A Table Set For High Rollers

By Beth Kracklauer

Published on March 14, 2012

Hidden away in the MGM Grand, far from the blinking and bleeping of the slot machines on the main casino floor, there is a hushed garden under a high glass dome where it's always between 73 and 75 degrees and the adjoining architecture was copied detail for detail from an 18th-century Tuscan villa. This is the Mansion, and guests are admitted by invitation only.

A majority are Asian—most of them Chinese visiting from the mainland, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, or British Columbia—and their game is usually high-stakes baccarat. A player retiring from the tables at 1:00 a.m. might spontaneously request a ten-course dinner for himself and a dozen friends. No problem. The menu might run to lobster stir-fried with chili sauce and scattered with slivers of lemongrass. Fried chicken wings glazed with a sauce of dried red chile and miso. Strips of seared filet mignon and king mushroom, garnished with leaves of fried basil and a cherry tomato flash-fried and deftly peeled to resemble a blossom.

Executive chef Pui Wing Hui, a veteran of a number of celebrated kitchens, came to the Mansion from Hong Kong in 1999. "Each guest has their own unique taste," he says. "Some prefer traditional dishes; others are looking for new creations." The game they're here to play, in which one might wager upward of $100,000 in a single hand, is never far from their minds. Auspicious foods—chicken, for good luck; fish, an emblem of plenty—are welcome. An ingredient like bitter melon, whose Mandarin name can also be interpreted as "not happy," will appear on the menu called something else. And should a guest crave a classic coq au vin or something more nouvelle, co-executive chef Christian Rassinoux and his team, in charge of the Continental-style menu, are always on hand to ensure that the good times never, ever stop rolling.

Credit: Todd Coleman

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