What does Vegas have that Atlantic City will never have? Fabulous Buffets and Glamorous Showgirls, to begin with…

We just got back form a five day trek to Las Vegas, meeting up with 15 friends from around the USofA we rarely get to see – and never all in one place. What a blast we had!
The last time I was in las Vegas was circa 1978. The first time I was in Las Vegas was 1967. To say it’s changed a bit is an understatement! My (very fuzzy) recollectiuons of Vegas were mainly downtown – The Strip was too far away and the casinos pretty far apart. My how times change…..

Trying to get dinner reservations for this many people would be impossible most anywhere on earth, but in Vegas? No problem – just head to one of the bazillion and one buffets. Thursday night we started of at the buffet at the Paris Hotel – Le Village Buffet. The buffet is set around a city-scenr, with storefronts and shops containing the many different cooking stations from the various regions of France… The Paris website states: “Le Village Buffet brings to life five provinces of France through culinary expertise and visual attention to detail. Each station is themed for a particular province and features an intricate facade designed to replicate the architecture of that region. Meals are prepared as they are ordered to ensure the quality and freshness of each selection.” And believe it or not, it’s actually true! We feasted on every conceivable food, prepared with an attention to detail that is lacking in most restaurants these days. Seating is in courtyards or gracious sitting rooms with fireplaces.

And desserts…

There was a building in the center of the courtyard that served up some totally incredible desserts – and we all know my weakness is desserts. Under normal conditions, I’ll pass on dinner and head right to the desserts – this time around, though, I had a hard time because the other food was so great.

After several hours of food and laughter, we headed off to see Folies Bergere at the Tropicana Hotel. A flamboyant only-in-Vegas style show. Huge red leather booths, showgirls dressed in nothing but sequins and feathers… It was great!

And more buffets… Paris was the best of the dinner buffets, by far. The following night we headed to Cravings at The Mirage, because we all had tickets to see Cirque Du Soleil’s Love – the Beatle’s show. (More on that in a minute…)

The Mirage buffet was good – not fabulous, but good. It had the requisite mountain of shrimp and crab legs on ice (and just what is it about shrimp and crab that makes people go crazy? It’s cooked, frozen seafood trucked in by the ton, fer crissakes!) and carvinfg stations for prime rib (another over-rated meat unless it’s an inch-thick center cut from a prime 109 rib!) But I digress, again…

They did have a really good selection of Chinese and Asian foods, and fresh sushi, egg rolls… all the requisite items.

And a huge array of meats and fowl, salads galore, several different vegetables – and an impressive dessert display. I was just this side of stuffed when we went off to the the show…

And what a show it was!

Of the six Cirque shows I’ve seen, this was by far the best! But… as far as food goes, the worst – and the best – were yet to come…..

Saturday night was a show at The Flamingo – right next door to our hotel. The Flamingo has been around forever, and one would think that with all of the new kids in town, they’d be on their toes. As far as their Paradise Garden Buffet goes, they were flat-footed. It wasn’t “bad” but it certainly wasn’t what i was expecting from a legendary hotel. Bugsy Seigal would not have approved. As I said, it wasn’t “bad” but not as good as I expected. It was also the least expensive of the ones we went to. A plus. It, too, had the requisite mountain of shrimp and crab, and the prime rib and the turkey, as well as a fairly large array of other dishes. It just seemd to lack pizzaz… But the desserts were good…..

Sunday brought us to the show-stopper buffet – Todai. What a surprise! It was a surprise, because I am 1) skeptical of chains, and 2) particular about my sushi. Todai not only exceeded my expectations, it made me wishing there was one close to me – I’d visit it weekly!

There was an array of sushi that knocked my socks off! Eel, roe, salmon, tuna, every fish imaginable, every combination imaginable – all being made in front of our eyes. At least 40 different varieties of sushi alone! And… if you didn’t see what you wanted, they would make it up for you!

There was tempura, there were steamed buns, soups, egg rolls, crab cakes, there was every conceivable seafood… It was unbelievable!

Our waiter was a hoot. Young, funny, just sarcastic enough. He was definitely part of the fun. But the real show was the food. The block-long buffet was constantly and continually being replenished with fresh offerings. We literally ate for hours.

By Sunday night, the last thing we wanted to see was another buffet… Our numbers had dwindled to 9, so we headed down to our hotel’s Steak House to see if they could seat 9 without reservations. One look at the completely a la carte menu had me heading for the door. I don’t mind spending money for good food, but… $35.00 for the steak, and then $7.95 for a starch, $7.95 for a vegetable, $15.00+ for a salad, appetizers… Adding coffee and dessert would have required a second mortgage! I just wasn’t in the mood to drop a hundred bucks per person for dinner. We headed across the casino to the dining room to try out the $14.95 Steak or Prime Rib dinner special. We were glad we did. We were seated right away in one huge booth. That in itself was fun, because we actually got to talk with everyone! The salads were simple iceberg lettuce, but the steaks were all cooked perfectly. My extra rare was perfectly mooing, the medium rares and even the medium well’s were all done to perfection. They have a damn good grill man! They also served what may be the hottest horseradish I have ever eaten! Damn, it was good! So, for $22.22 per person, we had our last meal together…..

If you’ve never been to Vegas, you have to go – once. I can’t say I’ll be back soon, but what a great time – and gastronomic adventure!