Shanghai Lilly embodies the sultry Western-style glamour, and romantic Eastern exoticism of 1930s era Shanghai. The restaurant’s namesake was a notable social icon: a philanthropist, restaurateur, and notorious beauty whose power, wealth, and charm helped establish Shanghai as Asia’s cultural capital. Shanghai Lilly captures the style and savvy of this illustrious woman, infusing its Vegas locale with the chic sophistication of one of her infamous soirees.
Blending the sleek and modern, with the historic and foreign, Shanghai Lilly's establishes an ambience that transports diners to exotic places and time periods. The marble and dark wood bar that greets diners houses an impressive collection of Asian artifacts, including an array of antique opium pipes. The opulent atmosphere is continued in the restaurant's red, black, and cream-colored dining room dazzles, its distinctive minimalism accented by Chinese lantern style lighting, silken drapes, and cozy upholstery, and large bronze bodhisattva sculptures. Two private dining areas offer stylish and intimate quarters, featuring black and white period photographs of Shanghai actresses in reference to the restaurant's inspiration. It is an atmosphere that manages to be quintessentially Asian in influence without resorting to caricature, maintaining the essential elegance and quiet beauty of the cultural aesthetic it is mimicking.
Shanghai Lilly puts the same amount of care and artistry into its cuisine as it does into its overall décor, as evidenced in the stunning presentation of our first dish. The Jumbo Sea Scallop with Spicy Sweet Fish Sauce resembles an edible flower, with a massive white scallop stamen and pinkish cured Chinese sausage slices for petals, blossoming from a delicate curl cuing cucumber stem. Its slightly sweet aroma lends credence to the visual display. The dish explores the nuances between different types of sweetness: the fish sauce's sugar-tinged tanginess accentuates the scallop's natural butteriness, while the sausage's smoky, cured sweetness melds with the meat and adds robustness. It is bright, hearty, and a memorable beginning for our meal.
We are next treated to the Imperial Peking Duck, a dish that has earned Shanghai Lilly considerable fame and recognition. Typically, the whole duck is served tableside in a stunning act of culinary performance. However, for demonstration purposes our appetizer tasting portion is sliced into manageable pieces and accompanied with steamed buns and condiments. I tuck the duck inside a doughy, white bun with a little bundle of green onions, cucumbers, and carrots, drizzle a generous helping of the pungent, molasses-like hoisin sauce, and take a bite. It is a delicious explosion of flavor and texture: the sweet, smoky hoisin, crisp skin, tender meat, crunchy vegetables, and the bun's softness work together in exquisite harmony. The entire ritual is captivating, from assembly to consumption, and makes for a truly memorable and unique culinary experience.
The next dish's identity is hidden playfully inside a golden brown dough treasure chest. Peeking inside reveals large chunks of the Black Peppered Beef Tenderloin, green asparagus spears, and plump, golden cashews that tumble out like jewels. The spiciness of the pepper deepens the flavors of the meat, while the bitterness of the asparagus and the nutty saltiness of the cashews add greater depth to the dish. A stir fried cluster of bok choy, its stems resembling tentacles, reinforces the sunken treasure visual metaphor.
True to its name, the Dragon Boat Shrimp dish appears ready to set sail. Large orange and pinkish prawns represent the boat itself, while asparagus spears impersonate edible oars. The orange sauce coating the batter-fried shrimp imparts a citric acidity and fruity sugariness that heightens their sweetness, while the garlic sauté of the whiter shrimp highlights the salty undertones of the meat. It is a dish that manages to be both delicate and bold, accentuating different characteristics intrinsic to the shellfish.
The Sea Bass with Cilantro and Onion Infused Soy Sauce is a quiet departure from the splashy artistry of previous presentations. The fish rests simply on a bed of green pea shoots surrounded by its delicate and complex aroma. The flaky crispness of the sea bass skin dissipates into an airy cloud of flavor, and contrasts with the fish's creamy texture. The sauce's sweet pungency and the crunchy freshness of the pea shoots add additional layers of flavor and texture to the sea bass. It is a complex, yet understated dish, proving it to be no less impressive than the more visually flashy dishes that preceded it.
We are served the Almond Cake with Coconut Sorbet and Mango Puree, and the Trio of Bananas for sweet treats. Resting in a yellow pool of mango and accompanied by a scoop of white coconut sorbet, the cake dessert presents an intricate harmony of bright, tropical flavors, balancing the mango's tartness, the nutty sweetness of the almond, and the clean refreshment of the sorbet’s coconut water notes. The Trio of Bananas, presented as three ice-cream stuffed profiteroles that are drizzled with nuts and chocolate, delivers a classic dessert flavor combination. The banana reveals itself upon tasting, blending with the sweet chocolate, cool milky ice cream, and cakey brioche to make for a pleasing, and rich finale. The salty nuts temper the dessert's sweetness and balance it effortlessly.
In a final note of hospitality, the Shanghai Lilly staff brings us two kinds of tea and their signature almond cookies to help ease our digestion and sweeten our goodbyes. The jasmine tea is like drinking the fragrance of flowers, while the monkey pick tea, which is named for its unusual and elaborate harvesting method, proves more understated, with a more traditional, slightly floral, slightly bitter taste. The buttery sweetness of the almond cookies, are a flavorful and harmonious pairing.
Shanghai Lilly transports taste buds across continents and through time, to a place of imagined decadence and exotic intrigue where diners can escape the everyday in favor of an intoxicating, foreign flight of fancy.
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Great food, excellent service and a beautiful setting...who could ask for more???
Fantastic food, everything we oddered was outstanding. Great ambiance, you can actually carry on a conversation without yelling ( this is not easy to come by in most Vegas rests.)
Great food, great service, a great wine selection. Awesome dining experience.
My husband and I were in the mood for some good asian food, I located this place and it was great! Nice atmosphere, the dress code stated nice attire. So we dressed for the occasion, there were some folks there that looked dressed to eat at burger king. Other then that everything we ordered was fab!
Just Average - service was terrible.
This was a disastrous dining experience and we (a party of 4) felt thoroughly ripped off. The staff were disinterested and the standard of cooking was deplorable. The sea bass in particular was anything but fresh. They also need to learn how to make good cocktails - a pina colada without pineapple and a Singapore sling which tasted nothing like it were just 2 examples. To say the menu was way overpriced would be an understatement. Some dishes were presented on cold plates and this restaurant didn't begin to live up to some of the more positive reviews we had read before choosing it. It didn't help that the atmosphere was cold and uninviting, because the restaurant was almost empty - I wonder why?