The Buffet at Bellagio

Bellagio buffet line
Long lines are often a good sign.

Arrive before 5pm for dinner to avoid long lines at the Bellagio buffet. Long lines are usually a good sign, but they can also indicate a good reputation no longer quite deserved.

The cocktail shrimp here are peeled and perfectly cooked. The crab legs, alas, are served only pre-halved and on ice—but they are decent.

The carving station has a fair selection of meat. My first time in, just asking for a piece of prime rib got me a medium-well, rubbery monstrosity that wasn’t even worth eating, but in an excellent demonstration of how much overcooking can kill an otherwise good piece of meat, I asked for “the rarest you’ve got” and received a medium-rare slice that was wonderful. Unfortunately, on my next visit the same approach got me a tough, medium-well piece that I didn’t even bother finishing. This state of affairs has continued; the prime rib nowadays needs the horseradish sauce, or else don’t bother with it. The turkey continues to be good.

There was also “Kobe prime rib,” which, the name notwithstanding, was tough and disappointing. They used to have couple kinds of sausages that were very good, but those have disappeared, along with the Beef Wellington. The rack-of-lamb is still great.

I had a great plate of ribs with chile sauce my first time here, but they were absent every time I’ve been back.

Basically, this is a formerly-top-notch buffet that is in its decline.

They’ve got the usual cold fish dishes, but these are better than normal for a buffet—and tuna and salmon poke salads that are so good you’ll want seconds. The baked fish is consistently above average. Among the side dishes, the scalloped potatoes are a standout, and the mashed sweet potatoes are worth having as well.

poke salad
Salmon and tuna poke salads. Mmmmmm.
carving station
The carving station
Sausages—but not any more.
crab legs
Snow and King crab legs (King on weekends only)

On the weekend, they charge an extra five dollars for a “gourmet dinner.” I’m aware of two differences: first, they’ve got king crab legs as well as the usual snow crab; and second, the caviar station. Caviar at a buffet! But don’t get any bright ideas about piling a plate with scoops of caviar, though: you’ve got to go to a counter, where an attendant will dole out meager portions of caviar onto those little wafers for you. Sure, you can come back and get more, but you’ll start to feel like a jerk by the third trip—unless they swap out attendants and you can start anew. The little wafer things aren’t very good, and overwhelm the flavor of the caviar, which is best scooped off and eaten, leaving the wafers on your plate.

Bellagio caviar

The sushi station makes edible sushi, on par with supermarket sushi (not a good supermarket), and there’s no real selection. The weekend-only station also makes sushi hand rolls that are, well, supermarket-quality, which is better than most buffets.

The dessert selection is above-average and includes soft-serve ice cream.

Basically, this buffet has gotten rid of a lot of what made it great, but the food that’s left is still worth the price of entry (in Strip dollars). The crab legs provide a first course, the other cold seafood make the second, the prime rib and roast turkey along with the vegetables make your main course, the tacos are good, and the dessert is workable. The Bellagio buffet may not be what it used to be, but it’s still worth going—as long as you don’t wait on a long line to get in. It’s not worth that line.

If you arrive after 5pm, the line can reach a half-hour or more. If you have an upgraded Mlife card, you can skip the line, which makes the place more attractive. Dinner is $36 on weeknights, and it’s worth it (again, in Strip dollars), but it’s not worth waiting 45 minutes on line for. Not any more.

Bellagio Buffet
The ribs in chile sauce were not present on my subsequent visits.