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September 23, 2014

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Zine and the art of Chinese restauranteering

One of the country’s top-rated joints is just down the Strip

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Beverly Poppe

Curry rice vermicelli at Zine

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Zine's imperial peking duck

Restaurant Guide

  • What: Zine Noodles Dim Sum
  • Where: Palazzo, 3325 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
  • Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily
  • Suggested dishes: deep-fried spring onion pancake, $6.25; ma po tofu, $18.80; Singapore-style curry rice vermicelli, $16.80; deep-fried sweet sesame ball, $6.80.
  • For more information: 607-2220

What do you know about Zine, one of the top 10 Chinese restaurants in the country? Probably not much. The two-year-old Palazzo is stuffed with high-profile, big-name restaurants from the likes of Wolfgang Puck, Charlie Trotter and Emeril Lagasse, so it's easy to overlook this place. You probably didn't even know it received this top 10 honor in Chinese Restaurant News' annual top 100 list in January.

Here are some more fun facts: Zine is pronounced "zen." Zine is the only restaurant in the Venetian or Palazzo that is owned entirely by Venetian/Palazzo. Zine was called Jade when it opened, but though the name changed, the chef (Simon To) remained. More importantly, this restaurant is pretty cool. Soft amber lighting and lucky Chinese lanterns warm a long room full of dark wooden tables and chairs.

Even more importantly, the food is pretty good. With the exception of Vietnamese pho and a cuom suong rice dish, the menu is classic Chinese, including Cantonese, Taiwanese and Szechuan, assembled in a traditional way. There is a long list of starting plates, from dumplings to crispy jellyfish, a lot of soups and the rice porridge known as congee. The main entrée list is relatively short, with fried rice and noodle dishes standing by.

Expect solid renditions of your favorites. Hot and sour soup is tangy and loaded with tofu. Chicken potstickers, which our lunch server somehow snuck into our order, are deliciously addictive and much better than bland barbecued spareribs. The spring onion pancake is a standout starter — a chewy, slightly oily treasure that requires no dipping sauce or condiment. As it goes pretty much everywhere, sweet and sour pork is too sweet and not sour enough, but the pork is tender inside and formidably crispy on the outside. Zine's version of ma po tofu, a Szechuan favorite, is one of the best we've ever tasted, the bean curd silky smooth and absorbing all the light, clean flavors around it.

The dim-sum bites and noodle dishes are good enough for their top billing. Skip the pho and slurp noodles from a bowl of shredded pork and preserved vegetable soup instead. Singapore-style curry rice vermicelli is just fine with shrimp and pork and even better in a vegetarian version, with tender braised bok choy. The menu stretches into more authenticity, intended to satisfy high-rolling visitors from the East but perfect for the adventurous Vegas foodie. No thanks, steamed chicken feet, but yes please to braised chicken and ginseng soup, abalone and chicken congee, fried rice with salted fish and braised eggplant with duck via clay pot.

With all bases covered, we are more than comfortable putting Zine in our list of Vegas' top 10 Chinese restaurants. Who cares about the rest of the country?

— Originally published in Las Vegas Weekly

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