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April 23, 2014

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THE STRIP:

Caesars Palace beefs up its resort dining options with a new buffet

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Steve Marcus

A view 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.

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 »

Las Vegas buffets have always been gluttonous affairs. In their early years, quantity trumped quality with institutional displays of food piled into stainless steel bins covered by sneeze guards.

Years later came serving stations, where food types were grouped in islands by cuisine and chefs carved prime rib and flipped omelets to order.

Now, Caesars Palace hopes to take the concept to a new level by adding in gourmet goods, prepared fresh in front of diners' eyes by chatty chefs who want to explain what they're doing.

The new Bacchanal Buffet opens Sept. 10 with a sleek $17 million design that took seven months to complete.

Gary Selesner, regional president for Caesars Palace, said he hopes diners will find the new buffet as engaging as a TV cooking show.

"With all the cooking shows on TV right now, food is everyone's favorite subject," he said. "The food will be very fresh, very well prepared and very interactive. It's all designed to make food as entertainment."

The buffet replaces the popular Cafe Lago, which closed in January. It features nine kitchens and 500 food items that Caesars executives hope will pump new life into the resorts' dining scene.

"Lago was a great place, but perhaps like me, we all get a little out of date," Selesner said. "People still like to come here for the buffets, and it's a concept I think has gotten a little tired. We want to bring the Las Vegas buffet back to the stature it once was."

Breakfast will cost $19.99, lunch $24.99 and dinner $39.99. The Bacchanal Buffet also will be available on Caesars' "Buffet of Buffets" ticket for an extra $10.

Here are five highlights of the buffet:

    • Open kitchens

      Almost all of the buffet's offerings will be cooked in front of guests by chefs who have been trained to interact with the public.

      Each of the nine stations at the Bacchanal Buffet will have a different theme, such as Mexican, Italian, Japanese or dessert, as a way to break up the massive 25,000-square-foot spread located between Rao's and the Garden of the Gods pool.

      "The idea is to have nine little restaurants," said Scott Green, Bacchanal's executive chef. "At each kitchen, we've brought in chefs who specialize in the different types of food. We've brought in Japanese chefs from other parts of the property. We have people who are experts in barbecue and breakfast. We wanted to bring in content experts."

      Each station will have at least 30 food items

    • Special smokes

      One of the challenges in creating the Bacchanal Buffet was trying to please both the casual customer and gourmands, Selesner said.

      "We want to provide the comfort food people expect and also satisfy the foodie," Selesner said.

      So Bacchanal will have typical prime rib carving and barbecue stations, but the meats will be smoked using special woods: peach, red oak, cherry and hickory.

    • Breakfast

      What would a Las Vegas buffet be without breakfast? Bacchanal opens at 7 a.m. daily, and breakfast items from cultures and cuisines will be featured at each station.

      Green's favorite is red velvet pancakes, which will be prepared to order. Guests can add their own variety of toppings.

      The buffet will feature more than 95 breakfast foods, including chicken and waffles and shrimp grits.

    • Made-to-order ramen

      One of the advantages of having interactive kitchens will be guests' ability to order custom dishes, such as sushi and ramen soup -- without a long wait.

      Green said the Asian sections of the buffet, for example, will start with staples diners can customize to their liking.

      "What I hate is getting a sushi roll with cold rice, and you just know it's been sitting in the cooler a long time," Green said. "But we'll have the basics and people can ask to add things. A good sushi chef can make a California roll in no time."

      Customers also will be able to mix and match ramen and pho noodles with different soup stocks and flavorings.

    • The design

      The Bacchanal Buffet, conceptualized by design firm Super Potato, has three major design elements in its main entry and dining areas.

      As customers enter, they'll see glass walls and blocks which will let natural light in from the Caesars pool and reflect light inside. Designers used 8,800 pieces of glass for the installation.

      Another area will look industrial with new and distressed steel. Forty percent is reclaimed scrap metal from Nevada and California.

      The third area will be wood-paneled walls and wood blocks. Some 9,000 pieces of wood were used in that area. Much of the wood is recycled.

      "We wanted to give you the feeling of sitting under a tree with the light shining down through," said Kaori Nagao, the Las Vegas representative for Super Potato.

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    1. Pretty steep prices for a buffet. My complaint on buffets is the food quality is usually cheap and the lines can be enormous. I'll wait 40 minutes for a buffet when pigs fly. Considering I'm not the gluttonous type...I pass on buffets. This place might be a nice change. At least you'll be getting better quality food. It will just cost you more.

    2. Glad to see that this buffet is opening. We avoided the previous buffet in Caesar's Palace on account of all the bad reviews on tripadvisor / yelp. I look forward to trying this buffet, especially since it is on the all-day pass that Harrah's offers.

      However, I do miss the concept of the buffet being a loss leader for the casino. I remember the days of eating on the cheap -- and yes it was more quantity over quality -- but it got us into the casino and spending money at the property. Hopefully there are a still a few bargains left on the strip that offer that sort of deal again. Some of my fondest memories of Las Vegas is paying less than $10 for a meal and seeing who could eat the most.

    3. Can't wait for this turkey to roost. Pay $20 for breakfast buffet is stupid, might as well stay off-strip and eat in a "real" Restaurant or end up at Hash House A Go Go for the same overall price.