Vegas Eats: The Buffet at Bellagio
They got a pretty nice honeycomb
About 5 years ago I gave up regular visits to buffets. Waiting in line for a meal never appealed to me and most buffets, at least the good ones, usually have at least an hour wait. Besides, I found that stuffing myself to the point of pain was no longer appealing to my maturing palate and eventually, quantity gave way to quality. This posed somewhat of a problem for VegasTripping. Vegas is known as the buffet capital of the world and here I was giving a pass to one of the biggest culinary draws of my favorite town. As a matter of fact, the last buffet that I visited was in 2004, and that was simply for the review - and because people would never shut the h up about the Rio.
The Bellagio created a turning point in Vegas - it brought Picassos to The Strip for crying out loud. It has starred in a Hollywood movie, and well, Steve Wynn built the joint; It's got class. It also ended up being our choice in venues to dip back into the Vegas Eats reviews. Odds were in favor of Bellagio delivering something along the lines of excellent.
After crossing over the infamous "Lake Como in the Desert" fountain we made our way to the back of the joint and were confronted with an odd sight; No line for the buffet. While pleased, it did not bode well. Every buffet we passed on this trip had at least some sort of line, so this was a little surprising.
After paying our way in, we were placed in the rear with the rest of the smokers (for Monster. I, myself gave it up for New Years - 8 months strong! Whoop whoop!) where we sat waiting for our waiter. He eventually arrived to fill our coffee cups and to take our juice orders. The juice was even slower that the waiter, eventually making it's way to our table sometime during our first plate of food.
I began with a walk-thru to take stock of the offerings. Omelette bar - check. Carving station - check. Muffins/breads baskets - check. Asian delights (very quickly becoming a standard at all Vegas buffets) - check. Shrimp cocktail - check. I did not find, despite several passes, a waffle or a crepe bar, both of which I had hoped for after hearing Jackpots rave about the crepe bar at the buffet in Paris. Fresh waffles and crepes can make a buffet and the presence of one can instantly add a full point to the experience. Unfortunately, the closest the Bellagio had were the pre-made cheese blintzes baking under the hot lights, with nary a garnish in sight.
After that disappointment I took another pass, looking for something a little out of the ordinary. I found it in the way of pizza - breakfast pizza. They looked pretty tasty, so I grabbed a sampling of the three pies. Beyond that there was not much else that went above and beyond your standard experience. A congealed Eggs Benedict hit my plate after that and then a visit to the carving table for some turkey. I grabbed a blintz and some shrimp and then headed back to the table. Just as I thought I was done with my first pass, I came across a mango yogurt at the fresh fruit section, lying in wait next to the berries and melons. Being a huge fan of the tropical fruit, I added a dollop to my plate.
Once at the table, the mango yogurt was the first to hit my lips and immediately my taste buds were confused. Never have I had yogurt taste so much like fresh fruit as this did. The tang and sweetness of mango was clearly present but without the pesky juices and in a much more edible form. Easier to digest, too I imagine. Yum!
The pizza was different and not bad, but the bacon, egg and cheese was the lone standout and unfortunately, the first one I tasted. It went downhill from there and I was less and less impressed with the following slices. The Eggs Benedict suffered from the same fate as every other buffet I have tried - the poached eggs baked under the heat lamps hardening the yolk. That really takes away from the whole experience of one of my favorite dishes. Really, until someone can come up with a way to avoid this, it should really stop being offered up in a smorgasbord as it is all too often a disappointment.
Upon my second visit to the line I loaded up on some oatmeal with brown sugar, bananas, and cinnamon. The oatmeal really wasn't what I was craving but I was curious to see if there was a reason to hit up the gloop when you paid over $20. Alas, it was nothing special. Same with the french toast. The bread was thin and the coating basic, leaving me yearning for some light fluffy pancakes, which I did not come across.
The final pass at the food was purely for the dessert table. There was a decent offering, especially for the folks off the sugar wagon. I counted at least 3 different mini-pastries of the sugar-free variety, including a cheesecake, which found a home on my plate. A mini fruit tart and mini chocolate mousse joined it. Upon tasting, I found the cheesecake (in spite of it's sugar-free status)to be the best of the bunch, with the chocolate mousse coming in a very, very close second. The fruit tart was a simply a fruit tart and really did not inspire any immoral thoughts in the way a delectable dessert can.
In the end the buffet at the Bellagio was uninspiring and definitely a huge let-down for me. The name 'Bellagio' conjures up images of superiority and excellence and what we got instead can be summed up with one word: 'Meh.' I guess I was right to be forewarned by the lack of line on a Sunday morning.
As we left the joint I realized that I had fallen into the buffet trap of overeating and was feeling a bit uncomfortable. Buffets are nice in concept, and for some in reality, too. For me the best part is not having to make a choice of just one thing, something that I can find very hard to do. However, one choice I can make with confidence is opting for sitdown menu service over heat-lamped lukewarm food is an easy one for me.