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Nom Nom Nom – Review: Las Vegas Buffets

Vegas Vegas Vegas. The City of Sin. I was just there a few weeks ago, so bare with me here, I’m going to have to try to dig deep back into my memory banks to do this report. If you’ve ever been to Vegas, the first things that come to your mind when you think Vegas are: the “Strip,” lights, casinos, and gambling. When you think of food in Vegas, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind then? That’s right, the buffets! Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of places to choose from for eating in Vegas; you’ve got lots of chain restaurants, lots of non-chain restaurants, In-N-Out, Korean BBQ places, the “famous” Pink’s Hot Dogs, and the ever-so-expensive Italian places on top of well-known casinos such as The Palms. But what the most ubiquitous places around “Sin City” are the buffets at the various casinos. There are so many that it can be an overwhelming choice at times. They all boast themselves to be the “#1 buffet in Vegas” so how do you know that they’re telling you the truth and not just yanking your chain to pull you in to draw more business for themselves? (As if they don’t pull you in already and take your money away by some other method…) Well, first of all, you can send in one of your friends into the buffet first to check out how it is and have them report back on their findings. Lucky for you, you’ve got me to do all that dirty work for you so… without much further ado, I give you the DO’s and DONT’s of Las Vegas buffets:

Various Las Vegas Buffets
All over Las Vegas Blvd.
Review Date: June 2010
Examples: Bellagio, Wynn, Rio, Planet Hollywood Resort/Hotel, Paris, Caesar’s Palace, Harrah’s, just to name a few

DO: Get the $30 pass that gives you unlimited access to the buffets in 24 hours.

Ok, granted that it’s only for 7 of the very many buffets in the city, but a few of the 7 includes such big casinos as Caesar’s Palace, Paris, Harrah’s, and the Planet Hollywood Hotel. If you’re a big fan of buffets and you know that you can eat buffet food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and for 2nd breakfast, 2nd lunch, and 2nd dinner all in one day, well then, this pass is definitely for you. A one-time entrance fee for one of the buffets can cost you anywhere between $30-$50 already so paying $30 for unlimited access to 7 buffets around the area is a no-brainer. For example, entrance fee to the “famous” buffet at the Bellagio, which by the way is NOT one of the casinos included with the aforementioned pass, is about $40. Just by going there at least 3x in 1 day without that pass, it can surely leave you less $120 for the craps tables elsewhere on your trip. Speaking of using your money for gambling, that’s what this pass is good for as well. If you get this pass, then you won’t have to worry about what you’ll be eating for the next 24 hours and how much money to save in your wallet for food so you don’t starve (who needs food anyways when you can just gamble all day…woo!); you just pay $30 and then you’re all set to gamble all your money away for the rest of the day… well, I guess you *should* leave some money in your wallet just in case… so you are able to get home later after all… or else you’re gonna have to bum around the streets of Vegas like a homeless person…

Clockwise from left: lamb chops, Kobe beef, King Crab leg, ostrich meat, shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon from the Bellagio -- all the most expensive items on the menu

DO: eat all the most expensive and exotic items first at the buffet.

Such as King Crab legs fresh from Alaska, Kobe beef straight from Kobe, Japan, freshly shucked raw oysters from New Zealand, and ostrich meat directly from Australia. Ok fine, those items may not have come from those places EXACTLY but you CAN find those items at the buffets. Well ok, from one of the buffets. At the Bellagio buffet to be specific. For $40, I better get to eat those items, that’s what I’m saying. And for $40, it better be good too. But… in my most honest opinion, I only thought it was “meh.” The King Crab legs tasted kinda bland, though they did you a favor and “pre-cracked” the legs for you already for easy access and eating but that maybe is where the problem lies. I had quite a bit of trouble cutting into the Kobe beef; it felt like cutting into Kobe [rubber] tires. I did like their prime rib though; it was a much better cut of meat than the Kobe was. At least I was able to cut into that without getting arthritis in my hands. The ostrich meat was my favorite though. Very tender and flavorful. The only other place I ate ostrich meat before was in China and back then, it was also a very delectable dish as well.

Clockwise from left: ribs, prime rib, Chinese vegetables (with some fried rice), seaweed, California roll, salmon and tuna nigiri also from the Bellagio -- the 'guinea pig' plate

DON’T: eat Asian food at an American buffet.

Almost always, there will be a section at buffets that serve sushi and typically Chinese food. I know, I know, call me stupid, but when I see food at buffets that I wanna eat, for curiousity sakes, I have to at least have a taste of my own culture’s food in a completely different culture. And besides, that’s what’s being a food critic is all about right? You won’t know what is the good food all the time; sometimes, you have to try something before you find out that it’s not good after all. Anyways, and almost always, just like how the saying goes, “curiousity killed the cat.” The sushi usually includes California rolls and sometimes a few pieces of salmon and tuna nigiri but the fish tastes like they bought it from some “El Cheapo” place in the middle of the desert somewhere; honestly, the sushi that I can buy from the local supermarkets here taste better than that. The Chinese food, on the other hand, tasted not bad; it actually tasted like what I’m sorta used to here from our Chinatown already. If my memory serves me correctly, I think I tried the “Chinese” food at both the Bellagio and Planet Hollywood buffets. I tried some bok choy and their fried rice and much to my surprise, the fried rice actually tasted “Asian.” I was like “wow I’m amazed.” I was actually expecting the rice to taste like Uncle Ben’s rice.

DON’T: eat the other cuts of meat besides beef or the exotic kinds that you haven’t tried before.

The ham won’t taste anything special. The turkey will almost always be too dry. If there’s duck? Well, I’m on the fence about that one; that is up to your discretion entirely. The duck at the Bellagio tasted pretty good… although I did have some trouble differentiating between that and the ostrich though. I guess both ARE birds after all…

DO: eat the cocktail shrimp and smoked salmon.

These can be considered the “staples” of a buffet. I haven’t been to one that didn’t have both of these items. With that said, these taste pretty good as is and I can be a happy camper if I’d just eat only these 2 items for dinner, lunch, AND YES, breakfast too. Mmm om nom nom nom…

The dessert section at the Bellagio is huge... but not quite as huge as at the Wynn.

DO/DON’T: eat at the “famous” fancy-schmancy buffets.

I can’t decide whether to tell you to DO or DON’T on this last point. I’m telling you DON’T because sometimes these buffets can be overpriced and overrated for the quality of food they serve but on the other hand, I’m saying DO because if you were going to try just 1 or 2 buffets while in Vegas, I would say try these. They all got the hype for some reason right? And sometimes, you won’t know you like something until you try it. Like I might think the Bellagio Buffet is only “ok,” but some of you might think otherwise. One thing the Bellagio Buffet had that I didn’t try was their massive dessert selection, but not quite as massive as Wynn’s though. So yeah, the “regular” food at the Bellagio might have just been so-so, but their desserts could’ve been better too. Also, if you were just going to only 1 or 2 of these buffets, it is quite worth it to see what the hype is all about. Like at the Wynn Buffet, which I didn’t go this last time but I had went the previous time before this, the place is HUGE. They had, by far, the most selection of food I’ve ever had at a Vegas buffet. When walking in, you’ll feel like you’ve just walked into the U.N., cause of all the International selections (Speaking of International, the Planet Hollywood buffet is International too, well sort of). Like what I said about the huge dessert selection at the Bellagio, the Wynn’s dessert selection is even bigger. When walking in, it seemed like walking into a full room devoted just for dessert (ok ok fine, maybe half a room devoted then).

But yeah, my point is: if you’re in Vegas and you’re on the fence about buffets, then I’d say why not try out just a few of the more famous buffets then, like the Bellagio Buffet, the Wynn Buffet, or the seafood buffet at Rio. I’ve actually never tried the seafood buffet at Rio, but if any of you readers have, feel free to leave your comments about it below; I would like to know how that is. And if you have any other comments about the buffets too that you would like to share, then you can feel free to leave them down below as well. Lastly, you know how the old saying goes, “whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?” Well, I guess that is true for everything there… all except the food.

Money: $$$$ (out of 4)

Good date place? Well, in general, buffets are not the most romantic places for a date… but if you were on one, I’d suggest you go to the ones at the Bellagio or Wynn then.

Grade: B

Would I return? (Yay or nay): Yay, I would definitely buy the $30 24-hour pass again and next time, I would come back to try Rio’s seafood buffet… and maybe Wynn’s too.

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