on January 16, 2009
The Mandalay Bay has long been one of our favorites in Las Vegas. Although the price was up a lot form our sat visit, the quality was about the same although much less a bargain at the current price, $27. The Mandalay Bay buffet features a collection of ethnic mini-buffets- Italian, Chinese, Mexican, and American. There are too many choice to try them all, but I tried. Especially out standing-- they would hold their own up against restaurant at any price-- were the sea scallops, Osso Bucco, and lamb chops. A little bit lower down in quality, but still very good dishes were the breaded shrimp, flank steak, and a passion fruit and kewee fruit no sugar dessert.Lo mein Chinese noodles with shrimp and the rest of the dessert selection– overwhelmingly cakes– were decent enough. Chicken marsala, overcooked dry chicken, served with a starchy gravy with perhaps some marsala flavor is best avoided.Although the buffet is heavy on protein, there was a decent selection of veggies and salads. I never made it to the salad bar, but the green beans and vegetarian egg rolls were nice. There were also several choices of potatoes, but think about it. Do you want to spend $27 on potatoes? Skip them. Go for the high priced stuff, like lamb, veal, and scallops.The menu changes daily through some sort of cycle, so you can’t count on having what we had. The lesson you must learn, and this applies to all Las Vegas buffets, is to sample everything to find what is good and then go back for more of that. If you do this right, that is if you pig out, you won’t have to eat again until well into the next day. We didn't feel like eating again until 2:30 pm the next afternoon. If you look at the $27 buffet as covering dinner, breakfast, and most of lunch( a small burger at Wendy’s was plenty for lunch at 3:30 pm the next day), the Mandalay Bay buffet is a good deal, but places that cost less can be an even a better deal.Offsetting the relatively high price of the Mandalay Bay buffet is the charm of the dinning room. We have eaten in 8-10 Las Vegas buffets, and hands down, the Mandalay Bay’s dining room is the most attractive. It has the appearance of a restaurant in Rangoon’s Raffles Hotel in a Humphrey Bogart movie, only in color. I was especially struck by the faux Ivory filigree decorating the pillars holding up the ceiling. Tap them, and you know they are plastic or plaster, butt they sure look carved Ivory.The dining room is divided into several separate spaces so the diner has no sense of just how big a room is actually eating in. Every table seems to be in a relatively intimate setting. I especially like the tables in the back, along the widows overlooking the Mandalay Bay's spectacular pool area. However, these rooms have the disadvantage of being the furthest away from the serving tables. We were beginning to worry about service being without drinks when we started to eat, but the friendly sever soon appeared and produced our drink order. After that delay, she kept on top of things and our drink glasses were never empty. Tipping at a buffet is a puzzle. I go by one the Las Vegas guides that says $1 per person except that they also said that 12 years ago, so I up it to $4-5 for two. You will find other advice saying 10 or 15%. Keep in mind that Las Vegas is designed to separate your from your money at every turn, and always opt for the lowest recommended tip, or lower.There is no doubt. Las Vegas casinos took advantage of the Clinton economic boom to transform buffets from a loss leader designed to get you into the place to a profit center, all of which means Las Vegas buffets are no where near the bargain they were up until 10 years ago. Still, some are better buys than others. I don't think the Mandalay Bay’s buffet represents as good a food value for your money as god the Orleans or Palms, but their dinning rooms are not as attractive as Mandalay Bay. If you want the most food bang for your buck, head for them, but all around, Mandalay Bay is fairly priced for a more than decent, sometimes superb, pleasant meal.
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