Sterling Brunch: Polished or Tarnished?

Bally’s brings back its Sterling Brunch buffet with mixed results

Sterling Brunch's omelet station | Photo by Jon Estrada

Sterling Brunch’s omelet station | Photo by Jon Estrada

A little voice inside my head said, “Don’t look back. You can never look back.”

Maybe Don Henley had it right. That’s certainly the way I felt when dining at the recently revamped Sterling Brunch.

The $90-per-person experience at Bally’s Steakhouse (to my knowledge, the most expensive brunch buffet in Las Vegas) was one of the first meals I ever reviewed in print. Despite my general hatred of buffets, I’ve dined there numerous times, and frequently recommend it to friends and family. It was one of those only-in-Vegas gems that make me love this city.

So when Bally’s Steakhouse closed earlier this year to be replaced by BLT Steak, I was thrilled to hear Sterling Brunch would continue in the new venue. Unfortunately, my first visit to the relaunched brunch left me pining for the old days.

Caviar and Champagne | Courtesy of Caesar Entertainment

Caviar and Champagne | Courtesy of Caesar Entertainment

My experience begs the question of whether the new Sterling Brunch should be judged for what it delivers today, or for what I remember of it in the past. The truth is, this is still a solid experience. First, it comes with unlimited Perrier-Jouët Champagne, which would set you back $120 a bottle if you were having dinner at this steakhouse. Second, it still offers American sturgeon caviar—although you now have to order it from the kitchen rather than help yourself. Third, I can’t remember the last time I saw a create-your-own omelet station that included lobster, Boursin cheese and Cognac. (The booze is in the back, but just ask personable omelet chef Webster, and he’ll gladly fire it up for you!) I like the fact that dishes such as eggs Benedict are now made to-order in the kitchen, rather than being set out on the buffet line. And the raw seafood offerings are still amazing.

When it comes to ambience, though, the new modern dining room lacks the old-Vegas charm of its predecessor. And the modern buffet line isn’t quite as much fun to me as the makeshift version I remember. But the old staff is back, many of whom have worked at Sterling for years and who remember repeat customers by name.

So why am I still disappointed? Probably because the powers-that-be at Caesars Entertainment didn’t want to cross the $100 check line. At 90 bucks, this already seems pricey. But to truly deliver the quality I remember, they’d probably have to raise the bill another $20 or $30. Since they’re unwilling to do that, we get smaller lobster tails. The cheese selection is also smaller. The sushi is no longer made to order. The chicken is dry. The “signature” tuna tartare, which you have to order from the kitchen, is unbelievably bland. And while I realize it makes me sound like a snob, serving caviar with metal spoons is not acceptable! (If you’re unwilling to shell out for mother of pearl, at least offer plastic.)

All of that said, Sterling Brunch is still worth the money—provided you order correctly. Start off with crabs—either king or stone—and a few oysters. Ask your waiter for a double order of caviar. The dense, sweet bread-pudding French toast is awesome. The prosciutto on the eggs Benedict provides a wonderful touch of salt. And the aforementioned omelet can be a work of art, something I’d gladly pay $25 or more for in an à la carte setting. Wash it all down with three or four glasses of bubbly, and you will not leave disappointed.

Al’s Menu Picks

  • Stone crab
  • Cognac omelet with lobster
  • American sturgeon caviar
  • Perrier-Jouët Champagne

Sterling Brunch

BLT Steak in Bally’s, 702-967-7258. 9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Sat-Sun. All-you-can-eat, $90.


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