When Mott 32 first opened in Hong Kong in 2014, the idea was to take high-end Cantonese dishes and make them more approachable. The restaurant took over a dark basement space, formerly a bank, and made it a visual stunner with a mix of industrial décor and Chinese elements.
Now Mott 32’s parent company Maximal Concepts plans to introduce Las Vegas to its dim sum at the bar and Peking duck on the menu, adding a dash of Las Vegas neon to the space exquisitely designed by Joyce Wang.
Malcolm Wood, the founder and group managing director at Maximal, calls Mott 32 a “concept that people haven’t seen before. It’s a surprise twist between high-end space that’s about mood and atmosphere and design, but it’s approachable, a place where people can laugh, have a drink, and have fun.”
Consider that only four years ago, Wood says that Mott 32 shook up the Hong Kong dining scene, bringing dishes normally only found at banquets, served at long tables with crisp, white table clothes at big hotels. Think multi-course dinners that might feature roast pig, shrimp, abalone, red sea bass, roasted chicken, and fried rice or noodles to end the meal. Each dish has its own auspicious meaning.
Now the company has three locations in Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Vancouver, with Las Vegas’ location opening at the Palazzo on Dec. 26.
The restaurant takes its name from 32 Mott St. in New York City, the site of the very first Chinese grocery store that opened in 1851 by a Hong Kong immigrant that served as a hub for the future Chinatown that spread from there.
While much of the menu from the three other outposts remains intact, Wood promises that dishes will be different in Las Vegas. Take that Peking duck. Wood says the kitchen tested ducks from 50 different suppliers — taking into account the age when the duck is harvested, its diet, and even the amount of fat on the bird — before selecting the type that would be used in the restaurant. Even during a recent tour of the space, a new batch of ducks arrived for testing.
“We are we understand that you can’t put a concept in one city and just put it in another city,” Wood says, citing locally sourced ingredients that play a role on the menu. About 30 to 40 percent of the menu will be different, playing to the Las Vegas market or bringing different Chinese dishes to the menu.
Char siu, the barbecue pork, uses an acorn-fed Iberico pork, similar to the Hong Kong version, only with more char. An ode to British chef Heston Blumenthal features a soft Scotch egg tucked inside dim sum.
The food may only be rivaled by the design. Diners walking up to the 11,400-square-foot restaurant come to a wrought iron fence surrounding the lounge with works from Hong Kong artist Joe Joe Ngai that include Chinese characters, birds, and even Anna Wong, considered to be the first Hong Kong-Chinese American Hollywood movie star, throughout the space. One corner of the bar features a flocked and woven wallpaper from Sanderson, the oldest wallpaper designer in Great Britain, a tip of the hat to Hong Kong’s British heritage. On this pricey covering, a neon duck, a nod to Las Vegas. Stories like this play out throughout the restaurant.
Joyce Wang almost thinks of design as another way to tell the story of the restaurant, as well as the city. At its heart, an industrial design with very Vegas touches such as a dining room table made from a vintage roulette table and a feather boa draped across a chandelier.
Diners walk past a glass-encased wine room into the main dining room with a chandelier hanging over a table with a large Chinese vase. Poured terrazzo floors, more of that $196,000 wallpaper, and Ngai’s drawings fill the space. Diners can see inside the open kitchen to find a custom oven the roasts 16 ducks at a time and meats being barbecued while a passel of chefs work to put out customers’ orders.
In the back of the restaurant, private rooms, one decked out with an opium bed, while a giant metal abacus oversees the area.
Says Wood: “The Sands people say the level of detail in this space makes it one of the most complicated restaurants they ever built.”
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