If ever there was a doubt that Bacchanal Buffet would return, Caesars Palace pulled out every trick to bring the largest buffet in Las Vegas back, and better than ever. The 25,000-square-foot, 600-seat Bacchanal Buffet reopened with throngs of crowds waiting to explore the nine open, interactive kitchens, with many dishes already individually prepared, shared, or plated in real-time by staff from behind the counters.
The buffet, the largest in Las Vegas, underwent a $2.4 million makeover after it closed last year in March when the state ordered nonessential businesses to shutter to slow the spread of COVID-19. Clark County allowed self-serve buffets to reopen on May 1, with restaurants permitted to offer 80 percent capacity and three feet of social distancing. Bacchanal remodeled a section of the food line, focusing on a 2,120-square-foot area of the buffet. The changes replaced existing food counters, service equipment, and the ceiling and floor finishes. Designer Tetsuo Aoyagi, now of MUKU Design Studio Inc. in Tokyo, was the original designer of the $17 million buffet back in 2012 that features natural textures and materials such as glass and stone to give the feel of ice caves, mountains, and more.
More composed dishes highlight the revamped buffet. “We wanted to do restaurant quality dishes, and that’s what you see in the composed miniature dishes,” says Jennifer Murphy, the executive chef at Caesars Palace. “These could be represented on any of our menus at any of our restaurants here at Caesars Palace.”
Sixty-five people returned to their jobs since the buffet that normally spans breakfast to dinner seven days a week is sticking to limited dinner service for now.
But if heaping plates of excess is what customers want, they will still find it. “We wanted to preserve that experience of the bountiful excessiveness of what a buffet is all about and being able to walk back to your table with a full plate,” Murphy says while highlighting all that’s new.
Before the pandemic, the buffet featured a rotating list of 30 chef’s picks, but now, Murphy says just the new roaming carts will change out as the buffet reintroduces itself to Vegas tourists with 100 new dishes. “We have a catalog of recipes that we’re introducing over time, but we just want to execute a really great product,” she says.
At the back, the Chinese menu got a revamp with Korean food next to it — kalbi short ribs, japchae, and banchan. Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian, and Filipino cuisine, including adobo, get representation as well as a revamped sushi area.
The buffet now features more than 100 gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian items, marked on signs above the dishes. Customers can scan a QR code and find out where to discover each of these dishes along the line. A hearts of palm roll is a play on a lobster roll, while early diners loved the tomato tartar and carrot coconut gazpacho. “You can actually eat very healthy here if you wanted to. Not that that’s what people want. Why would you? But you could. It’s an option,” Murphy says.
A new mezze station spans baba ganoush to lebneh, and next door, virgin sangrias. Roman-style pizzas replaced the New York-style the buffet used to serve. The buffet expanded from Italian dishes to more Mediterranean flavors — shakshuka, gyros, polenta. “We mixed it up a little bit so it’s not just lasagna and red sauce and chicken Parm,” Murphys says.
The Latin section no longer has tacos à la minute, swapping out elote in four varieties with Takis and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Instead, the street tacos are now composed dishes awaiting diners on plates.
The front of the buffet brings the heavy hitters — three carving stations with a whole sucking pig, prime rib, and ceviche. A new Argentinian rotating grill stoked with white oak smokes the meats. One newcomer, chipotle grilled cherry quail, is displayed on skewers next to barbecue duck wings and wood-fire grilled quail, for example.
Sea scallops, hot and cold oysters, shrimp cocktail, lobster claws, and hot and cold crab legs tuck in next to composed dishes such as a turmeric grilled octopus with XO sauce, cedar plank salmon, sweet corn chowder with crab, and shrimp and grits with lemongrass, ginger and Thai curry flavored polenta. On a typical night, the buffet goes through 12 prime ribs and 400 to 500 pounds of crab legs.
Over at the dessert station, individual cupcakes in flavors such as salted caramel or ube nestle next to candied apples. All-natural gelatos in roasted banana dulce de leche or Belgian chocolate take up one side of the square station at the center of the buffet. The crepe station remains for desserts ordered on the fly. Asian flavors such as green tea, mango sticky rice, and Vietnamese coffee address the Asian tourist that Caesars Palace is seeing at the resort.
Another new experience, table-side presentations of wagyu hot dogs and lobster bisque served from rolling carts that roam the buffet.
The buffet now takes reservations at OpenTable instead of snaking lines of hungry diners queuing up to await their turn to overload plates with steamed crab legs, prime rib, and Roman-style pizza. Reservations are already sold out for the next two weeks with customers who didn’t plan ahead begging for a way to land a spot during their short stays. “I made the mistake of exiting through the front a little earlier today, and I got bombarded by 20 people,” Murphy says.
The prices remain the same as pre-pandemic — $64.99 per person — but the hours shrank, for now, to 4 to 10 p.m. every Thursday through Monday.
“We had time we had 14 months to re-imagine the buffet, and come up with new ways of serving this food. And I think we’ve accomplished that with the roaming carts and the new items that you see in the new equipment,” Murphy says. “I feel like I can say pretty confidently that this is the best buffet in the whole world.”
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