Lucky diners hit the jackpot at Gi Fu Loh inside Harrah’s
Diners at Gi Fu Loh have lots of options. They can order Cantonese standards, or they can get as adventurous as possible, and they can choose affordable entrees or something price-worthy for a high-rolling gambler.
There is one given: The service is as good as it gets.
Executive manager Steven Wong said the restaurant on the second floor at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe is the best authentic Cantonese cuisine on the West Coast. After sitting down to an eight-course dinner served from a Lazy Susan tray, it’s difficult to disagree.
During a visit to China a couple of years ago, I learned that the food there, both Cantonese and Mandarin, tastes differently than Chinese food in the United States.
Cantonese food uses special spices ” not especially hot ” to bring out natural flavors. It is light and healthy, and it comes from the southern part of China, with seafood usually the main attraction.
Gi Fu Loh offers live seafood, such as Alaskan king crab, which is presented to the diner for approval before cooking. During my feast, I enjoyed the middle of the crab steamed with the claws sauteed in spices.
More live options include dungeness crab, Maine and Australian lobster, and spotted grouper. The top delicacy is the Yoshihama, Japan, or South African abalone.
My first experience with spicy jellyfish was surprisingly good. The texture is a little rubbery, but I could get used to it because the flavor was exquisite. It was a highlight among the appetizers, just ahead of the crispy shrimp wraped in seaweed and below the giant pot stickers.
Another first for me was the Peking duck, served like a small sandwich. I could get used to that, too.
While I figured seafood would be the star of the meal, the filet mignon marinated in Beijing sauce was the most tender I’ve experienced. Also tender was the spicy asparagus, which was so good that even photographer Jim Grant liked it. (And everybody knows Jim disdains vegetables!)
The steamed rice includes plenty of ingredients and is served separately, which is the Cantonese way.
Gi Fu Loh, which in Catonese means “a gathering of luck,” is the brainchild of Harrah’s President John Koster, who spent five years in Asia, Wong said.
“Most Vietnamese, Filipinos and Chinese like to gamble, and gamble heavily,” Wong said.
High rollers make up about 60 percent of the clientele. Also, 60 percent of the employees are from Hong Kong, 20 percent from Taiwan and 20 percent are from Tahoe, Wong said.
Folks who aren’t ready for a costly tab can have the fried chicken with bean curd sauce for $20, the Peking duck for $25, or the filet mignon for $30.
The restaurant, which seats 126 and only serves dinner, includes an extensive noodle bar and a dessert menu that includes a delicious double boiled superior bird’s nest in whole papaya.
The best way to end the meal in style is with gong fu tea, elaborately presented by a captain in a tuxedo.
“As compared with the high-end restaurants in Hong Kong, I would say our restaurant is very comparable in quality, authenticity and floor service, only in a smaller scale,” Wong said.