Shreveport is known as Dallas’ little Vegas, full of craps tables and ante-free blackjack, but no one goes to Shreveport thinking they are going to get the full Vegas treatment. I may now have a solution for you. While I cannot magically make Cirque du Soleil appear at the Horseshoe, I can now tell you where to go to dinner to impress… a little motel off I-20 and Diamondjacks.
I know what you are saying to yourself right now: David, you have lost your mind. Why would anyone want to go to a motel to eat dinner when you can hit up the buffet in the casino? Seriously, get off the stool in front of video poker and head over to Lucky Palace off I-20. Yes the parking is bad because you don’t want to park in front of room 112 but so what! They will get over it and after you have some wine, you won’t care.
When I first drove up on the Lucky Palace, I had a Guy Fieri (that bleach-haired guy from Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives) moment, wondering if I had gotten turned around and needed to head back across the river to Shreveport. This was a motel in Bossier City with red neon and a Bud Light sign.
Oh what the hell, when in a gambling town in Louisiana, sometimes you just got to trust your gut and give it a try. After passing through the “under construction” lobby of the motel just to get inside Lucky Palace, I was ready to drink. The décor inside was very 80s Chinese restaurant, with accents of wine bottles of various sizes. I knew I had hit the jackpot when I saw a couple of bottles of Dunn Vineyards and Caymus Special Select. After being sat at the window table overlooking the motel pool, it was time to dive into the list. According to Lin, the manager and wine director, the wine book only held about 120 selections because he doesn’t want to overwhelm the guest. Well it didn’t work for me, I could not stop looking through the list, wondering what the drink of the night would be. The list is that good.
Chinese food can be a hard pairing because it usually entails sweet, savory and spicy in a dish. This will usually eliminate most red wines and white wines that are overtly dry and acidic (Sauvignon Blanc) or somewhat oakey and tannic (California Chardonnay). Really, you are looking for something with a touch of sweetness and medium body, like Rieslings and some Pinot Noir or my personal favorite, Champagne. Don’t feel in the mood for sweet or bubbles, they have a list dedicated to Turley, the California gurus of Zinfandel and Petit Sirah. But wait, you always wanted to try an aged 2nd-growth Bordeaux like Leoville-Las Cases 1979? Never fear, Lucky Palace has it on their list for only $180. (No I did not forget a zero)
Finally, after struggling between the 1997 Argyle “Extended Tirage” and the 1990 Dom Ruinart, I decided on the Non-Vintage Camille-Saves Cuvee Rose Grand Cru Champagne from Bouzy. This is a grower Champagne that could best be described as a fruity, malty strawberry shortcake. The strong red fruit character of strawberry and cranberry opened up into a cinamonny-raisin bread that finished chalky and malty. It was divine and a perfect pairing to the meal.
Our first course was duck on scallion pancake, where huge chunks of duck were roughly chopped and placed onto a scallion pancake, held together by hoisin sauce and fresh white scallion. Like I said earlier, it was sweet, savory and spicy when you added that splash of fermented chili oil. My favorite part was how it made the fruit in the Champagne really stand out while providing that savory undertone and slight gaminess from the duck. Delicious and a great start.
Next came the salt and pepper trio, a blend of scallops, shrimp and squid sautéed with bell peppers, ginger, garlic and scallions. If there was a disappointment in the meal, it was that the breading was a bit much on the seafood and there was a need for a sauce. But the seafood underneath the breading and the vegetables were beautiful. My wife and I were fighting over the last bits of bell pepper on the plate, even before the last shrimp was gone.
Speaking of fighting over food, dessert was a special treat for me. When the waiter, David, was describing the desserts, I was sold when he talked about sesame balls in a peanut butter sauce, drizzled in chocolate and served with a side of Chinese honey-glazed pecans. Oh dear lord they were divine. The sesame balls provided that mid-palate sweetness and a texture to balance out the richness of the peanut sauce. And the pecans…I found out they charge $5.99 per bowl, making this dessert worth every penny. They had a deep, roasted richness like a bold coffee but just a hint of sweetness to counter the bitterness.
To quote Charles Dickens: “Please sir, may I have some more.”
Lucky Palace delivers on the food but excels with its wine. The next time I think about going to gamble in Shreveport, I am going to get a group of friends together to feast and drink at Lucky Palace. Maybe next time I can get my hands on that ’79 Leoville-Las Cases.