The Buffet at Aria

Aria Buffet

Aria is one of the best hotels on the Strip; you’d think it would have a great buffet. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

Aria doesn’t seem proud of its buffet. Marketing doesn’t emphasize it; it’s on the “promenade” level of the hotel, not featured in the physical layout of the casino. It’s small and unassuming, with few signs leading the hungry in its direction.

So, it’s not a centerpiece of Aria. It’s smaller than you’d think it would be; really quite small, in fact, and isn’t even presented that attractively. It’s as if they’d rather you not eat there.

Aria buffet
Aria buffet

If you’re a buffet-hound, and you’re at Aria, you should absolutely eat there. It’s a small buffet, and the selection is limited, but the food they have is very good indeed.

Let’s not bury the lede here: Aria’s buffet has hot, steamed crab legs. Most buffets offer crab legs on ice, cold, pre-halved. It’s easier. You can, after all, have as many crab legs as you need ready to go, on ice, and put them out as needed. Offering hot, steamed crab legs is far more difficult: you need to cook the legs and put them out, and if they stay out too long under the heat lamps, they get overcooked and they’re no good any more.

Aria Crab Legs

So, most buffets don’t offer hot, steamed crab legs. Their crab legs are served on ice, pre-halved, easy to serve and crowd-pleasing. At Aria, cold and pre-halved crab legs are available, but hot, steamed legs are also on offer. Hot, steamed legs that are perfectly cooked and delicious.

Where else can you get this? You can go to Mandalay Bay, but the quality there has been in decline and you’ll probably find the crab legs are overcooked. You can go to the Rio Seafood buffet, which has great steamed crab legs but is pretty expensive. Or, you can go to Aria. And that’s about it. Aria’s aren’t quite as good as Rio’s, but they’re better than the current state of affairs at Mandalay Bay.

Aria seafood

The other headline item is that the shrimp cocktail is unpeeled. That’s right: they’re offering U-peel shrimp at Aria. Why they would do such a thing is beyond me, but you won’t be getting peeled shrimp cocktail here.

It’s okay: the food Aria does have is good enough to make up for the oversight.

The cold seafood is well above average: the usual selections including green and black mussels, crawfish, and cold, pre-halved crab legs if you prefer them that way for some reason. The sushi is supermarket-grade as usual.

Aria sushi
Aria seafood

The hot seafood is surprisingly good as well, including a salmon dish and some tuna steaks that were overcooked for my taste but still very good.

Over at the carving station I found some decent roast beef, excellent kielbasa, a spicy chicken sausage that didn’t disappoint, and some roasted chicken and turkey that were both far better than normal for a buffet. There was some great roasted squash, good buttermilk mashed potatoes, and an okay macaroni and cheese. The Italian station had lasagna that was probably the best I’ve tried at any buffet. The roasted bone marrow was worth seconds.

The Italian station only has a few other offerings, including some halfway-decent pizza, and the Asian section is pretty uninspiring. And that’s about it. That’s the end of Aria’s buffet selection. Well, okay, there’s a salad bar, but it’s a buffet; you don’t make a salad at the buffet.

Aria pizza
Aria dessert

The dessert selection is limited as well. Gelato is offered, and my cheesecake was excellent.

Aria drinks

The drinks are a bit of an annoyance. Like most buffets, you’re at the mercy of a server for your drinks. He takes your order and goes away, and, eventually, returns with your drink—and it’s an absurd, tiny glass that you’ll finish almost immediately. Then you have to wait until you can catch your server again—and good luck with that—then place another order, and wait for your refill to arrive.

Why most buffets don’t put out soda fountains so you can refill your own drinks is beyond me. Only the really low-end places do it, like Luxor and Excalibur.

Still, if you’re at Aria, the buffet is worth a visit, small selection and small drinks notwithstanding. Weeknight dinner was $40, which is a bit high, but there is an unadvertised (as far as I saw) discount for locals, so if you’ve got the coveted Nevada ID, show it to the cashier.