Name of Restaurant: Hong Bao Kitchen

Location: Hong Bao Kitchen is located at 777 San Manuel Blvd., Highland, inside the San Manuel Casino. I visited the restaurant in mid January. My guest food critic was Gloria Cash.

I love to try new restaurants and this one was a favorite. The décor is Asian inspired, with deep red hues throughout. According to San Manuel Casino, Hongbao is a Mandarin word that means “red envelope.” In Chinese culture, the color red is a symbol of energy, happiness and good luck. The interior features a center column made of Chinese coins to bring energies of money, good luck and abundance. The walls featured shelves of various teapots. The booth was plush and comfortable, with ample room for family-style plates.

The menu: The menu is extensive and would satisfy any Asian cuisine lover. It’s a new eatery that opened late in 2019. The menu features traditional Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese food, many created by the two in-house chefs. We went on a Friday evening and were in for a treat. Award winning chef Bob Zhang was on hand and he prepared our food and meticulously described each dish. Zhang is a master chef extraordinaire and I don’t throw that term around much. Attention to detail, with each dish, was evident throughout our dining experience.

We started with the shrimp egg rolls. The traditional egg rolls were packed with fresh shrimp, cooked to perfection and accompanied by an elevated sweet and sour sauce that tantalized our taste buds. We also had Cash’s favorite appetizer, a lightly battered shrimp, which was coated with a sweet house glaze. Even though it was fried, it wasn’t the least bit greasy. The fresh dim sum was delicious, with a perfect combination of spices and ingredients. Everything was so fresh.

The next dish did not disappoint. The Peking duck was carved table-side, and served hot. The breast meat is actually darker than turkey or chicken and like a hundred times more flavorful. The crispy skin, sauce and accompaniments were divine. Who knew I loved duck so much? I had to force myself to stop eating and that was a struggle. Zhang told us the duck at Hong Bao typically requires a 45-minute wait. I’d wait 45 days for it, to be honest.

The next dish was another victory. The Vietnamese lobster is a live lobster, cooked to perfection, with jalapeño, garlic, ginger and other complimentary spices.

“We use real ingredients and we don’t really over season this,” said Zhang. It works.

My favorite: The Peking duck. The crispy skin and melt-in-your-mouth meat was scrumptious.

My guest preferred the Vietnamese lobster. “This was the best dish I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating, hands-down,” said Cash. “It was delicate, flavorful and I’ll be dreaming about it for a while. Excellent.”

Didn’t love: The food was insanely delicious, fresh and satisfying. In my opinion, there wasn’t a single menu item we tried that could be improved on. My only complaint is that I live too far from Hong Bao Kitchen.

Price range: Prices range from $8 to $99.

Recommend: Yes! Yes! Yes! I highly recommend Hong Bao Kitchen.

Reservations are requested, but not required. There is also a private dining room that is available upon reservation only. Call 1-800-359-2464 or visit online at https://www.loc8nearme.com/california/highland/hong-bao-kitchen/5563602/

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