China Poblano: Misfiring on all cylinders

I had enjoyed dining at Jose Andres’ restaurants and expected to have a similar experience at the more casual China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Things started out OK, but that did not last long. We were seated and placed our food and drink orders quickly. Since we did order quickly, I made a point of telling our server that I was going to order another item once I had a chance to look at the menu further. The next time we saw her, we were finished with everything we had ordered. The menu stayed on the table for the duration of our meal.

They had a special mescal based drink menu, so we ordered drinks from that. I do not recall the drink names. Mine used mescal infused gin (or perhaps a gin infused mescal) and was OK – smokey, but not too smokey. It was served in a margarita glass. My wife’s drink was not drinkable. It was like licking an ashtray. The first sip was OK, but within five seconds a very bad aftertaste kicked in. It was reddish and served in a Collins glass.

The food arrived fairly quickly. The Happy Buddha Vegetable Spring Rolls were good and came with a basic soy/tahini dipping sauce. We used that dipping sauce on our papas fritas too, until a server took the sauce away without asking us if we were finished with it. The papas fritas reminded me of cheap New York street fries. The XO sauce was not bad, but it was far from the tangy, spicy XO sauce we had been expecting. This XO sauce was very fishy and limey, which is why we ended up using some of the spring roll’s sauce on the papas fritas. My wife really liked her Barbacoa taco, but the Pollo con Mole was poorly butchered and had a lot of gristle/cartilage. My scallop ceviche was acceptable, but not good (especially for the price).
Their prices have a distinct Vegas up-charge. My scallop ceviche was $12, but should have been about $9 for the 3 small, but well presented scallops. The tacos were $5.50 each and would have been better at $4.

At the end of the meal when someone (not our waitress) asked how our meal was and we described our disappointment in the Pollo taco, XO sauce, and my wife’s drink, our tastes were called into question. Evidently we did not understand what we were ordering. Up until that point I might have considered a second visit since some of the things we experienced could happen on any night, but when you experience them all on one night and then a staff member basically tells you that it is your fault that you did not enjoy the meal …
On the plus side, they did remove my wife’s drink from the bill.
After all of that, we still were open to giving them a chance to redeem themselves so when the server mentioned the Chocolate Terra Cotta Warrior, we decided to give it a shot. It was very good and very unique. I would consider visiting China Poblano again, but only to get the Chocolate Terra Cotta Warrior and only if I happened to be in the area. Diner beware.