The shrimp dumpling gang

Once you have been exposed to them, certain types of Asian dishes will create sudden, intense cravings that will not be denied. This manifests itself for me as an insatiable urge to consume steamed Chinese dumplings. Usually this means a four-hour drive to San Francisco. Now that the Eldorado has opened Asian Gourmet Square, I can massage my craving a little closer to home.

The restaurant is located on the casino floor, so you have to wade through the cacophony of slot machines to get to it. Once there, you’ll find that the ding-ding-ding of the gambling is joined by the strains of boisterous Asian music. It is noisy but oddly compatible.

Like the music, the cuisine is a mix of cultures. You can sit at the sushi bar and watch as the chef creates each morsel for you, which is most of the experience.

That is not nearly all, though. If you ever had trouble deciding between going out for Chinese or Thai, this place will really have you in a pickle. Behind the sushi bar is an arrangement of stations that offer a wide range of dishes. Asian BBQ, Vietnamese noodles and Chinese wok creations sidle up to delicate Thai spring rolls and unpronounceable items that some will find easier to order by the number.

Deciding to divide and conquer, my husband went to the wok station for some Mongolian beef ($5.25) and egg rolls (two for $2.95), while I took on a Vietnamese rice noodle concoction with shrimp, pork, purple basil and vegetables called bun tam thit nuong ($5.25).

Taking a seat in the lavishly decorated, red-lacquered wood and stained-glass dining room, we tucked into our meal. I must admit that on this first visit I was confused by the layout of the restaurant and less than impressed with the food.

While my husband’s rice was fantastic, the Mongolian beef tasted a bit heavy-handed. It had plenty of meat and fresh vegetables and was prepared while he watched, but it contained far too much hoisin sauce. A lighter approach would have made this dish a bit more palatable.

My noodles were cool and refreshing, with crunchy shredded carrot. The only thing that bothered me about it was that the cooked shrimp and barbecued pork were neither hot nor cold, but room temperature. I will admit to some paranoia here, but I prefer to limit my gambling to the casino floor and take the risks off of my plate.

We had come too late in the day to sample the dim sum, available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. only, and I felt that I had missed out. That feeling, as well as an unsatisfied craving for shrimp dumplings, drew me back for a second solo visit that drastically altered my whole opinion of the restaurant.

I have had a tour of the kitchens at the Eldorado and have seen the vast areas where numerous cooks can be observed making the dim sum for their whole shift. This is one area where freshness counts, and I was not disappointed. My shrimp dumplings ($2.75) were perfectly pleated and light as a feather, popping in my mouth with juicy, fresh-shrimp flavor. The steamed BBQ pork buns ($2.25), presented to me by the charming young man at the giant steamer, were a sensual combination of fluffy, sticky and savory.

Whether you have a yen for something specific or just want to try something new, this is a reasonably priced place to sample several cuisines at once. There is bound to be something for just about everybody.