Bacchus is the Roman god of wine. His name is synonymous with sumptuous feasting, and that’s exactly what you get at Bacchanal Buffet, the new blowout buffet at Caesars Palace, featuring a changing menu with more than 500 different items daily.
Formerly home to Café Lago, this $17 million space adjacent to the Garden of the Gods pool complex is designed by the Japanese firm Super Potato, paying homage to Caesars’ legendary Bacchanal Room in name only. Don’t look for marble statuary or a Roman theme. Instead, the designers who have already given us Sensi and StripSteak make use of wood, glass and steel to maximum effect in a series of rooms where the material is the motif. Bacchanal Buffet offers stunning visual feasting, too: custom-made chairs of various hues, flashy two-toned glass panels, stainless steel everywhere and a series of interactive kitchens, where food is prepared right in front of us.
The resort has had a love-hate affair with the buffet concept, before committing to this one. Café Lago’s buffet kinda … wasn’t. It was a mini-buffet with a limited selection established to supplement Cypress Court, a food court where customers only paid for what they chose. So, management finally decided to pull out all the stops, and the result is impressive on many levels.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you I am writing this after experiencing both breakfast and lunch here on the first day of operations. Even one meal of this scale is overwhelming. Two such meals is just silly.
But since I wanted to try as many specialties as possible, I took on the behemoth twice. The buffet’s executive chef Scott Green patiently guided me through the breakfast stations before the 11 a.m. changeover. I tried the Red Velvet pancakes first; there is real maple syrup to pour over them, and they are flat-out delicious. Then I sampled an array of smoked fish from Acme, a New York City fish broker. The smoked whitefish is the standout, and the chef says sablefish, a.k.a. black cod, is on order.
I also tried a few dim sum, ones popular with Westerners, such as rice wrapped in lotus leaf with chicken and sausage, and ha gow, shrimp dumplings. Both were exemplary. Then I tried some watermelon juice, served in a tiny, individually portioned bottle. Unfortunately they were out of slab bacon by 10:30 a.m., so I chose some fine artisanal sausage instead.
At lunchtime the mood changes, and so do many of the dishes. You run a gauntlet of fish and seafood near the entrance, including a raw bar, paella, the house clambake in a cute bucket and Low Country shrimp and grits in cast-iron pans, for me, one of the highlights.
The carving station serves several meats from the house’s smoker—terrific, tender brisket with a real crust, slow-cooked for 16 hours, smoky chicken and excellent ribs. The Mexican station has posole, carnitas and beans of various styles, but the real hook is the assortment of condiment jars, at least a dozen of them. Look around you—there are jars everywhere! The dessert station, for instance, has dozens of candies for the taking in glass jars.
A few things, however, still need work. The dry-ish meatballs don’t even compare with those at Rao’s across the hall, and the Asian section, with its workmanlike peppered beef, Peking duck and various noodle concoctions, is as mainstream as that at a Panda Express. I realize that the hotel has to cater to the masses. But with so many Asian clients, Caesars Palace can include items borrowed from its own Beijing Noodle No. 9 and hit it out of the park.
Kudos, too, to the pastry department for wonderful desserts in bite-size portions, a buffet trend Wicked Spoon in the Cosmopolitan introduced here, and which Bacchanal carries on. If you’ve eaten judiciously, then the homemade donuts for breakfast, and the warm, eggy bread pudding at lunch are apt rewards. Forgive me, I’m having supper at the gym.