as well as black chopsticks, stones, and black uniforms for the waiters. But does it look like a place worthy of plate of a 39 dollar fried rice? You don't know, and the cheapskate in you thinks about your local food where that same fried rice would cost 14 bucks or less.

Mr. Waiter comes, and the first thing he does is to get your drink order. You ask for water, but another server then gives it to you. Mr. Waiter then talks about the food. He says the plates are very small (as in serving) and are meant to be shared. And he also says immediately after that that he recommends you order 6-7 hot dishes/ entrees, and leaves to let you decide what to eat. To yourself, you think WHAT! One hot entree at the start costs already 15 dollars or more! 15 times 6= 90 at the minimum if you go by plan. But that would mean eating small servings of scallops for your meal...

So, after a while, you order. Your appetizer will be tuna tartare (only 4 ounces of it too...and how much is that when you think of frozen yogurt in CA? Very little when the pumps go quick. After all when going to the by weight places your treat is always 7-11 ounces.) with some avocado and wonton chips (not tortilla as stated in the website). It comes pretty quickly.
The dish arrives and right away, it's big plate meets small serving. You can barely see the tuna tartare. The wonton chips are only as big as one of those half dollar coins or the one dollar coin. In other words, small. You think about the price- for 12 dollars you could have instead eaten a big, scrumptious, high end course for lunch at one of the high end places in your local area. But it is Vegas! And so you eat it, with high expectations.

Result: Not bad! But the serving is so small. The tuna would have filled about only 3 big sushi pieces though. You could obviously taste some sesame oil as well as some soy sauce. Avocado added some rich buttery flavor and wontons added a crunch. But was it worth 12 dollars? After all, a few bites and it was gone. The plate was empty.


Black Cod Miso came next. This was 20 dollars, and yet again, a very simple portion. It was sweet slightly and the outer crust was very flavorful with the miso flavors. There was even some skin! Cod was tender and simply delicious. But after some thinking, isn't this a Japanese dish? This isn't what you were expecting. But the Palazzo website did say they have a Japanese style. Smart P&R. Now you can't blame them for bad marketing.

(side note) Personally I would have liked some rice with this to scoop up that sauce. It was so flavorful...but yet wasted!
Chicken chow mein came next. This was $20. A female server gave this to us and said it was "Hong Kong Style". Is it? There's such thing? After all in Hong Kong you can get Chow Mein without the double sided frying. It was plated pretty nicely in a mini wok. Never have seen that before! Vegas seems to be all about diminuitive things. After all, two days ago you saw a ultra mini violin at Ice.

The double frying didn't help much with flavor though. In your past experiences with "Liang Mian Hwang" or double sided frying, the noodles got some great flavor that you get from frying. It's like what flavor potstickers get when cooked in their pan.

However at Woo this was not noticeable. Just fried, and slight taste of butter. The chicken and veggies were simple, and there was very little sauce compared to your local places. In addition the sauce was soupy and thin- they didn't put any starch slurry in. Also, the chicken was thin slices of chicken breast and didn't get much flavor. You also notice that the serving is smaller than what you have in the SGV by about a fourth.

And lastly came two meat courses. This one is "Mongolian Grilled Lamb Chops w/ Macadiamia Nut Crust and Cilantro Mint Sauce, and cost an amazing...drumroll....$35!

Only 2 lambchops? Yes, they were cooked to a medium well which is nice, but there wasn't really anything special about it. Just lamb chops and nuts. We at home make better lamb chops than them. And why "Mongolian" grilled? There was nothing special about that. Just a word used to add some oomph to make you want to order it and think it is special.

Cilantro Mint sauce seemed more like Cilantro Mint Mayo instead. It was really creamy. Lastly, it came with a "Rice cake". You think to yourself...rice cake can also mean mochi, Shanghai style rice ovalettes, etc. But this is a rice cake? (Personally I would have called it a rice patty) And it was so buttery flavored. This isn't any Asian food. Nor is it California style. This is their own style, not pan-asian. All in all this dish was bad to you. It wasn't anything Pan Asian or fusion. And it was just way too oily.
The other meat course was Grilled Beef Tenderloin with "Spicy" Mongolian Sauce. However, you don't taste any spice at all. The sauce tastes more like a pan dripping sauce that is very rich and beefy instead. There were only several pieces of the tenderloin and they were charred, and there was another rice cake which also again tasted buttery. What to do with this dish you say? Well this is what you did (photo taken when almost done):
Mix them up together! By itself each component of the dish would have tasted awkward. Beef tenderloin would have just tasted like char. Boo. And the rice would have tasted like butter. Again, Boo. but mix them all up together and it was good. But as you say again, nothing Pan asian about it or fusion about it. This was not any Asian style cuisine at all.

So, you are mad. Unhappy. Think that this meal was overpriced and unworthy of the pricetag. Right away you think of a 2/5 rating for your Tripadvisor review (personal: started to think about blogging the last day of the trip and so started blogging!). But you are calm. After all, you have 2 $30 dollar credits. Even though it's only per room, you do have two rooms. And if you split the check like what you did during Cravings, you should still be able to use both right?

Wrong. The server comes and directly backtalks to us when we talk about the credits. We are not even allowed to talk about splitting; he leaves immediately. Automatically you are mad. After all, you had a bad experience and know you got ripped off. The server gives no apology. He just says, "I'm sorry, it's policy. You have to come again."

Luckily you got your personal chance to talk directly to Palazzo because they want your opinion on the Food and Beverage of their hotel! And so you link them to here, tell them about their huge problem with their marketing of this place, and also link them to Tripadvisor. And when you are doing the check, you also see this:

(NOT PHOTOSHOPPED!!! I didn't do this on purpose. This is a huge design flaw, and they need to cover this up. Yes...I guess they want every person who leaves this restaurant to think "Oow".Which directly translates to OOW!!!! This hurts!)

You leave moments later and try to feel more happy. After all, Palazzo isn't a bad place to look around at. There are tall green people who are doing things special for Christmas. The waterfall area is decorated with holiday colors (check my review in the future!). And the layout is interesting. You want to absorb all that is possible. After all, you are only staying one night here.

Few hours later, you find yourself hungry. AGAIN! You decide to go visit Noodle Asia at the Venetian, but only find it to be packed, with a huge line coming out from it (WOW!). The food court is also full with people. And so, you decide to go to Chinatown for some late night eats.

Relatives have told you with their past experience a few days ago that Sam Woo was awful. Service is bad and so is the food. You infer though that it was the dinner rush; the waiters are not friendly at all.

Looking around though, it looks like everything is closed in Chinatown. Except for Sam Woo! Open till 11PM. It's almost closing time and you swoop in hungry for food. Some of the employees are cleaning up, but there are still people in there. And so you order.

(Personal last time favorite dish eating here- Beef and Tofu rice!). One of the items you order is the beef and tofu rice. It tasted really good last time. Time for a progress checkup. And it was still okay, but not as good as last time. The sauce isn't salty enough, but everything else is fine. Except for the rice. It's slightly mushy. Too much water!
Beef Chow Fun came next. It was also pretty good, but again could have used a little bit more soy sauce. At least it wasn't really oily like some of the local places.

Fermented Bean Curd with Ong Choy. This dish is yet another good dish, but the ong choy could have been more crisp. After all...they use a wok, right? You understand though if they used a regular non stick pan.

You also order a fried rice, but it is a so so dish. The meat and seafood isn't really fresh, especially the shrimp. It has no flavor at all and tastes just like water. How could this be? Rice is mushy again, and there is no fragrant scent that you get from cooking the rice in the wok. Bad.

When eating, you strike up a conversation with a waiter, but the high point of the conversation is that the waiter says Sam Woo is mainly open for tourists! Wow... and little did he know, we were also tourists coming to Las Vegas from California. WOW!!!

It was an interesting night wasn't it? And when you drive back to the Palazzo, you find that this is cheezy. You have eaten at two restaurants this evening that have the word "Woo" in them.

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Verdict:
Woo: Needs to properly label their food items correctly. In addition the coupon needs to be what it says on the internet as well as there ( online it just said 30, but then here it's minimum purchase 50!). In addition they should show their plates of food before the customer walks in. People don't know the dishes are small, and won't be happy, like us, when their server suddenly demands you should order 6-7 dishes for a party of 4!
Sam Woo: I didn't know they were for tourists until now. They need to improve though on their seasoning, and maybe cooking the rice better. We also saw bowls on the ground that haven't been picked up for a while (yuck!).
Please note though that the food here costs more than if you ate it in SGV. Probably transportation of food cost plus high rent and it's "Las Vegas".

Woo
The Shoppes at the Palazzo
3339 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702-699-WOO (8966)


Sam Woo BBQ
4215 Spring Mountain Rd Ste B101
Las Vegas, NV 89102-8746
Phone: (702) 368-7628

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