This text is basically my column for the magazine this month. Thought I would use it as a blog entry, too.
Last month, I headed to Las Vegas with a very good friend (BFF in Sac!) to celebrate my thirtieth birthday. My mother also flew in from the midwest and we all spent a lovely long weekend in what is truly one of my favorite vacation destinations.
The first evening we spent in Vegas, we were entertained by a Neil Diamond impersonator (Jay White) at the Riviera. During our stay, we also managed to see a standup comedy show at Harrah’s and a live pirate show on the water in front of the Treasure Island resort.
Besides the leisure activities, I am sure you might be wondering what a food writer might choose to eat in a city that is quickly becoming one of the top culinary destinations in the world.
I have an embarrassing confession to make. I LOVE buffets. This is embarrassing because to the most elite food snobs, buffets are an insult to food that mostly focus on quantity and not quality. Nevertheless, I like to pay one price and get a large variety of items all in one location. I like second helpings of a dish I really enjoy (don’t you?). Though quality of food on some Las Vegas buffets is hit and miss––after reading a menu of mostly fried items, I am glad we did not visit the Riviera’s buffet––I placed my bet on the Spice Market Buffet and it proved to have a big payoff!
The Spice Market Buffet is located in the newly refurbished Planet Hollywood Las Vegas (formerly the Aladdin) hotel. This buffet is downstairs from the main casino room and is priced at about $30 with tax for a dinner admission.
The Spice Market name indicates the wide variety of ethnic foods one can find to put on their plate on the buffet’s numerous stations.
I was very pleased with the salad station because in addition to several prepared pasta and lettuce salads (Caesar), there were also numerous undressed salad components, for a salad compilation with as little or as many fixings as desired (a plus because too much dressing defeats the purpose of a salad).
There is an impressive seafood station offering shrimp cocktail, crab legs, seafood and chicken paella, grilled salmon, and other seafood options such as a Hawaiian shrimp dish, ceviche, and a crab-stuffed filet of sole.
Residing at the main stations (located in the center of the buffet), is an Asian food station with Chinese pork buns (as in dim sum) and a few stir fry dishes. There are also areas that serve Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine such as tandoori chicken, kabobs, hummus, pita bread, tabboulleh, and tart black olives. There are American standard comfort foods in the very center of the buffet––chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, casserole, and rolls. An Italian station serves pizza, lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, and other pasta dishes including a lobster pasta. The Italian station provides sophisticated pasta plates prepared with three popular sauces as their base; pesto, alfredo, and marinara. Not to be overlooked is a carving station with prime rib and lamb. Finally, a Mexican food station completes the global journey with meats, sides, and condiments to dress fajitas and tacos.
The massive dessert station was candied (literally) with cannoli, cobbler, pie, tiramisu, soft-serve ice cream, freshly made cotton candy, and an elaborate wedding-like cake. We all left the buffet pleasantly full, but not stuffed. Walking through the entire buffet without a plate and then choosing just a taste of your very favorite foods or foods you want to try is the key to avoiding a food coma.
If you are not a buffet fan, I would like to recommend a restaurant in the Wynn hotel: Red 8 Asian Bistro.
The restaurant’s name was picked because in the Asian culture red is considered to be a lucky color, and eight is a lucky number.
Red 8 offers Southeast Asian cuisine in a casual setting. The extensive menu includes tastes from the region, Cantonese roast duck, rice noodle and congee dishes, and traditional favorites such as pad Thai noodles, Kung Pao Chicken, and sweet and sour pork.
My friend and I decided on the Shrimp Chow Mein and steamed vegetables. I ordered the chow mein prepared “Hong Kong” style which means that the chef pan fries the noodles and serves them crispy on the side of the main dish. The chow mein and the steamed vegetables, as well as the steamed vegetable buns appetizer we ordered were so fresh and flavorful. There was no chance the food or its ingredients had ever been introduced to a microwave or a freezer. I can still recall the delicate scallion flavor in the lightly steamed bread of the vegetable buns.
Red 8 stays open until 11pm during the week and 1am on the weekend, a bonus for people who might want to dine after an evening show.
The Spice Market Buffet, Planet Hollywood, Open for Breakfast 7am–10:30am,
Dinner 4pm–10pm, Mon–Fri, Lunch 11am–3pm, Sat & Sun, Champagne Brunch 11am–3pm.
3667 S. Las Vegas Blvd • Las Vegas, NV 89109-4331. (702) 785-9005
Red 8 Asian Bistro (at the Wynn) open Sun–Thu, 11am–11pm, Fri & Sat 11am–1am.
3131 S. Las Vegas Blvd • Las Vegas, NV 89109 (702) 770-9966.