Las Vegas Hotels is in the midst of a title-fight that is pitting the city’s two best buffets, Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan and Bacchanal at Caesar’s Palace, in a battle to be named Best Buffet in Las Vegas. I recently visited both Las Vegas buffets on a fact-finding mission to determine which buffet is best! I sacrificed my waistline so that my readers can stay informed. While many of Las Vegas’s best buffets have self-destructed under pressures of the recession, one hotel has decided to double-down their bets and has introduced an innovative buffet and reaped the benefits. The Cosmopolitan Hotel’s “Wicked Spoon” introduced high end dishes and a focus on individualized portions. The Wicked Spoon became the new gold-standard overnight by redefining the buffet experience into a quasi white tablecloth experience. Steve Wynn’s The Buffet looked pedestrian overnight like big-hair metal bands in the 90’s. Rising from the ashes of the post-recession buffet apocalypse, Caesar’s opened Bacchanal in September 2012 as a direct counter the Wicked Spoon. The two buffets are eerily similar and it is obvious that Bacchanal was modeled after Wicked Spoon’s success. But which buffet is better, you may be asking? That I will tell you later, but I can tell you they were equal competitors with the key differentiators in execution of many small details. The winner of the Buffet Battle won by a very slim margin.
Craft Preparation in a Buffet Setting
One of the key factors that struck me at both Las Vegas buffets was the careful attention to craft food preparation that you would see in a high-end restaurant. I hung back and watched the Chefs preparing dishes in small batches and serving them up on small plates or in the actual cooking dish. Gone are the steam tables and chaffing dishes; these two buffets now use small plates or dishes served straight from the cooking pan and only enough food for 8-10 servings. This small batch method ensures fast turnover, resulting in variety and extremely fresh food.
Everything Goes High-End
The quality of the ingredients and preparation are definitely what you might find at a foodie-friendly restaurant. For example, I had one of the better beef bone marrows and an insane duck confit ravioli at Wicked spoon. Surprises were at every corner. You will see things like a honey station, complete with 6 types of honey, and even honey comb that you can grab straight from a honey comb rack at Bacchanal.
Head to Head Match Up
Head-to-head score card on 12 categories (Meat Station, Fried Foods, Comfort Food, Cold Seafood, Warm Seafood, Italian/Pasta Asian, Latin/Mexican, Charchuterie, cold bar/salads, Desserts, Service, Style). Which Las Vegas Buffets won? Let us discover by category.
Meat Station (Winner: Bacchanal)
Bacchanal won this category for their variety of high end meat including prime rib, turkey, rib-eye, brisket, pork rib, beef rib, lamb chops, whole sausage links, rotisserie chicken. Very Impressive presentation and flavors.
Wicked Spoon offered seven types of meat including prime rib, leg of lamb, turkey, rotisserie chicken, Korean short-rib (in Asian section) and Short Rib (in pasta section). The inclusion of Bone Marrow, served in the bone, was very delicious and impressive. I almost threw this category to Wicked Spoon for serving Bone Marrow in the bone.
Fried Foods (Marginal Win: Wicked Spoon)
Wicked Spoon won this category because of flavor and artistic presentation. They were also not afraid to apply sauce (although Bacchanal had better fried chicken).
Bacchanal Although both buffets had a very impressive selection of fried foods, I found that Bacchanal had yet to fine-tune their fried food selection. I also found that their tater tots where a tad overcooked. From a presentation perspective, the single serving containers were a bit too small for the portion. What they did very well was their fried chicken and sweet potatoes.
Cold Seafood (Tie)
Tough call on this category, as they each excelled and lacked on different items. Wicked spoon, for example, excelled at the shrimp cocktail, crab legs, and seafood crostini. Bacchanal had better sushi, shellfish (mussels and oysters) , seafood salads (ceviche, octopus, shrimp). No clear winner on this category; it really depends what type of cold seafood you like better.
Hot Seafood (Tie)
Wicked Spoon and Bacchanal both had a great selection of perfectly executed seafood. Wicked Spoon’s salmon rocked my palate. Bacchanal had one of the better Halibuts that I have tasted; it was served with an endive cream sauce.
Italian/ Pasta (Win: Wicked Spoon)
Wicked Spoon wins for overall better pasta dishes, including, overall best buffet dish (duck confit ravioli). I felt that Wicked Spoon did a better job with selection, rotation and flavor. Wicked Spoon also had a build-your-own mac and cheese station. I let the chef make me mac and cheese the way he would make it for himself. He was a rock star and nailed it both in flavor and balance.
Bacchanal -Although Wicked Spoon won this head-to-head match-up, Bacchanal was a very close second and still clearly had better pasta/Italian than any other buffet on the strip.
Asian (Close Win: Wicked Spoon)
Wicked Spoon has a close win, the key X factors were a slightly larger selection, and the fun use of Chinese takeout boxes. The key X factor was that Wicked Spoon really pushed the line with a couple of their dishes, especially the noodle dish that was topped with crispy pig ears. Let me tell you, those pig ears were really amazing in flavor and crunch. Don’t be squeamish, just try it, and if you don’t like it you can dump it. Buffets are the best place to try high-end and adventurous food without the extra $ consequences of waste.
Bacchanal had very impressive dishes, but less variety than Wicked Spoon. Although there were some very high points, including made-to-order soups in traditional wooden boxes.
Latin (Win: Bacchanal)
Bacchanal won this category for better innovation and variety of Mexican-Latin dishes. Authenticity and regional influence was key to the win. Some of the more impressive dishes were the carnitas, grilled corn with cotija (elota con contija)— impressive! Bacchanal offered nine types of salsa were served out of mason jars — very impressive presentation. The salsas also were very high-end authentic. The tamales would also make my Grandmother envious.
Wicked Spoon did do one thing much better, made-to-order street tacos and quesodillas. These were some of the better tacos I have tasted, and I lived in San Diego for several years and ate some of the best Tijuana street tacos.
Charcuterie Display (Decisive Win: Bacchanal)
Bacchanal did several things right including using high end cured meats, select cheeses, breads and preserves. Although the key X factor was their honey display. There were 4 types of honey to select, from clover honey to purple honey and honey comb racks that you can actually pull off your own section of the honey comb! Awesome presentation and interaction
Wicked Spoon also had a very nice charcuterie display, although it was not laid out as a main attraction. Rather, the charcuterie was just a part of the cold salad section.
Cold Bar / Salads (Tie)
Wicked Spoon and Bacchanal had delicious cold dishes with an artistic presentation. This category was a wash out because both buffets equally nailed their cold bars.
Wicked Spoon excelled with their hot desserts including their molten chocolate cake. Bacchamel did best with their made to order crepes station (loved their crepe batter). Both Buffets rocked the house with their Gelato stations.
Service (Win: Wicked Spoon)
Wicked Spoon offered very prompt and attentive service. Water glasses were refilled promptly and dirty dishes removed instantly. Our waiter was very knowledgeable of all the dishes and even steered us to the best dishes of the buffet. We only waited 10 minutes to get into this buffet!
Bacchanal provided very attentive service, although we found ourselves were in middle of a fight between servers over our table. Both buffets offered a wine special, although there appears to be an incentive system for the waiters to sell more wine packages. We had two waiters awkwardly compete over our table. Although they both kept professional in front of us, we could tell there was competition. They were only a week old when we visited, so I expect things to run smoothly the next time we visit. There was also, at times, a delay in clearing our dirty dishes. Key factor in a lower score: We had to wait 2 hours for this buffet!
The Winner is…
The competition was very close, but the winner of the Las Vegas Buffet Battle is Wicked Spoon (Just Barely). In a “Head-to-Head Battle”, Wicked Spoon barely edged out Bacchanal. Both Buffets had their strengths and weaknesses, but the tipping point for Wicked Spoon was better service and a shorter line to get in the buffet. With that said, Bacchanal was barely open two weeks when I visited and it was obvious that they were ironing out new restaurant issues. I see a very bright future for Bacchanal, but for now Wicked Spoon retains it’s title as Best Buffet in Las Vegas.
If anyone visits Las Vegas soon, I would love to hear your reaction to Bacchanal and Wicked Spoon buffets. Please leave a comment with your thoughts! If you leave a comment, I will enter your name to win a Tom’s Foodie Blog T-Shirt. Winner will be selected on November 1st. Las Vegas Buffets are a must!
[ultimatetables 1 /]
Ties: 4 ties
Wicked Spoon: 4 wins
Bacchanal: 3 wins
- Breakfast Mon-Fri ($19.99)
- Lunch Mon-Fri($24.99)
- Dinner Sun – Thurs ($34.99)
- Dinner Fri & Sat ($39.99)
- Weekend Brunch ($31.99)
- Daily Brunch: ($22.00)
- Weekend Brunch: ($29.00)
- Daily Dinner: Sunday – Thursday ($35.00)
- Weekend Dinner: ($35.00)
For more info:
What The Internet is saying about these Buffets
Going to Vegas and looking to party?: I recommend you read this article on getting into the hottest clubs via www.danisdecadentdeals.com: http://danisdecadentdeals.com/2012/09/26/how-to-never-pay-full-price-at-a-las-vegas-night-club/
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