Mott 32 Review

Hailed from Hong Kong, the critically acclaimed Chinese restaurant Mott 32, known for their apple-wood roasted peking duck, made a splashy entrance to the Las Vegas dining scene showcasing primarily modern Cantonese dishes and quality ingredients.

I had high hopes that this restaurant will do what it does best and not cater to the American palate. However, a quick comparison between the Las Vegas and Hong Kong menu shows that the LV version is much abbreviated and that the most “offensive” (reads adventurous) Cantonese dishes, such as pig’s trotter, jellyfish, frog legs, preserved sausage…etc, are taken off the menu altogether.

Service: Fast and furious. The staff moves at an unusually quick and distracting pace even for a busy stateside Chinese restaurant. It seems as though the entire staff are constantly speed walking. Overall though, service is curt and our water cups are always filled, but don’t expect fine-dining service here…

Decor:


Lounge to the right of the entrance


Not a bad place to grab a drink


Mahjong decor screaming Chinese


Chinese abacus


This is the “Boom Boom” private dining room


The gorgeous main dining room deviates from traditional Chinese restaurants


Visit #1:


I’m glad to see that Mott 32 is going for a little more authentic Hong Kong experience in providing guests a bowl to eat in rather than a plate.


Barbecue Pluma Iberico Pork, Yellow Mountain Honey
The use of pluma cut is an encouraging sign since that’s the cut behind the neck which reads TENDER AF.


The quality of the Iberico pork really shines through with the char siu being succulent and tender. It’s easily the best I’ve had stateside but the the honey based sauce is a bit too cloying and viscous. How does it compare to its equally expensive peers in Hong Kong though? It’s a step below them for sure. @A5KOBE @JLee


Jasmine Smoked Pork Rib
These tender ribs are seemingly deep fried with a light batter before they’re tossed with a glaze that’s a touch too thick and sweet again. They’re then cold smoked in Jasmine tea leafs before serving. Is it drastically better than the sweet and sour spare ribs at Din Tai Fung? Quite a bit.


Talk about fast and furious service! At this point, I was given fresh plates and a bowl but my server left them looking like this in front of me…


The oldest trick in the book with compacted paper/cloth wipe expanding upon contact with hot water.


Crispy Free Range Yellow Chicken - Half Order
The wing is inedible and hard as a rock since it’s cooked to hell.


Chicken skin is very crispy and dark meat is quite moist but man is this chicken bland…


Breast meat, on the other hand, is a touch dry.


Sweet & Sour Pork, Dragon Fruit, Aged Black Vinegar
Each piece of pork is juicy with a crispy crust enveloped in a tart and funky aged black vinegar based sauce. I’ll be honest though, I’m not a fan of black vinegar since it’s a bit too pungent and musty to me but the execution of this dish is certainly the best I’ve had. On the other hand, while pineapple is traditionally used in this dish, Mott 32 substitutes it with dragon fruit which acts as a palate cleanser of sort with its subtle kiwi-like texture and flavor.


Minimal sauce pooling on the plate which means a job well done! @beefnoguy @JeetKuneBao


Maine Lobster Fried Rice, King Oyster Mushrooms, Edamame
In terms of flavor, it’s excellent with classic pairing of pillow-y soft lobster chunks and snappy mushrooms providing fragrance and crunch to the soy sauce flavored fried rice. But the rice itself is a touch too moist so I’m missing the incredible wok-hei ladened fried rice dishes I got from The Chairman and Tasting Court in Hong Kong.


Bamboo Green Forest
There are 3 main components to this dish: a layer of lime yogurt sitting on the bottom, fluffy sponge cake with a hint of matcha sitting on top, and a scoop of bright yuzu sorbet sandwiched between the other two things. Did it work for me? Nope. None of the components went well together. Combing the tart yogurt and sorbet just muddled the lime and yuzu flavors and the sponge cake gets overwhelmed both in terms of flavor and structure. The light cake simply disintegrates into a lump of soggy mess when it’s eaten with either the yogurt, sorbet, or both. This is simply a bad dessert IMO.


Double Boiled Egg White, Black Sesame


Mott 32 did an excellent job on the incredibly soft and creamy layer of egg white atop this classic dessert. But the black sesame puree itself trends watery and lacking that deep nutty flavor that should be present if the black sesame itself were roasted properly.


Sweetened Beancurd Cream, Mango Soup, Pomelo


The mango soup, like the sesame puree, is too watery and lacking the balance of sweetness/tartness and consistency of this classic dessert invented by Lei Garden. Moreover, the mango chunks in the soup are tart, firm, and fibrous. Putting them together means that the use of pomelo is redundant since it traditionally acts as a tart component to cut through the sweetness of the soup and mango chunks. The only saving grace of this dessert is the refreshingly silky and cloud-like tofu flower that floats atop the mango soup.


My expectation coming in was quite high given Mott 32’s reputation in Hong Kong. So it’s only natural that my first meal here is a disappointment since I’m only satisfied with 3 out of the 8 things I ordered.

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Visit #2:

Mott 32 is known for their peking duck so it’s only natural that I come back for that. On this second night, I’m seated in the Boom Boom room which explains the unpleasant red cast on all my pictures…



Traditional Iberico Pork Shanghainese Soup Dumplings
Aside from the elastic skin being a little thick, I enjoyed these much more than the Din Tai Fung counterpart. There’s tons of soup inside and the ground pork falls apart upon contact. More importantly, the use of Iberico pork here eliminates the unpleasant “gamey” flavor of pork that I despise in regular XLB.


Soft Quail Egg, Iberico Pork, Black Truffle Siu Mai
Expertly steamed with its plump and firm looking wrappers.


@PorkyBelly This is a nice twist on the classic siu mai and I especially appreciate the use of diced mushroom which offers a different texture than the perfectly steamed Iberico ground pork. There’s just a hint of black truffle which goes well with the quail egg and its custardy yolk.


Crispy Sugar Coated BBQ Iberico Pork Bun


This could’ve used more fillings but it’s texture contrast between the sweet and crispy top layer of coating, pillow-y soft bun, and the juicy and meat char siu is fantastic.


Shredded Peking Duck, Mushroom Spring Roll
Shatterlying crispy on the outside with great texture between the meat and mushroom.


Cane Sugar, White Scallion/Cucumber Sticks, House-made Hoisin, Peanut-Hoisin Swirl


Apple Wood Roasted 42 Days Peking Duck “Signature Mott 32 Cut”


Peking Duck Skin
Ethereally crisp skin and fat is completely rendered.


Skin + Meat
Presentation is a bit of a mess but the tender duck meat more than make up for that!


How thin are the pancake wraps? See for yourself!


Add a bit of sauce, skin + meat, scallion and cucumber sticks inside the wrap and there you have it! I know…shame on me since I fucked up here…but how else am I suppose to take a decent picture without it falling apart if I wrap it correctly?


Chili Soy Sauce - For the upcoming course…


Peking Style Spicy Crispy Duck Rack
@BradFord @Srsly @TheCookie @MrGuyGuyGuy @J_L @strongoxman
Recall that I asked about stiffing a portion of my waiter’s tip? It’s because of this POS dish. I paid $22 for the kitchen to chop up and cook the peking duck rack that I already paid for. Upon more research, I realize that it’s very likely that the kitchen just fucked up and fossilized them in the frying process since I don’t see anyone else online complaining about the restaurant’s crispy duck rack.

Anyway, I waved my server over and explained how the dish is inedible. I even stabbed at the meat with my fork to demonstrate how the meat is as tough as The Rock’s flexed biceps. My waiter acknowledged that the food is bad…and did nothing…after he saw that I stiffed him on tips, he looked at the check, turned his head sideways in an irritated manner and said, “I couldn’t do anything about the food!”

It’s a shame because I liked the heat and how garlicky the dish is…


Alaskan Crabmeat Fried Rice, Flying Fish Roe
Let’s talk about what’s done well first. I can see the care that goes into crafting this dish with the Chinese broccoli partially peeled for a softer and more snappy texture. On top of that, the addition of fish roes adds a touch of satisfying pop to every bite. Flavor-wise, the fried rice is good.

Now on to the bad things, this fried rice, like the one I had the prior night, is also a little too moist and lack any discernible wok-hei. You can tell from the picture that some of the rice are still clumped together which is a big no-no in the game of fried rice. Lastly, if someone didn’t tell me that there’s crab meat in there, I wouldn’t have known due to the quantity given here or lack thereof…


Thoughts on second night here? The peking duck and the few dim sum I had here are truly excellent and easily the best I’ve had stateside. But given the hit and miss dishes here and the high price tag (I paid more here on both nights than at Majordomo and Osteria Mozza), I’m not convinced that I’ll return anytime soon.

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Hmmm, he couldn’t, I don’t know, return it to the kitchen and remove it from the bill? Or fetch a manager with the authority to do same?

I’d be irritated at him, too. There’s no universe where it’s acceptable as waitstaff to acknowledge and affirm bad food, but then do nothing and complain, “but not my problem!”

And to think that I paid them extra to destroy my food that’s already paid for. Shame on me!

@beefnoguy Do you have any insight on crispy chicken since it’s a classic Cantonese dish? Is it suppose to be simply salted?

If that was how Mott32 did it, then they probably missed a chitload of steps in between.

My understanding is that the baseline requirement being a very crispy exterior skin and the inside is at the very least, juicy and tender. If you lookup youtube videos some of them even showcase Cantonese banquet restaurant chefs in Taiwan demonstrating the techniques where the juice literally drips out of the chicken (after slicing).

The preparation however is more labor and time intensive and needs at least half a day (although the very serious diners would pre-order ahead of time so the kitchen can invest more time in getting it right, provided they have Sergio class chefs who know what they are doing and not take shortcuts). It starts with a poached chicken marinated with a mixture of sugar, salt, water, maybe garlic, ginger, five spice powder etc, then the skin is splashed with another liquid mixture of white vinegar, molasses, red vinegar, maybe shaoxing wine then the key part is hanging the chicken to air dry. Then chef takes the entire chicken over a wok of hot oil, and splashes the oil over the chicken with the wok spatula (for lack of better word) evenly to a certain degree. This step is exactly how the old school glutinous rice stuffed chicken should be…unlike the shortcut places that just deep fried salt/pepper batter.

Typically when an order is placed, the final step would be to flash / deep fry the entire chicken. If done right, really crispy aromatic exterior, juicy interior and maybe you will get some redness/pinkness around the connector joints and slightly undercooked meat adhering to the bones.

Now if Sergio were a true Dark Lord of the Sith and a geek, he might prick holes in the right places of the chicken (one key place would be the eyeballs so to release as much moisture as possible that will cause a lot of problems during the deep frying and oil splashing processes if not handled correctly), including the back area of the chicken to allow cooking to be more even…but this could be more of a personalized technique.

This is why when a lot of restaurants offer this dish on the fly, you can imagine what they have to do to try to minimize all that hard work just to get it to the table.

I barely remember the last time I had a properly done classic crispy chicken… prawn and/or lobster chips deep fried were the decorations (not Peking duck style steamed buns), maybe some salt and pepper for dipping.

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I’m glad we didn’t order the fried rice. We found the same success as you with these dishes

  • duck
  • quail egg siu mai
  • iberico pork
    My wife loved the dessert you hated. She loves yuzu and thought each of the flavors complemented each other pretty well. I think the black sesame dessert tasted great but did want a bit more roasted sesame flavor.

The food is great but it is expensive.

How was the consistency of the puree?

This is the consistency i’m looking for.

Indeed for certain dishes. I’ll stick with the duck and dim sum if I return in the future.

I have no idea how they did it but that’s how it tasted like. I certainly can’t say that the chicken was juicy so I figured that the restaurant didn’t execute it properly.

I was talking to a server at China Tang and we both theorized that there’s just a lack of talent in the US to execute these menus properly despite the recipes coming straight from China/HK. These restaurants also gotta adapt to local palates and often times inferior local ingredients. For example, where do you even find live shrimp here (I’m not talking about SB spot prawns)?? On the other hand, they can be had in abundance and much cheaper in Asia…

A little watery. I enjoy black sesame desserts so I’d order it again but I think they can improve on both the flavor and consistency.

Our search for a great black sesame puree continues!

Terrible to have a classic Cantonese dish, even one that is a measuring stick for a restaurant in terms of judging skill put into, to flop so badly…

As a side joke, there was a Northern California mini chain restaurant that started off as a single entity doing quite decent Singaporean for its time, then got sold to some conglomerate that spawned a few locations and turned some into fancy fusion hipster cougar demographic kind of hangout places, and the final iteration had one location selling not typical Hainan chicken, still had the name Hainan on the menu but it looked like Costco Rotisserie Chicken…the kick in the nads experience was that the dish arrived cold and the meat was dry, and it cost x3 as much as a Costco Rotisserie Chicken!

Yeah looks like nobody knows how to properly roast and stone grind black sesame to make that classic puree anymore…

Precisely why I ordered those dishes on my first night there. Have you been to the Mott 32 in HK? I hear great things about that flagship.

Thats too bad about the duck carcass dish, someone else went and they raved about the flavor but to charge $22 for them to basically deep fry and toss in spices is a ripoff. That’s like 5 minutes of work for $22? That’s basically lawyer/doctor pay.

As far as crispy chicken goes nobody in this country does it properly anymore, last time I had a good version was in Hong Kong at Tung Po and by god it was damn good. I’ve been trying to recreate it for a long time but I still can’t quite get it right.

I’ve heard that Fook Lam Moon does a mean version as well. @Sgee

I can’t say I’m super experienced eating in HK as well as I would like but I have been meaning to check them out as well as Seventh Son for their roast pork.

@JLee Is there proper black sesame puree in SGV?

No idea, embarassingly I dont know the SGV scene anymore since I’m in Chicago often and I spend more of my time in other parts of LA recently.

I’m so behind on the restaurants that I’m learning about them as LA Times is. I’d have to ask my mother and maybe my aunt’s.

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he didn’t take the dish back? did you not eat it?

He did not.

I left the whole plate there after trying a few pieces. He apologized again when he took the full plate away after our meal…