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Shirley Chung on Returning to Las Vegas and Her Chinese Menu in Orange County

She may bring Twenty Eight Restaurant & Lounge to Las Vegas. In the meantime, Chung has a whole new menu with a couple familiar dishes from her days at China Poblano.

Shirley Chung
Shirley Chung
Restaurant 28

Shirley Chung’s Twenty Eight Restaurant & Lounge bowed in December in Irvine, Calif., and already the Top Chef contestant may have designs to come to Vegas, where she spent most of her career cooking for chefs Thomas Keller, Guy Savoy and José Andrés.

When asked about expanding to Las Vegas, she tells Robin Leach, "I’d love to! We definitely have expansion plans. Twenty-eight is our brand, so if 28 is successful ... which right now we’re doing pretty well, as you can see."

For now, her very first restaurant features her interpretation of Chinese dishes made with California ingredients. Emeril Lagasse, who was one of the judges on Top Chef and became almost like a father figure to Chung, took one of her winning dishes and served it on the menu of his restaurants here in Las Vegas. Chung says that dish — a Westlake butter-seared black drum Texas red fish with Asian meunière sauce, braised celery and shiitake mushrooms — will show up on the next iteration of the menu.

About 98 percent of the menu is new. She does a golden pig version of abalone, similar to a dish she made at China Poblano.

"Now this restaurant named for the age I began cooking is changing my life. Yes, I’m in California, but we have plans to bring it to Las Vegas. I still have my home there."

Chung isn’t letting her Top Chef ties go either. She became close friends with Nina Compton, who came in second, and Feb. 25-27, she puts together a seven-course tasting menu at Restaurant 28. The $188 dinner with an optional $68 wine and cocktail pairing benefits No Kid Hungry. For tickets, head here.

Twenty Eight Restaurant & Lounge, 19530 Jamboree Road, Irvine, Calif.; 949-852-2828