Rio used to have two buffets, at opposite ends of the casino: World Carnival, the regular buffet, and the Village Seafood Buffet. Both were fairly awful. The seafood buffet had a good reputation, but had declined in quality drastically since earning that reputation.
Recently, the Village Seafood Buffet closed up, and became an extension of World Carnival. For an extra fifteen bucks, you get access to the seafood section, at the end of the World Carnival lineup. There’s a separate line for a separate entrance, but if you buy the seafood buffet you have access to the whole of World Carnival as well.
When you pay for the seafood option, they stamp your hand with a little lobster in invisible ink, like a nightclub. Stationed at the entrance to the special section, a Seafood Nazi checks for your hand stamp each time you enter.
The seafood section looks small, but don’t be fooled: it’s full of good food. It’s not the old Village Seafood buffet moved to a new location; the food here is now really great.
Let’s start with the crab legs. If you’ve read through my buffet reviews, you know I love me some crab legs. I prefer whole, hot, steamed legs, but most buffets only offer them cold and pre-halved. It’s a lot easier to serve crab legs on ice; if you serve them hot, overcooking is a real possibility, and the longer they sit out in the serving bin, over heat, the more overcooked they become. A buffet that serves cold crab legs can just put them out as needed and not worry about it.
Most buffets with cold crab legs will heat them for you, if you ask, by plunging them into hot water. The result is overcooked crab legs with a lot of the flavor boiled out. It’s better to just eat them cold.
At Rio, the cold crab legs include king crab as well as snow crab, which is unusual and very welcome (even Bellagio only has king crab on weekends). The legs are large, full of meat, and very tasty. But, also on offer are hot, whole, steamed snow crab legs—and this is where it gets interesting. These crab legs are perfectly cooked. They’re big, they’re meaty, and they’re not overcooked at all. They are the best crab legs I’ve had at any of the buffets.
The downside is that sometimes the serving bin was empty, and it emptied fairly quickly. This is actually a good thing because, as I said, if they sit out too long they end up overcooked. They are worth the wait.
Moving on to the cold seafood, the shrimp cocktail is peeled (unlike the old Village Seafood buffet) and the shrimp are big and well-cooked. There are Jonah crab claws, mussels, and scallops on ice. There are oysters on the half shell, which, while welcome, may be a little too long between shucking and plate. You can have tuna, salmon, and tilapia sashimi, and a tuna poke salad.
Don’t look for the inevitable sub-supermarket-quality sushi. If you want it, it’s available out in the main World Carnival section, but this seafood section doesn’t bother with a cuisine that literally no buffet in town does well.
The fried section includes oysters, scallops, and calamari, which may be a tad greasy but are still good. Next to them, though, are Oysters Rockefeller that are excellent. There is a “lobster medley” that is actually langostino, but still tasty (and which has lately included actual lobster claws). The various hot seafood dishes are all above average and all worth a try—the only disappointment was the lobster mac-and-cheese, which was mostly mac and cheese and not much lobster.
In addition to the pretty great seafood section, you also have access to the full World Carnival buffet, which I won’t cover here; read about it in my separate review. Basically, don’t bother. There’s enough great stuff in the seafood section to make your meal, and World Carnival doesn’t add anything worth writing home about.
In fact, World Carnival has crab legs, too—hot, steamed snow crab—but they’re small, overcooked, and sad. The prime rib is overcooked and unremarkable, and with the seafood spread in front of you, it’s a waste of calories. The dessert selection is uninspiring. Stick to the seafood section and be happy.
The seafood dinner was $48 on a weeknight. If you’re a Nevada resident, show your ID for a 25% discount (but not on the weekend, when the price is also higher). If you do the “play for a buffet” deal with Total Rewards, where you earn 50 points from gambling in a day and get a free buffet, you have to pay a $25 upcharge to use it for Rio Seafood, which is more than the upcharge from World Carnival’s normal price.
All buffets decline in quality until, inevitably, they close up and remodel only to begin anew. Rio Seafood just restarted this cycle. Try it while it’s still great.