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August 1, 2014

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How much can one person — or five — eat at a 500-item buffet?

Five Las Vegas journalists are put to the test at Caesars Palace’s new $17 million Bacchanal Buffet

Image

Steve Marcus

Meatballs are displayed during a media preview of Bacchanal Buffet under construction at Caesars Palace on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. Caesars hopes the $17 million, 25,000-square-foot buffet will set the new standard for Las Vegas buffets with more than 500 food items and seating for 600 guests.

Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace

Tony Pettingill mans the carving station at Bacchanal Buffet in Caesars Palace on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Preview of Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace

Baskets of fried chicken and waffles with syrup dispensers are displayed during a media preview of Bacchanal Buffet under construction at Caesars Palace on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. Caesars hopes the $17 million, 25,000-square-foot buffet will set the new standard for Las Vegas buffets with more than 500 food items and seating for 600 guests. Launch slideshow »

Five hundred of anything is a lot, but the new $17 million, more-than-500-item Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace is overwhelming.

Opened in early September, executive chef Scott Green’s Bacchanal features nine live stations, among them seafood, Asian, Mexican, Italian and dessert, that present hundreds of daily items. “Live” means chefs cook the food fresh — it hasn’t been sitting in trough-like containers for a while — and quite a few items are served on small plates for presentation and portion control.

Some of the more unique and standout offerings at Bacchanal, which seats 600 diners in 25,000 square feet of modern-design space, include pho, ramen (the chef was taken from Monta in Chinatown), duck, shrimp and grits, red velvet pancakes, watermelon juice, carrot juice and sorbet and gelato flavors including sour cherry, blood orange, baklava and watermelon and mint.

Four colleagues of mine at Greenspun Media Group — Taylor Bern, Las Vegas Sun sports reporter; Andrea Domanick, Las Vegas Sun arts and entertainment reporter; Jack Houston, Las Vegas Magazine editor; and Conor Shine, Las Vegas Sun general assignment reporter — and I dined at Bacchanal Buffet to see how much one person would consume at dinner at Bacchanal.

The goal was not to gorge and get sick, but rather to see how many items would be eaten in a typical meal. However, as with any challenge, there is strategy, friendly competition and perhaps even a little cheating, er, padding.

It turned out to be neck-and-neck — fork-and-knife? — among three of the five eaters. Judge for yourself who won the Bacchanal Buffet Challenge; it’s safe to say that nobody came near 500 items (and that’s a good thing).

Bacchanal Buffet is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Breakfast is $21.99, lunch $28.99, dinner $34.99 weekdays and $44.99 on weekends and brunch Saturdays and Sundays, $41.99 (with unlimited champagne). Children ages 2 and younger eat free, and children’s prices are $10.49 (breakfast), $19.99 (brunch), $13.49 (lunch) and $21.49 (dinner). Also: unlimited draft wine and beer for $15.99; Caesars Total Rewards cardholders receive a $1 to $2 discount depending on the meal.

Don Chareunsy is editor of VegasDeLuxe.com and senior editor, arts and entertainment, of LasVegasSun.com.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

    • TAYLOR BERN

      WHO: UNLV beat writer at the Las Vegas Sun.

      STATS: 6-foot-8, 185 pounds. This is my first buffet in Las Vegas and the first anywhere in a few years.

      CONSUMED AT BACCHANAL: Greek salad, mixed greens with olive oil, wheat roll, pitas with honey, prosciutto, crab legs, sliders, oysters, mussel, chicken taco, beef brisket, ribs, fried chicken leg, sweet potato fries, mashed potatoes, water, apple juice and coffee. Plus, multiple servings of crab legs, sliders and brisket.

      TOTAL: 18.

      THOUGHTS: I knew dining at a different time than the others on this challenge would hurt, but even I didn’t expect to finish this far behind. Granted, I don’t go to buffets because I generally try to eat six to eight times throughout the day, and thus I’m rarely hungry enough at one time to justify splurging.

      Still, I don’t like to lose, and I think seeing what others were doing would have helped with my technique. The seafood station was my first main-course stop, and I piled the crab legs high without considering that altogether they were only worth one. That was a mistake, as was loading up on beef brisket.

      The food, as anyone who has been to Bacchanal will tell you, was excellent, but to best sample it all, you can’t focus too much on one station. Also, clear your schedule afterward. I would have been better served by a couple of vacant post-buffet hours to let it settle instead of a concert.

    • DON CHAREUNSY

      WHO: Senior editor for arts and entertainment at the Las Vegas Sun.

      STATS: Plus-size A&E journalist who loves buffets for their variety, not quantity. Well, OK, both.

      CONSUMED AT BACCHANAL: Shrimp, East Coast oyster, West Coast oyster, crab legs, seafood salad, soup dumpling, spicy and salty fish, duck, sticky rice, Kalbi ribs, chicken and pesto, meatballs, truffle potatoes, shrimp croquettes, fish and chips, shrimp and grits, clam bake, brisket, spicy artisan sausage, macaroni and cheese, lamb, sweet potato tots, 10 items from the charcuterie station (seven meats and three cheeses), green bean salad, tuna, har gow, chocolate creme brulee, chocolate macaroon, red velvet cupcake, rose meringue, chocolate cone, watermelon and mint sorbet, blood orange sorbet, fig and balsamic vinaigrette gelato, chocolate chip cookie, white chocolate cheesecake, five salsa flavors, chips, guacamole, shrimp ceviche, diet soda and coffee. Plus, multiple servings of crab legs, duck and soup dumplings.

      TOTAL: 55.

      THOUGHTS: A fellow editor in town told me that she loves Bacchanal Buffet and could eat there every day. I agree. The variety and quality are top notch. I’m obsessed with the freshly squeezed watermelon(!) and orange juices, soup dumplings, shrimp and grits, brisket, spicy artisan sausage and watermelon and mint and blood orange sorbets.

      I’ve dined at Bacchanal for breakfast, brunch and dinner, and breakfast during the weekday and brunch on weekends get the slight nod, if only because the price point is less, and the wait is not very long (10 to 15 minutes if you arrive before 11 a.m.).

      P.S. I recuse myself from the challenge because I clearly padded my total at the charcuterie and chips and salsa stations!

    • ANDREA DOMANICK

      WHO: Arts and entertainment reporter at the Las Vegas Sun.

      STATS: Las Vegas buffet virgin and adventurous eater. Will try anything once, but my eyes are inevitably bigger than my stomach.

      CONSUMED AT BACCHANAL: Crab legs, shrimp, East Coast oyster, West Coast oyster, mussel, baked salmon, baked trout, shrimp croquette, asparagus, corn, brisket, mashed potatoes, carrots, beef slider, Polish sausage, prime rib, macaroni and cheese, lamb, goat cheese salad, watermelon caprese, eight charcuterie items (three cheeses, three meats and two breads), seaweed salad, spicy tuna roll, California roll, soup dumpling, har gow, salmon sashimi, tuna sashimi, pot sticker, shrimp dumpling, crispy orange chicken, general Tso’s beef, chocolate cake, pistachio macaroon, berry macaroon, mango macaroon, vanilla macaroon, creme brulee, lemon cheesecake, berry cobbler, pistachio mousse, fig and balsamic vinaigrette gelato, baklava gelato, caramel gelato, rose meringue, diet soda and coffee.

      TOTAL: 54.

      THOUGHTS: As the most petite member of the group, it was decidedly ill-advised to try to compete with the appetites of four grown men, but compete I did.

      The consistent quality of the food was impressive. The seafood was especially fresh, which is no small feat given the mass quantities they prepare and our distance from the coastline.

      Some dishes were certainly better than others, but nothing was by any means bad. Everything was beautifully presented, none of the heaping cafeteria-style metal trays buffets normally bring to mind.

      The "500" factor is hard to grasp until it's all in front of you — a guest of any size or appetite could fill up at Bacchanal from just one of the dozen or so cuisine stations.

      Despite my strategic small-portion sampling, the sheer number of options had my belly groaning before I made a dent and my buffet experience quickly became one of mind over matter.

      My efforts were rewarded with a second place tie and a food coma of equally excessive proportions.

      A sage bit of advice: Stick to a few choice dishes (like the soup dumplings, oysters, lamb, and, ok, all of the desserts). I'll be back for breakfast.

    • JACK HOUSTON

      WHO: Las Vegas Magazine editor.

      STATS: One-time food writer who never had a huge appetite to begin with, and for whom buffets are rarely on the itinerary. Also, extremely competitive.

      CONSUMED AT BACCHANAL: Congee, char siu pork, salt and spicy fish, sticky rice, soup dumpling, su mai dumpling, har gow, tuna nigiri, salmon nigiri, spicy tuna roll, special roll, Peking duck, Kalbi short ribs, octopus salad, poke salad, Tillamook cheddar, Cabot cheddar, Parmesan, manchego, reserve-aged cheddar, seven kind of charcuterie, rigatoni and sausage, linguini and clams, orecchiette with pesto, penne alla vodka, meatball, truffled scalloped potatoes, slider, raisin bread, bacon cheddar bread, tomahawk ribeye, grilled corn on the cob, mussels meuniere, sweet potato tots, king crab legs, chocolate macaroon, cherry macaroon, orange macaroon, Madeleine, green tea mousse, blackberry pane cotta, rose meringue cookies (multiple), milk chocolate creme brulee, watermelon mint gelato, baklava gelato, Aztec chocolate gelato, sour cherry gelato and coffee.

      TOTAL: 54.

      THOUGHTS: Coming into the Bacchanal Gluttony Challenge 2012, I was not a fan of buffets, and while Bacchanal did nothing to change that, its spread still competes with the top buffets on the Strip. The dim sum selection is substantial, and the dessert station is a required stop for sweet tooths.

      Having returned twice since my initial visit, I can say I much prefer brunch to dinner — and having to eat only, say, 10 to 20 items in one sitting. But if you’re the type who can pack it away (and if you’re interested in dining at a buffet, chances are you can), you will find a lot to love here.

      Just please tell them to bring back the rose meringue cookies.

    • CONOR SHINE

      WHO: General assignment reporter at the Las Vegas Sun.

      STATS: Skinny Kansas kid who loads up on crab legs and prime rib when I hit the buffet.

      CONSUMED AT BACCHANAL: Shrimp, East Coast oyster, West Coast oyster, crab legs, grilled salmon, crab croquette, macaroni and cheese, lamb, prime rib, rib eye, spicy sausage, cheeseburger slider, waffle fries, mashed potatoes, four salsa flavors, guacamole, shrimp ceviche, tamales, carne asada, grilled vegetables, corn on the cob, watermelon and feta salad, bean salad, orzo salad, soup dumpling, har gow, pot sticker, sushi rolls, tuna, apple pie, tiramisu, chocolate chip cookie, butter caramel sorbet.

      TOTAL: 36.

      THOUGHTS: I’m still a buffet newbie, having previously only sampled the offerings at the M Resort and the Golden Nugget, but Bacchanal Buffet easily surpassed both. I tend to stick to the staples — steak and seafood — and I was not disappointed.

      The ribeye and prime rib were flavorful and juicy, while the crab legs, oysters and shrimp were all very fresh. Although no dishes were truly great, I was impressed by the consistent quality from station to station.

      My one piece of advice is to go in with a plan. I started at the front of the buffet and was full by the time I got to the Asian soups station near the back, which I’d been looking forward to all night.

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    1. This is so disgusting! However, it will be good for the hospitals that will be treating heart attacks for those stuffing themselves unconscious.

    2. Groovy!!!

    3. Food and service were five star!

    4. Enjoyed it immensely!

    5. And you still can't get a decent curry.

    6. Looking forward to checking out this buffet next time I visit Las Vegas. Your contest reminds me of the days we'd get a group of guys to go into buffets and see how many plates we could eat. Ahh... the days of college and being able to eat a ton of food for under $10. Sadly, like my youth, those prices are gone too.

    7. Another wanton waste of food!

    8. I wouldn't spend 21.99 on a breakfast anywhere much less pay the price of the lunch or dinner buffet. Good thing this is on the Strip - geared for tourists because I don't think this price range is geared to attract many locals :(

    9. Obesity in America is the determining factor to the question and also the result in many cases.

    10. This looks like a really good splurge meal with a friend. Can't wait to try it soon =)

    11. Buffet's have been a staple in Vegas for years. When I came to town in the 70's I lived on them as it was good food and the prices were cheap. Although the price is heafty it deserves a try. I'll be there.

    12. Ever wonder why there are so many over weight people in Las Vegas? How many buffets do we have? Fortuneately, some are too expensive for the average local and that is a plus.

    13. most people posting here are talking about the obesity crisis in america...did you look at the pictures of the 'contestants'?? most of them look anorexic to me. 6 foot 8 & 185 pounds??? this guy is a toothpick. (i just googled a weight chart for men & it only went up to 6'4" but stated that a man that tall should weigh up to 187 pounds.) a women who looks all of 125 pounds? please!!!! why doesnt the SUN employ some of us OBESE americans to try the buffet so your readers get the real story.

      half of these people are eating mac & cheese, mash potatoes & grits. BIG mistake at a buffet. you can get those gut busters on the cheap. i agree with those who loaded up on the crab legs & beef. it wasnt specified if the crab legs were king, opilio or snow crab. the price may be worth it for king crab. last march, at the bellagio, they had all three & the price was similar or less. (was the crab available M-TH at the reduced price?)

      it would also be nice if they asked us 'tourist' our opinion (in addition to the locals.) we also read your 'paper' online & dont live in the land of the endless buffets. personally ive probably spent more time in your casinos over the past 30yrs than the locals responding to this article.

      any time the SUN want to know the true value, & quality, of a buffet ask ME!!! i would be happy to oblige....on your dime.