Bishpsbitter Las Vegas blow-by-blow Trip Blog
Plan to post meal updates this week as perusing eats in 2011 LV.
I am staying at the Rio so started off with the Village Seafood Buffet.
Although I went there Monday (on a slow week) and we know this is taboo in some seafood circles . . . . this was not the place I remembered from 6-7 years back (maybe longer).
First the price (about $43 incl tax) is not exactly user-friendly and no free glass of wine or anything to take the sting out. (A lot has changed since my last visit here.)
Then a perplexing waiter interchange as follows:
"You want drink?"
"Yes please, I'd like a cocktail."
"No Coke, Pepsi."
"No, a cocktail."
"Only Pepsi, sorry."
The fella was nice enough but we had extensive communication problems subsequently about wine as well. Then paying for the drinks was painful too. Can't bill to room without some slip that I don't have with me. So eventually pay by credit card. $25 for a G&T and a glass of mediocre wine!! Again, the tab is already $70 PAID and I haven't eaten or drank a thing! And I thought buffets were all about abundance at a good price . . . hmmm.
But all would have been well had the seafood been great. It was NOT great. In fact it stank (some of it literally.)
Clearly everyone comes for the crab legs which begs the question (given the plethora of all-you-can-eat crab legs for $15.99 across the US) why they don't just do that and slash the price to 1/3rd.
Nothing seemed pristine (the most important factor with seafood). I started with sushi and sashimi. Salmon was OK but the tuna was poor as was the whitefish offered. The sushi rolls standard but tired (as if sat around for some time) in taste and texture. Even the pickled ginger just seemed stale and non-vibrant, ditto the wasabi. Ditto EVERYTHING!
I then dabbled with some clams and mussels. Bad idea. The clams are what stunk the most. Awful. One set of mussels was Ok, the other worse, and some sitting unopened and unappetizing as such worst of all. And the oysters ! Yuk to the nth power. Revoltingly served in ice full of partially shucked other oyster meat remnants and semi liquid ice muck.
A good tip for the drinks had softened the waiter with whom I could not converse but he never did offer a glass of water (I know it's not the default in desert LV) for his good tip. I could have appreciated one.
So I wandered around for something decent. I found it in the humble New england clam chowder. It didn't taste horrible (but is a hard dish to totally mess up). The Manhattan was not so successful.
I skipped the crab legs as a lot of the ones I saw were unappetizingly skimpy and "drippy."
I tried some prime rib along with the american south fried shrimp and calamari. Calamari poor. Oh and the boiled shrimp had earlier with the clams and mussels had no taste (no salt).
The people watching (for a solo diner) is always interesting and I was once again set to pondering the various techniques with which people approach buffet strategy and tactics. For example I saw a young man with a quite attractive date who were seated then he said something like "I'm off" and disappeared to get his rations for 15 minutes leaving the quite attractive young lady to her own devices. Clearly chivalry (and perhaps the Golden Age of Rio buffets) is dead.
I REALLY didn't enjoy this. It was poor value, and poor quality and only just passable cleanliness and service. I am hoping for much better things to come. I will post updates as I delve into them, I have a previous post here about Bouchon. should I just leave that really good memory alone or risk a return visit . . .
Thanks a lot for reading this and subsequent posts on this LV trip. If anyone can recommend a seafood buffet (or special or spread) that does not disappoint I'd love to turn this around.
Not a good start but it must (?!) . . . maybe . . . all upwards from here.
3355 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109
Village Seafood Buffet
3700 W Flamingo Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89103
Really great write-up for a not great experience! I've avoided the Rio ever since Harrah's took over... food does not seem to be a priority for that operation. My current fave buffet is at the Hard Rock (formerly the Alladin). A bit less expensive than Bellagio, with a variety and quality that is pretty darned close. The last time I was there the service rocked.
Looking forward to more posts!
3600 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV
Hard Rock Cafe
4475 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89169
Oops! My bad... it is indeed Planet Hollywood. Got my cultural icon chains mixed up. <wink>
I think the buffet is still called the Spice Market as it was when it was the Aladdin. I used to like the Paris buffet, and I still think it's the best buffet room given the decor, but the food has gone downhill since I first visited.
3667 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109
Part the Second:
Day Two dawned beautiful and bright after a cool overcast Day One. I pulled the car from the valet at the Rio and headed for my favorite coffee shop for breakfast. This is the Bay City Diner at the Golden Gate. I love the Golden Gate generally for its history, the shrimp, the friendly craps, and its cool (literally) restrooms. So head for the familiar Bay City and immediately note some sort of change. sure enough, a Canadian couple next to me at the counter (where I always breakfast) are grilling the waitress "where's so-and-so, where's . . . ?" (all the waitstaff they've known for years. sure enough Bay City Diner is now Du-Par's (I think that was the name) and is under new ownership. Worse, the familiar short-order cook was gone. "A lot of people left." And sure enough it wasn't quite up to snuff any longer. Slow order turnaround (athough not at all busy) and unfilled coffee: never happened before.
Plus ca change, plus ca la meme SUCKS.
Not horrible, just not as good as it was.
Also noted the Union plaza had closed. Downtown generally has a bit of a feeling of hard times. More of which later.
Drove up the Strip to the Paris where left the car and walked south on LVB. Although the elderly Canadian couple's opinion of the Cosmopolitan was "beautiful, but we don't like it" I wanted to check it out for myself, along with other places that had sprung up since my last trip. I must say the "balcony thing" with this new cluster of buildings was quite interesting to me. You'd think any number of liability and noise issues would have nixed such a thing but it certainly is a new and retro (at the same time) architectural gambit.
Sure enough the Cosmopolitan was beautiful . . . but I didn't really like it. I did however case Comme Ca where I decided I would have a shot at lunch later. There was a disconcerting deafening sound of jackhammers there, but I thought "Well that will be gone by lunchtime opening" . . . .
So I walk on down through Aria, Monte Carlo, NY NY and finally Excalibur (I was curious about their poker) and after a hot walk in the strong sun, I collapsed into cool dark Keno lounge and started filing out a ticket and caught the cocktail waitress's eye.
"You need ticket, for coffee."
So my understanding dawned that she would not bring me a stinking black coffee until I had ponied up for a Keno ticket. "Nothing in Austria has changed: music and dancing will demonstrate this to the world" as per Herr Zeller in The Sound of Music.
Well even though nothing in Austria has changed, something sure as heck has changed in LV. So anyway I (still dying for a coffee) go and purchase a 3-spot for four $2 games ($8) and go back awaiting the next cocktail round. This takes forever, but eventually she arrives.
"Show me ticket!"
I show her my Keno ticket.
"No no" [you moron] "not THAT ticket."
"You said I needed a ticket."
"This only $8 ticket, you need $10 minimum ticket"
"You never told me that."
"I am not responsible for telling you."
"Look, how much does a ****ing cup of coffee cost?? I'll buy one from you!!!!!"
At this stage I lost my temper and at the opportune moment a senior looking guy in the combined Keno and Sports Book was spotted. I went and talked to him and explained my difficulties in procuring a lousy cup of coffee (one, for which, I would have given a generous tip). He (grimly) confirmed the policy. The girl had not been talking about my needing a Keno ticket, but a drink comp ticket, which I could only get for $10 spent. I explained "I'd have got to $10, but just not in one buy of Keno . . ."
All in all, a dismal and sad reminder of how much things have changed. I mean vaguely I could see it for alcohol, but a lousy cup of coffee?? I don't know. The sports book man (an older man my age) also seemed to be sorry he had to espouse such an utterly sucky House policy to me.
So with that experience in mind I headed back to NY NY to Nine Fine Irishmen Irish pub. I immediately liked it. My first (20oz) Guinness was nicely poured and fairly priced. I had another. I noticed the hostess was really trying to be a good hostess, by asking folks where they were from (and seeming genuinely interested in their response) and this appeared to be an enterprise which was trying hard to cultivate and encourage its clientele. A nice antidote to the Excalbur Keno lounge!
What I did find amusing here was that 3 out of 4 parties were English or Irish folks. This was about 11:15 AM. (In the UK and Ireland the pubs open at 11) and they were coming home to roost.
You can take the punters out of the UK but you can't take the UK out of the punters.
I noticed the Irish Breakfast here featured "black and white pudding" now that would be worth going back for. Shame they are not open earlier.
As I wandered back for lunch at Comme ca my observation was that NY NY and the Monte Carlo were doing quite well, particularly the latter, considering the swankier newcomer places around them. They must be doing something right, although in the greater scheme considering that even high end places are featuring mainly penny slots these days (and not much table action in evidence, although i know it's a slow time) it still isn't clear how the expensive places are making the margin. Maybe they're not and just weathering the storm.
And so back to Comme Ca. It was doing zero business which made me wonder a bit. Also the jackhammer had NOT abated with the lunch hour. But in I went.
Sat at the bar I ordered a Tanqueray tonic. "We don't carry that, we offer more boutique style of drinks here." Hmmmm. Ok so after sniffing a few gins I select Plymouth. The gin's OK but the tonic seems peculiar and off. So I ask him what sort of tonic do you offer with your boutique gins? "I don't know" whatever comes out of the spritzer. Hmmm.
But things improved with oysters (they almost always do) although at $35 the dozen this is not Louisiana or Texas where that could get you TEN DOZEN.
The oysters were fine though and a champagne brut rose (French) at $13 the glass was not too terrible price.
Next I selected assiette de charcouterie which sounded good. Headcheese and rilettes particularly.
Chatted with the bartender a bit. Nice enough young fella. I asked about the jackhammer and the problem appears that a major water main had broken requiring extensive and immediate repairs. This may explain the low lunch turnout but it did unfold later that "business could be better."
The meats came on an heavy iron board which wasn't displeasing, but didn't add anything either. Here the selection was nice with dry sausage and mustard, cornichons, but the rilettes were a bit sweet and cinnamon=ey for my taste (that spice is not my favorite). It was fine, good even, but it didn't wow me the way Batali's cheese saucing had a few years ago (another LV thread I posted).
I decided to skip cheese and dessert but even so the tab was around $120. With tip on top, a bit of a pricey lunch, for what it was. I preferred Bouchon over this, although that was for dinner. Not horrible, when they finish the jackhammer repairs it might (might!) be worth a rematch.
A mid-afternoon open-face 1/2lb dog at the All American at the Rio (their coffee shop) was actually quite nicely done.
Later in the evening I felt dehydrated and modestly hungry. The perfect solution presented itself with the Mah Jong short-order Chinese (incl Pho and noodle dishes) place at the Rio. For $20 I got a large hot and sour soup, and stir-fried shrimp. For the Asian crowd (who all flock here) they provide excellent hot chile to spice things up. All in all I found the soup and Chinese food a very sustaining pick-me-up and perfect for getting some nutrition and LIQUIDs into the system after a fairly long day doing a lot of walking in the sun. I will probably have a bowl of soup or noodles again as a snack for sure. As always I got a feeling that the Chinese interchanges allowed native speakers access to "the good stuff." Oh well. Even the stuff for the rest of us was pretty tasty, especially the soup.
No particular plans for Day Three but I'm sure we'll find something.
Thank for reading.
3355 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109
Nine Fine Irishmen
3790 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109
Thanks for the great report so far. Always good to see a mix of low brow and high brow dining. I haven't done the Rio seafood buffet in over a decade. Glad to see I haven't missed much.
Excalibur has gone rapidly downhill the last few years. Don't get me started on the poker room since this is a food board. But I have nothing good to say about that.
Sad to hear about the drink ticket and I think it's reflective of the crowd Excalibur gets these days. A lot of sports books will require a drink ticket only if you want alcohol but some do require one regardless just to prevent non-gambling customers from sitting there and drinking. There is usually a minimum bet needed to get the ticket but the cocktail waitresses are pretty nice about mentioning it in other places.
Bishopsbitter - these are awesome reports!
I feel like I'm taking a walk with you or maybe sitting on your shoulder like a little ladybug. :-)
We're leaving for Vegas on Friday, so these are especially timely. We've got dinner reservations at Comme Ca - hopefully we'll enjoy it.
ps - I also feel like I'm missing the good stuff at Chinese places since I don't speak the language. I do a lot of pointing - even though it's rude - a la "What's that? I want it too!".
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109
I had lunch at Nine Fine Irishmen when England played Algeria in the Wolrd Cup and Wayne Rooney did his impression of being a hat rack. The food is OK but not wonderful but the beer (all Guinness products) was well kept and correctly served. I noticed lots of other Brits and Irish folks but thought it was mostly because of the game. I'm surprised you bothered to head out to Excalibur - being anywhere near that low rent place gives me a sick headache from the hideous color scheme.
Nine Fine Irishmen
3790 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109
Part the Third (A)
Another lovely day in the Las Vegas Valley.
After a brief consult at Chowhound I decided on the Peppermill for breakfast. This proved hard to locate but was quite nostalgic in reminding of my first ever visit to Las Vegas when I stayed at the Riviera. For those wanting to find it if you get of I-10 @ Sahara then turn south on The Strip it will be on your left after you pass (just after) The Riviera (also on your left). Road work on LVB made navigation a bit tricky and progress slow. But made it.
A tad of deja vu (which is always bad sign as it means a place didn't totally wow me the first time) in the cute blue waitress uniform. This is the sort of place where you are instantly "Hon" and the hostess/manager seemed extremely able and efficient.
I sat at the counter (deja all over again) and noted the HUGUNGOUS white coffee cups (even mugs is a bit of an understatement!). I remembered thinking previously that while a very nice idea in theory these cups tend to let you accumulate far too much lukewarm coffee at the bottom to ever be able to bring it back up piping hot.
I ordered 3 eggs o.e. with bacon and link sausage. As per rumors no fewer than 4 LARGE links comprise one order and bacon was quite generous too. Huge helpings and not really too expensive. Good that.
No complaints other than "over easy" is constantly confused with "over light" these days. They need to be slightly more cooked almost everywhere I go.
Quite enjoyable and clearly well kept and run sort of place. But it didn't (apart from the waitress cuteness uniform) exactly blow me over this time either.
I had a venture down to the south Point (or is it Pointe?) to explore a little. I noted there an oyster bar but although i could have fancied a doz. it didn't open until 12. The South Pointers are clearly not early risers as a lot of the eateries didn't get going until noon. I noted a chili parlor that also looked worth a checkout (when open~!).
Before going to the SP I had cased The Crown and Anchor British pub. It appeared pretty deserted (even though "Open 24 Hours" on the door) and indeed unconvivial in appearance . So I decided either to blow it off or come back later. (It is on Tropicana east a couple miles from The Strip.)
After a brief stop at the Fiesta in Henderson for a little gaming I did head back.
The place is full of people watching the Spurs (and some other team) soccer/football match. I have never understood the attraction of soccer, perhaps because (as in this case) the crowd that do follow it are often . . . how to put it . .. "unaesthetic" in attitude and demeanor. There's something of a feral quality about young English guys (not helped by the fashion of skinhead haircuts) that I don't really enjoy. They are never openly friendly (ESPECIALLY to a fellow Brit!!!) and quite often seem to telegraph the desire to kick the **** out of you. But with that swathing generalization (although one I could uphold based on the collection of punters at an extensive number of USA Brit pus I've poked into) I will move on the food and beverage.
The first Guinness was a woeful underpour. Something I really dislike. Second was borderline OK.
Tasted OK (what there was of it!). I ordered their Ploughman's. I didn't order "extra pickled onions" as whenever I do I never get any and this is OK except that I specifically asked and was ignored is what's annoying. In this case however I slipped up as there were no pickled onions AT ALL (even though the menu said there were). I didn't pursue it sensing it could only be counterproductive on a first, and probably last, visit. The cheddar was as bog standard Kraft as it comes. Yuk. The stilton was a lowish rent blue cheese (I'll take their word is Stilton) but at least had some taste. the bread was generic. The cucumber and tomatoes were tasteless and had been sitting in some garnish trays for hours if not days it tasted like. There was no butter which is (although there are two camps on it) is the normal British Way for Ploughman's. Certainly the way I prefer. and yes, yes: I could have asked.
I was curious if the ownership was British. But it wasn't a place I felt comfortable asking the question. Perhaps someone knows.
Their fish and chips ("The Best in Las Vegas") at an adjacent table did not look like that boast is accurate to me. Or if it is true there is clearly an untapped market for some would-be Las Vegas cod & chips supremo.
Considering the place is open 24/7 it's clear that cleaning it must a challenge. As every surface was sticky and unpleasant. It wasn't the USA's worst British Pub, not by any means (the service, while somewhat chaotic was reasonably well-meaning) but I won't be going back.
There was a huge contingent of Spanish-looking guys and on the blackboard a Real Madrid match was advertized starting 45 minutes after the English one. But all TV's were tuned to the English match and about 15 Spaniards just got up and left . I don't think it was anything other than the aforementioned "fans" from the UK might not have taken kindly to having one of the two TV's tuned in to the Spanish match.
Still in an oyster mood surveyed the oyster bar at the Orleans but it's never busy and I never like that in oyster bars So I passed.
After a little rest up I will head out for dinner.
Thanks again for reading my LV trip reports.
Thinking of your post I ordered three basted in the Twin cities the other morning. came as hard as rocks, worse even than rheumy o.e..
I think the problem is just there is a perfect fried egg (except for those that don't like runny yolks) and that is the way short-order cooks should cook 'em "unless otherwise advised." This is the basic m.o. in the UK where fried eggs come in this standard manner and you do not call how done. I mean, it's not rocket science . . . you want plenty of runny yolk without its being unappetizing unset in the whites.
re: Dave Feldman
I did not know Du-Pars was a Valley chain. Unfortunately I have never been a pancake man so probably did not experience their strongest suit. I think what's changed is that the old place just felt like a bunch of veteran waitresses, crazy toast machines, nice pies, and a great short-order man running a tight little ship. This ship now is not at all so tight. Not that I could place it until you mentioned the chain affiliation, but it now feels, yes, "corporate." Before it felt like the good ship Golden Gate Coffee Shoppe. One thinks of the Sopranos episode where they try to shake down "Starbucks" and the manager says to the hoodlums "everything has to go through corporate." Their parting line is "the death of the little guy." :-)
A few bcd waitresses remain, but not many. They have probably decamped en masse to some other place !we need to know about!
The BCD short order man (a tall black gent who never seemed to speak a word) had a nice touch with eggs. The TWO new guys who replaced him took about three times longer to cook the food in a restaurant that was 1/3rd as busy as I remember it being. (Do the math :-) )
I'd be all in favor of change if it ever brought improvement, but it never EVER does these days.
Thanks for the nice comment.
I meant "Valley" as in the Las Vegas Valley, but it's true that there are Du-Pars in Studio City and Oxnard, California. The original Du-Pars, still going strong, is located at the L.A. Farmer's Market. I believe there are only two more branches, one in San Diego, and one at the Golden Gate.
Part the Third (B)
After a coffee and napoleon at a congenial little coffee and pastry enterprise at the Rio (Rio Java I think it is: located by the Masquerade Tower elevators) and a brief siesta I found myself still tired. Although I fancied a Strip Trip I could not mount the energies.
I walked next door to the Gold Coast for a cheap cocktail and simply to see what went on there. Not a horrible property but no eats worth mentioning were spotted.
Back to the Rio where I perused the Buzio's Seafood menu. I was tempted but the "bad karma" from the earlier experience with Village Seafood Buffet kept making me think there must be something else.
While part of a Sausalito CA chain I was tempted by Gaylord (Rio's Indian Rest.) but was somewhat put off in that it is colocated next to the doors leading to the "Pet Relief Area" : an unfortunate juxtaposition for all sorts of reasons.
Back to Buzio's. Back to Gaylord. And repeat again.
I opted for Gaylord.
Not a terrible decision as in the back room the atmosphere is quiet and far-removed from the hurly-burly of the Rio floor. And (so few places in LV do!) they made a halfway decent gin & tonic!
I had though I had landed on my feet really as the prices didn't seem to bad but here's a warning. They have combination dinners which feature sundries (dal raita nan and something else I forget) included for about $33. Most of the entrees are in the upper $20 range a la carte.
I spotted the guys next to me having tandoori prawns and it looked damned good so ordered that asking if I can "combination-ize" it. That seemed to be OK, but when the check came I paid a la carte prices for dal, raita, nan and whatever-else-it-was.
This really ratcheted up the check such that my bill (for one) came in at $86. With tip change out of a C note = . . . 0.
So that was the bad news: But the good news was that there was an authentic qualiity to the food and service (although the latter was nothing special).
Whether it's Delta airlines' peanuts or McDonalds fries I am well and truly ticked off with the current food police "looking out for me." Message to food police. "Eat **** and die. The day I need retards like you looking out for ME I will kill myself!!!!"
But where I am going is that the otherwise lovely tandoori prawns needed just a tad of salt to bring out there glorious flavor. There was none. (Don't get me started about Delta peanuts! trust me!!)
Now the dal was lovely. I was sorry they'd opted for sweet onions instead of regular yellow onions with the tandoori prawns. The sweetness was not what the prawns needed they needed an accent of abrasive and pungent onioney-ness.
As with the Chinese place a large group of Indians showed up and were ushered into a "secret" back room where "the good stuff" was instantly starting to be served to them :-)
Apart from the price and the "chain" affiliation this was not a horrible experience. I felt just a little abused in the pocket book. It is a rite of passage that one should be able to eat curry for TWO for $100 tab. That's just the way it is. So feeling gouged is not the best way to stagger out of a restaurant. (One knows the cost of food is minimal, although preparation and environs clearly pitch it up.)
Sorry I let the side down by not being more adventuresome last evening. I just could not mount an onslaught. I am wondering tonight if a return to Bouchon or "somewhere new and unexplored" is my best course of action. :
Today (Day 4) is my last day in Las Vegas so we will try our best to get up to something chow-log-worthy.
Thanks for reading, as always.
3355 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109
Village Seafood Buffet
3700 W Flamingo Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89103