Buffet Makeover

Just like everything else in Vegas, the buffet gets an update

By: Kenneth Shapiro

When clients hear the words “Las Vegas buffet,” they probably imagine long lines, heat lamps and a plastic plate piled high with mediocre American fare. Well, put the mashed potatoes ladle down and listen up just like everything else in Vegas, the buffet has been reinvented and undergone a considerable upgrade. Sure there may be a discreet heat lamp here and there, but these days it’s much more likely to be warming a barbecue chicken and goat cheese pizza. Just as Sin City has seen an explosion of gourmet eateries in recent years, the time-honored all-you-can-eat buffet has followed the trend.

New Philosophy

A key change in the Vegas buffet is that instead of serving food that is prepared out of sight of diners, these buffets actually celebrate the sights, sounds and aromas of cooking.

Take the Dishes buffet at Treasure Island, for example. Created by designer Jeffrey Beers, the eatery is inspired by the “gourmet restaurants and specialty markets of the world.” Instead of a cafeteria-style line snaking past hot plates and sneeze guards, Dishes is made up of six live-action “exhibition stations,” where diners can see the preparation of everything from sushi and Japanese noodle soups at one station to seafood at another to prime rib (yes, they still serve prime rib) at another. In fact, the “barbecue” station is one of the highlights of the restaurant, with North Carolina-style roasted pork, Texas brisket and St. Louis dry-rub ribs cooked over a wood-burning fire.

The advantage? Not only are these stations more comfortable and better designed, making the food more appetizing, but with a greater variety there is something for everyone when a family or group dines together.

Cruise ships have been turning the buffet into an art form for years, but even the cruise lines could learn a thing or two from the spacious, airy, highly designed Dishes buffet. The space incorporates mosaic tiles, decorative apothecary jars and lots of dark wood trim. Even the flatware and dishes are stylish and of good quality.

Most important, the food is better at these new buffets than at the old-school variety. The sushi rolls clearly were not pre-packaged hours earlier; the pizza would make Wolfgang proud; and the Chinese food rivals what any city’s Chinatown has to offer.

The piece de resistance, however, is the dessert station. Designed to look like the counter of a chic patisserie, the dessert offerings run from chocolate-dipped strawberries to chocolate mousse to custom-made sundaes and even spun-while-you-watch cotton candy.

“Everyone loves the desserts,” said Stephanie, our server, who hails from Hong Kong.

Of course, the buffet’s busiest hours are 6-8 p.m., but if your clients can avoid the peak hours, they will be pleasantly surprised.

It Takes a Village

Dinner is not the only meal that gets this new-and-improved treatment. The breakfast buffet at Paris Las Vegas, called Le Village Buffet, has a different take on the food-station concept. Here, the restaurant is designed to look like a French village, with cobblestone streets, flower boxes in the windows and a ceiling painted and lit to mimic the open sky. Diners feel like they are enjoying an al fresco meal at an outdoor French cafe.

Represented in Le Village Buffet are the five regions of the French countryside: Alsace, Brittany, Provence, Burgundy and Normandy. Each region is designed to look like a different French shop a butcher, a bakery, a creperie. Diners go from “shop to shop” trying various items, including omelets, a larger-than-normal selection of breakfast meats, waffles, a variety of French cheeses, fresh fruit and berries, plenty of baked goods and, of course, crepes made to order. The design reinvigorates the standard breakfast buffet concept.

Be sure to tell clients, however, to get in line early on the weekends when the buffet is incredibly popular. (The dinner buffet at Le Village is also highly regarded.)

And don’t worry about being too embarrassed to go back for seconds what happens in the buffet, stays in the buffet.


Dishes, at Treasure Island

Open daily for breakfast, Mon.-Fri., 7-10:45 a.m., and Sat. and Sun., 7 a.m.-noon ($12); lunch, daily from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. ($15); and dinner, 4-10:30 p.m. ($20, Sun.-Thurs; $26, Fri.-Sat.).

Le Village Buffet, at Paris

Opened daily for breakfast, 7-11:30 a.m. ($12.95); lunch, 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. ($17.95); and dinner, Mon.-Thurs., 5-10 p.m., Fri., 5-11 p.m., Sat., 4:30-11 p.m., and Sun., 4:30-10 p.m. ($24.95). Brunch is served Sat. and Sun. between 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. ($24.95).