My Baccanal Buffet (Caesar's Palace) review - LONG
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.
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. :-)
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.
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.
Nice. Thank you. I've been tempted to nip out to LV sometime this fall and the Bacchanal is an enticement.