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My Baccanal Buffet (Caesar's Palace) review - LONG

ah6tyfour Sep 17, 2012 11:47 PM

I ate at Bacchanal Buffet last Friday night. The wait was about 1 hour and I think it is definitely the buffet to beat in Vegas. I'm going to describe this place going from cashier station towards the back as if you paid and then excitedly just wanted to go for a tour (which, I'm also embarrassed to say, was true for me). Warning: my food reviews tend to be long...

Seafood station was excellent. King crab and snow crab were both split, plentiful, and the staff actually went around asking if anyone wanted them heated. They were heated in boiling water, but the legs didn't lose any flavor as the water probably had heated up plenty of crab earlier and had become isotonic to crab meat. The cold mussels were very sweet and the fresh-shucked oysters were a nice touch, but were a bit gritty. They need to spend the time to scrub each oyster prior to shucking since most of the oyster liqueur had grains of mud in it. The ceviche and the oyster shooter were both good, although I thought the oyster shooter tasted too much like V8 when it must have been made in-house. The crab croquettes were WONDERFUL! They were filled with real crab meat and essentially the best crab cake you can get (without it being made of Maryland blue crab). Within the croquette was a dollop of tartar sauce. There was also a clambake playfully served in a metal bucket. The clams were large and cooked incredibly well for a buffet, but the rest was lacking in seasoning.

Carving station was the star of the night. Not only do they have prime rib, rotisserie chicken, and all the other normal stuff, they also feature cuts of steak that had a nicely charred crust. The nicely-marbled tomahawk chop (ribeye) was so good I wish I could just ask for the whole thing on the bone. It's cooked medium rare and sliced thin. They also had double-cut lamb chops which rivaled anything I've gotten from a steakhouse. Both these items required no sauce or excess seasoning. They let the meat speak for itself.

Mexican station I didn't get a chance to try much of, but what I saw was very good. I tasted the carne asada and it was very good. Tortillas were being made fresh. The posole looked promising, although I wish they had made a menudo instead. There's also a very impressive display of sauces/salsas for your dining pleasure.

Next we hit the Italian section. The lasagna seemed okay, but I didn't taste it. There was a veal parmesean which was very good. I also rather enjoyed the cheese pizza I had. The crust was thin, crispy on the bottom, and the edge had a chew to it. Within this section is a made-to-order pasta station which I did not try, but what was being done there was very impressive. They were building sauces to order (garlic, shallots, white wine, salt, pepper, etc), including very good shrimp, and spending the time to plate the pasta well.

On to charcuterie! They had an impressive spread of 5-7 sliced cured meats. I wanted two contrasting items, so I chose the mortadella and the bresaola. Both were great. I'm a big fan of bresaola and the one they procured was excellent. Nice crusty bread (baked in-house) made a perfect accompaniment. The cheese selection looked pretty impressive, but I don't know much about cheese so I won't comment other than to say I think it might feature too many hard cheeses.

After all this richness, we finally get to the salads. There were a couple plated salads (watermelon and feta was great, as was the tomato and fresh mozzarella). A few more prepared salads were offered as well as a few choices to make your own. I'm not really a salad sort of person, so I didn't look too closely.

Next to the salads is a made-to-order noodle bar with your choice of three or four different noodles and broths (a la Rio Carnival World, but done much better). It neighbored a few dishes that I guess were meant to be Japanese dishes?

The sushi spread was quite good. Along with tuna and salmon nigiri, they offered at least five different rolls. This was also a made-to-order station with a chef ready to make you a custom hand roll. One option was a tempura shrimp! I was a bit disappointed in their nigiri selection and had hoped to have a few less standard items (yellowtail, uni, fish roe, tako, etc). With the quality of food they've presented so far, it seemed a shame to just go with the standard two nigiri that are offered at every decent buffet.

Finally we reach the Asian section (rest of the Asian section, so Japan got it's own station). A few dim sum selections were offered and I thought they were pretty good, but I'm not sure they were made in-house. The shrimp dumplings (how I judge every dim sum place) was actually pretty decent and the skin was delicate and clear enough for me to not assume it was purchased pre-made. A ginseng chicken soup is also offered and it tastes exactly like something my mom would make. It tastes healthy and is definitely in need of some salt. A few more items from pad thai to beef and broccoli were offered, but I never tend to go for those things.

Oh, dessert! How could I forget dessert? All the plated desserts were wonderful. They had a green tea mousse that was light and flavorful. They managed to tone down the sweetness of a pecan pie. There are many varieties of macarons available and the orange w/ chocolate cream is ridiculously good. They must have infused the chocolate with orange zest or something, because it was a punch of flavor. The chocolate creme brulee and the normal vanilla creme brulee were both great and care was taken to brulee them correctly. They had made-to-order crepes with four types of fresh berries, sauces, nuts, and whipped cream made in-house. And unlike other buffets (I don't know why they do this), they fold them "correctly" into a triangle instead of a pocket.

There were also two special desserts. The banana souffle, while too sweet for my taste, was made very well. They make only 8-10 at a time so they don't fall by the time you eat it. It is as well made as any souffle you might order in a nice restaurant. The thing I liked even more than the souffle is the freshly baked chocolate chip cookie topped with any gelato you'd like. It's like a mini pizookie from BJ's, only much better. I'd suggest the Mayan Chocolate gelato. It's heavily spiced and mingles well with the cookie.

Final thoughts: There's no reason to go to Bellagio's buffet at all anymore. Wynn is good, but nothing I've ever had there has been as good as what I had at Bacchanal (plus Wynn no longer has king crab). I've had some bad experiences at Wicked Spoon and would rank Baccanal much higher. It's as if they took what worked at Wicked Spoon and made it better. It really is the best buffet in Vegas, but at a cost of $40 pre-tip, I still wonder if I should just go to a real restaurant instead.

  1. d
    Dave Feldman Sep 18, 2012 12:12 AM

    Thanks so much for this -- much appreciated.

    1. g
      grimaldi Sep 18, 2012 03:52 PM

      Excellent report, and a thorough visualization for those of us who have yet to go. We'll probably pay a visit later this year, but I'm wondering how long until this buffet starts to cut corners the way Bellagio and Wynn (and now Wicked Spoon) have done. They create a magnetic venue, get the great reviews, then slash and save knowing they don't have to do better anymore. Hopefully, BB will maintain its quality and allure, at least until we get there. Then they can do whatever they want. :-)

      1 Reply
      1. re: grimaldi
        ah6tyfour Sep 19, 2012 02:32 AM

        It really is a shame how little Bellagio seems to care about the buffet these days. I don't think the other top-tier buffets would fall as much as it has. The last three times I've gone, they couldn't even be bothered to fully thaw the crab before putting it out for the guests. But I guess half-thawed crab is only slightly worse than the dry slivers of lemon-pepper crab the Cosmo served me last time (I'll always think fondly of that whole out-of-shell king crab leg they served me when they first opened).

        I hope the quality of Bacchanal lasts through your visit and for years to come! I feel like buffets should do something drastic like close down for one week a year where the staff get together and completely re-tool the food (a la elBulli). It'd be a good way to prevent themselves from falling into a depressive rut as well as a way to excite the staff and introduce flavor profiles and techniques that are on the forefront of food. I'm waiting for the day a buffet makes a super rich shrimp head sauce, loads it into a foamer, and has a staff person plate (to order) little seafood soup shooters topped with shrimp head foam with instructions to drink it ASAP.

      2. j
        julesrules4food Sep 19, 2012 04:58 PM

        This was perfect timing for me to come across as we're going tonight. Can't wait, thanks for a great review!!!

        1 Reply
        1. re: julesrules4food
          Dave Feldman Sep 20, 2012 12:23 AM

          Would love a second opinion!

        2. elvisahmed Sep 19, 2012 05:45 PM

          Thanks for the write up ah6tyfour for the great write up. Not a buffet man but will give this one a shot on the next visit.

          1. DuchessNukem Sep 20, 2012 12:55 AM

            Nice. Thank you. I've been tempted to nip out to LV sometime this fall and the Bacchanal is an enticement.

            1. j
              julesrules4food Sep 20, 2012 06:46 PM

              We went last night and loved t!
              We got there around 6pm, pretty long line, I got in line and my sister went to ask if there was a handicapped line ( so glad she has a temporary plaque for a foot issue), they took her at the Diamond line so we were in within 5 minutes. The regular line was about an hour long at that time. So, it's off to a great start. The hostess took us on a tour of all the stations before showing us to our table, never had that before, kind of nice.
              Granted there were some new restaurant glitches, the crab legs were empty, they got filled up within 5 minutes, the cocktail sauce was empty, that should never happen, we had to bring it to their attention and it took 10 minutes to get refilled (said they had to get more downstairs) so the back up at the seafood station was horrible. Our server was George and he was great, very friendly and recommended things to us.
              My favorite were the mussels, lamb chops, sweet potato tater tots (new to sweet potatoes and loving them) , carne asada and the desserts. The desserts were fantastic, and I'm a chocolate snob. My sister raved about the salmon, don't remember what was done to it but she said it was the best she ever had. The crab legs weren't the best I've had but were good, the crab claws were better and the shrimp were huge and really good. I know I ate lots of other things, nothing was bad, the only thing I remember not wanting more of were the oysters, They were gritty and slimier than usual as the op stated, but I tried them just to see if it had gotten better yet.
              I think I liked it better than the Wicked Spoon that I'm a huge fan of. We'll probably go again tomorrow with some other friends, if not we'll go to the M Seafood buffet.
              Oh yeah, the price was $31.99 plus tax with our players cards, and Wicked Spoon doesn't give a discount for players cards and they're $36.00, so there's another reason to prefer this. Now if they only were a diet coke instead of pepsi place then I'd be in total heaven.

              3 Replies
              1. re: julesrules4food
                Dave Feldman Sep 20, 2012 10:39 PM

                Thanks for the second opinion. Why is Las Vegas a Pepsi town? Is there a local bottler?

                1. re: Dave Feldman
                  julesrules4food Sep 21, 2012 10:59 AM

                  I don't think there's a bottler here. When I used to come here in the 70's I heard that Pepsi was "connected" going back to the early days of mobsters and Vegas. Don't know if it's true or not, just a long time rumor. I do know that more and more casinos have gone to Coke but it seems to be the newer ones which would hold up that rumor. The Cosmopolitan and M Resort are the 2 that come to mind that are new and are Coke establishments. I googled it and found this link, the ones I've checked out are right but it's as of Jan 2010 and no updates since then. http://www.vegastodayandtomorrow.com/...

                  1. re: julesrules4food
                    Dave Feldman Sep 22, 2012 01:01 AM

                    That link is cool -- thanks so much for sharing it. Things have remedied quite a bit, but it also used to be extremely difficult to find caffeine-free iet Coke in Las Vegas, and when it could be obtained, it was often available only in 2-liter bottles, while the equivalent Diet Pepsi product was offered in cans and smaller bottles almost everywhere.

              2. g
                grimaldi Sep 22, 2012 11:17 AM

                So it appears the dumbing down has already begun. They have already stopped serving stone crabs altogether -- that the first week of diners got lucky as they were only trying it out. They may come back in the future but they have stopped serving them as of now.

                3 Replies
                1. re: grimaldi
                  julesrules4food Sep 22, 2012 01:17 PM

                  When I ate there Wednesday night the crab claw were stone crab I believe. I'm not an expert but that's what they looked like and what the sign said.

                  1. re: julesrules4food
                    grimaldi Sep 22, 2012 03:04 PM

                    They stopped serving them on Friday. As I said, they might come back, but that's a pretty quick kill on what some might consider a big draw.

                    1. re: grimaldi
                      julesrules4food Sep 22, 2012 03:20 PM

                      Guess I got lucky in going when I did cause they were really good.

                2. j
                  jackdave77 Dec 28, 2012 06:02 PM

                  I went Christmas day. Waited 4 hours while they sold people express tickets at $20 a pop (additional to the 56.99 ). Got there and the Broccoli and beef was pretty good. The meat balls were allright. The spit or breath covers are so low that only an old bent over grandma with 4 foot arms can actually reach items.
                  What a terribly ran restaurant! Saw three overfed supervisors standing around. While the wanted food was not there.
                  I was a short order cook in highschool, and could shape that place up in two weeks.
                  The crabcake display was emtpy the hour an a half I was there.
                  The Vietnamese food was awesome, but I dont read the lang. so didnt know what many things were.
                  The salad bar starts with squirt bottle dressings, moves on to the extras, then to the salad itself! Totally backwards! ( Well them Supers didn't get that fat eating lettuce! )
                  Yes there is lots of snow crab if you like that messy hard to eat stuff.
                  the sea food salad in the tiny glass was tasty, but the stuff next to it with the weird name was mouthwash.
                  I don't read Spanish either, so didn't know what that stuff was either.
                  Baked beans was obvious, and cold.
                  They also had the prime rib for some reason, I asked for a welldone piece and it was bloody.
                  If I meet the editor of Newsweek who named this the number 1 buffet in north America, I will try not to beat the crap out of him, but cant guarantee it.
                  Bottom line, things are miss labelled, not labeled, don't have utensils and are hard to reach. Instead of having an excess of pop. items they have empty trays.
                  The buss people are hard working and far to few, and the useless sups are far to many.
                  One of the worst buffets Ive ever been to. Will never! go back!
                  Stood in line all that time and when I got there there were so many empty tables, and dirty tables I was appalled. Those hard working bus people and waiters are severly understaffed. I think the managers are family, and they must have bought that rating cause THIS PLACE SUCKS HARD!!!

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