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March 14, 2002
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Gourmet Buffet

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Bellagio Buffet

Let’s get one thing straight…I hate buffets. As a discriminating, intrepid and inquisitive chowhound, I’ve always considered them to be to fine dining what Roller Derbies are to ballroom dancing. You don’t so much approach the food at a buffet as attack it…causing quantity to overwhelm quality at every bite. But since the hoi polloi loves them—judging from the Disneyesque lines outside every entrance to all of them all the time—and since I’, always looking for an upscale bargain…I thought I’d take the plunge and see it the Bellagio’s new gourmet buffet was worth it.

My plan was to sneak into the Bellagio, eat and skeedaddle before surreptitiousness was quickly dashed. But I was spotted downing Camparis at Circo to steel myself for the food coma to come. These justifiably proud food beverage folks comped my meal, and gave me the grand tour…which kept me talking as much as eating. This was probably a good thing since what they were advertising was some pretty awesome grub…and my waistline was happy that I only got to sample about forty items (not even half the selections).

Those mere tidbits were enough to convince me that you well-heeled chowhounds should dive into such un-buffet-like dishes as real beef Wellington with béarnaise—which was great—Malaysian beef rending—not quite so—vitello tonnato—(that’s premium veal with tuna sauce—never a best seller with the Nascar crowd), apple wood smoked sturgeon, good shrimp and great sea bass.

That sturgeon was too thickly sliced and the seasonings on almost everything are underplayed, but I quibble. The breads are from La Brea and the desserts are from heaven. Best of all, these chefs are doings some cartwheels in the kitchen that strive for exotic authenticity over visual pizzazz. Don’t worry though, there’s enough volume per serving to please even Butterbean. But whether you’re a eyes-are bigger-than-your-slot-comp type, or amore refined in your dining habits, you should come away equal, but some are more equal than others.

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