When I was dispatched to Las Vegas for work, it wasn’t long before the question of food arose in my mind. After all, one of the world’s most famous – and crazy – places is bound to have some great eateries. From potential Man vs Food experiences to fine dining, it’s a foodie heaven, there’s no question about that. As I started my research (this was my first time in Vegas), one of the words that kept cropping up, whether online or from people who had been themselves, was “buffet”. If you’re British, this is probably most likely to conjure up images of soggy vol-au-vents and sausage rolls on trestle tables, or lukewarm Chinese or Indian food at a dodgy all-you-can-eat affair. But not in Vegas….
Oh no, buffets here are a whole new world. They’re one of the trademarks of the Las Vegas dining experience, and tie together the superlative portions and meals that we often associate with the US, along with a stunning array of food types from across the world.
But with each hotel including a buffet as part of its dining options, which one to choose? Google will offer you endless articles on “the best buffet” in Vegas, as will anyone who’s been to Sin City. But at the end of the day, if you haven’t experienced one, I reckon you’ll probably love whichever one you choose. The aptly-named Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace was high on my list, but I ended up having my buffet experience for breakfast one day, at The Wynn’s simply-named The Buffet. According to my fellow foodie pal and wingman, it’s well up there as one of the favourites, and I can confirm that it definitely didn’t disappoint. For those who haven’t done a Vegas buffet, it’s pretty simple. Get a ticket ($22.99 plus tax for The Wynn buffet breakfast), get led to your table, then start the eating extravaganza. The only limit at this particular venue was the time you stay – no more than two hours – but we were done way before this. So, first to the surroundings. Set in a gloriously decorated conservatory, it’s hard not to smile just at the general ambience. Relaxing, and with smiley staff, you’re given the firm feeling that you’re here to relax and enjoy yourself. No hustling, no rushing, take your time and fill your face.
Freshly-squeezed orange juice and fresh coffee was abundant, and constantly refilled throughout our meal as we gorged ourselves on a multi-course brekkie to end all breakfasts. There are tastes from across the world, with something like 15 live cooking stations, as well as seemingly endless other options. The stands literally seemed to go on forever. From pizza to shellfish, a grill to an Italian section, and even cakes, ice cream and a sweet shop, even the fussiest eater is guaranteed to find something they like. The biggest question is where do you start?
I began with scrambled eggs with chorizo, a cheeky portion of Eggs Benedict, some crispy grilled bacon, and a random combination of pico de gallo and black beans I found on the Mexican station. From this course, which I augmented with a taste of my friend’s maple-glazed ham (a hark back to Boxing Day ham), I decided to move on to true American staples. I have to add here that we had just done a spin class, so I felt the carb-fest was justified on this occasion (although I probably wouldn’t have been able to resist anyway). So, fluffy, sweet French toast with apricots, next to deliciously sweet stewed apples, a bacon waffle (think a variation on the traditional pancakes paired with bacon), and a corn pancake, all accompanied by a generous pouring of maple syrup. Yes it was indulgent, yes it was filling, but I felt like I was really getting to grips with the combinations of sweet and savoury that we don’t often do in the UK. This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but you’ll just have to trust me when I say it was goooood.
Despite my move onto a sweet course – usually the ending to most normal meals – on another circuit of the endless stands, I discovered “Potstickers”. Of course, having never had them, and in the place where rules just don’t apply, I felt it would have been downright rude not to try them. Turns out they’re a kind of dumpling eaten in many Asian countries (and obviously America). They’re made up of ground meat or vegetables wrapped in a thin dough, then fried on one side, then turned out and simmered in a small amount of broth. The result is a translucent, light dough, crispy on one side, filled with a tasty moist filling. Delish! Obviously, since the Potstickers were on the Asian food station, I couldn’t quite resist the Korean barbecued pork steamed buns next them, so indulged in a steamy hot bun full of rich, oozing barbecued pork.
I’ve got to confess, even an eating queen like me was starting to get a bit full after all this. But ignoring the sweet section, as in the actual dessert section, would have seemed like sacrilege. I can’t quite describe the full extent of the offerings here. Miniature cheesecakes and tarts; sweet, indulgent lollipops, profiteroles, pastries, and a whole ice-cream bar. What’s a sweet-toothed girl to do? In one salute to health (yeah right), Laura and I tried a banana yoghurt and Nutella parfait with crispy biscuit chunks. Need I describe it? Banana, chocolate, biscuit. Yum. Unable to resist the array of stuff of offer, I tried a lemon tart that was a bit like a mini lemon meringue pie, an Oreo mini cheesecake, and a pannacotta. Laura even went for some profiteroles – light, choux pastry packed with rich, whipped cream. Needless to say, all our desserts were rich, sickly, and thoroughly delicious, except the pannacotta that tasted a bit more yoghurty than creamy and didn’t quite hit the spot. Nevertheless, it was a rather glorious end to my latest eating bonanza, and one of my most memorable Vegas experiences.
There are times in your life when you wish your body wouldn’t let you down, and The Buffet at the Wynn was one of those moments for me. I can see why they put a time limit on your visit, because if my stomach had the capacity, I would stay there to try every single one of the thousands of different tastes they offer. Yes, the idea of this quantity of food – not just on my plate, but in general – is pretty obscene, and the sheer gluttony is encourages, brings with it a whole raft of questions about greed, inequality, consumerism, and waste. I’m not oblivious to those debates, and certainly not dismissive. They’re issues that need to be discussed, and problems we see all over the world. But for now, I just wanted to share the childlike joy of literally being the kid in the sweetshop, that feeling of being able to have whatever you want, and as much as you want, and it all tasting pretty damn good. The buffet experience in Vegas is symbolic of the general feeling you get about the whole city – it’s the stuff of dreams, the ridiculous, excessive experience that makes Vegas what it is.
And for a foodie, when that applies to food, it’s pretty unforgettable.
We paid in full for our buffet at the Wynn, and it was worth every penny!