On my annual long weekend trip to Vegas, I usually ignore the buffets. There is so much good food there, both on and off strip, that I've got a full meal plan without diving into the world of stand-in-line-to-gorge-yourself action. Of course, buffets have come a long way since the $6 all you can eat rib deal. About a decade ago, the Bellagio introduced the first upscale buffet, followed by the Wynn.
A few weeks ago, Caesar's Palace relaunched their buffet as the Bacchanal Buffet, a foodie-oriented paradise of xiao long bao, posole and other delicacies. Well, I finally broke down and gave a buffet a try.
Showing up at 4:45 pm, we spent an hour and a half in line. I assume that had we come later, it would have been much longer. The buffet itself is immense. Like most buffets, it's broken down into stations, but unlike many buffets, each has an open kitchen. The food is cooked and immediately plated, which means no carting food through the dining room, and you can see the action in the kitchen. Here's a breakdown of the seven kitchens.
- Seafood: King crab legs are the big thing here and they were really quite, rich, buttery and full of meat; you can eat them cold or the cooks will briefly boil them for you. There are oysters too, usually one of my buffet favorites, but they were small and gravelly; the oysters in the oyster shooters were better as it seems they had picked the plump ones for those and thoroughly cleaned them. I didn't much like the shooter itself, which was mostly tomato sauce, but the oyster was good. There was also shrimp, seafood gazpacho and all manner of fish dishes.
- Meat: There was all manner of food at the meat station, including lamb chops, prime rib, and a barbecue selection of spare ribs, brisket, sausage and chicken. The ribs and brisket had wonderful flavor though were a bit tough; I also enjoyed the sausage. This station also had all manner of small sides, including tater tots (regular and sweet potato), potato skins, fish 'n chips, sliders, onion rings, beans, mashed potatoes, etc., etc.
- Mexican: The Mexican station was definitely one of the highlights. Carne asada was perfectly medium rare and nicely spiced. Corn tortillas are made fresh in front of you and there is a large salsa bar. Unfortunately, I didn't get to the posole (such is the tragedy of the buffet), but I've certainly heard good things about it
- Italian: Pasta, meatballs and pizza. I didn't indulge. You've got to choose wisely.
- Charcuterie: This station featured six types of charcuterie, all of which were pretty tasty. As with the oysters, this is one of those times where the gourmand in me comes out; how often do you get to just load your plate with prosciutto?
- Asian: This was another great and very diverse station. Obviously, covering a huge continent in one station is challenging, but there was sushi, various chinese dishes and dim sum, Japanese beef curry which was quite good, and a noodle bar featuring ramen, soba and pho. The xiao long bao wrapper was gummy but the filling and broth were competent renditions.
- Dessert: This was another stand out. The crepe station featured freshly made crepes with a choice of toppings, and as per usual, there were all manner of mousses, cookies, cakes, bread pudding, bananas foster and a gelato bar (though I didn't care for the gelato).
So after an hour and a half odyssey (I pledged to spend as much time eating as I spent in line), here are my thoughts on the whole feast.
Overall, it's very well done. As with most really good buffets, there were a few prizes really worth searching out (the barbecue, carne asada, crepes, sweet potato tater tots, etc.) and everything else was at least competent. I appreciated that the portions on offer were very small, so you didn't have to waste a lot of food if you wanted to try something, and of course, you could always take more. This isn't a meal that is comparable to the finest eateries in Vegas. It's still a buffet, but certainly, a very good one and a fun experience.
One downside was the service. We were thirsty the entire time and we had to practically stalk the waitstaff to refill our water glasses. We suggested a pitcher, but were told that would violate their policies. I'm not sure if they skimp on service to save money or not giving you drinks is a policy to make people eat less, but it was an unpleasant aspect of the meal.
The buffet is $40 per person with an additional $15 for all you can drink beer and wine option (we declined). Value-wise, as with most buffets, it's hard to beat.