Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

[Review] Thanksgiving Buffet at the Wicked Spoon, Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Our recent trip to Las Vegas meant that we would be resident in Sin City over Thanksgiving. Las Vegas is a bubble of suspended reality, but I had no idea what to expect on the biggest American festival day of them all. I have long been intrigued by some of the dishes served on Thanksgiving (sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows anyone??) but really, it was the promise of gluttony and  indulgence which was dragging me in. I was also viewing it as a trial run for Christmas Day. Just like marathon runners, it's important to train regularly. 

Research on the internet suggested that the hotel buffets were the way to go, but to be prepared for long queue times. We were staying at the very new and very sleek Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, and some more reading revealed that their buffet restaurant, The Wicked Spoon, had been amongst the Foursquare Top 10 check-in spots on Thanksgiving 2012. The Bacchanal Buffet over at nearby Caesar's Palace was also getting some serious mentions, but ultimately convenience (and laziness) won out and we headed downstairs to the Wicked Spoon. 

We started to queue at about 2.30pm and moved relatively quickly to the cash registers. The brunch buffet was being served until 3pm, at which point service was to switch to the dinner buffet, along with an increase in prices. However, we got lucky and paid the brunch price, plus an additional $10 per head to secure bottomless Bloody Marys, Mimosas and Champagne. Things slowed down considerably after paying, with the wait to be seated taking approximately 45 minutes. From looking into the dining room, it was clear that there was a policy of regulating the crowd flow, meaning that the dining experience never felt uncomfortable.
Champagne and mimosas for Thanksgiving brunch
When the Wicked Spoon buffet opened, it set a new trend in Las Vegas buffet dining by offering small plates or individual portions at many of their stations. That may not seem overly revolutionary but it has apparently been adopted by many other buffets since. Presentation standards are high with little copper pans being used for cajun shrimp & grits, creamy polenta with pear and walnut or spicy mac and cheese. Fried chicken portions come in miniature deep-fry baskets, while portions of Asian rice are served in iconic cardboard takeout boxes.

The only limit to buffet eating is your own stomach and, of course, the looseness of your waistband. Pretty much every type of cuisine is on offer ranging from seafood and salads, Asian and sushi, traditional carvery meats, fresh cooked omelets to fine patisseries and gelatos. Movement never stops here, with diners roaming the floor seeking their next hit and chefs constantly restocking their stations. It's a surreal sight to see huge buckets of sliced crab legs being loaded onto the buffet, only to be demolished over the course of a few minutes by the waiting diners. 
Mountains of crab legs at the seafood station
Brussels sprouts with almonds and cranberries
Portions of "twisted" fried chicken
We got stuck in, quickly clearing plates of "healthier" seafood and salad options. This endowed us with a sense of virtue before approaching the carvery counter with righteous justification. I loaded up a plate with (from top left, clockwise) bone marrow, roast lamb, roast turkey, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and finally, sausage stuffing. As an Irish person, this plate made me feel like I was cheating on Christmas Day and every plate ever cooked by my mother and aunts.

Given that the buffet is essentially a high volume, mass production venue, the quality of each and every item was outstanding. The roast lamb was brightly pink with a crispy, salty outer skin. The Brussels sprouts sautéed with almonds and cranberries still had some bite, while sweet potatoes were smooth and creamy.  I've definitely taken some inspiration from this plate for Christmas dinner.
My traditional Thanksgiving plate
Next up was a mishmash of items from the Asian counter - BBQ Korean rosary cut ribs, five spice pork belly with hoisin sauce, a beef stir fry loaded with green beans and asparagus, with a crisp and fresh green papaya salad for balance. At this point, our endurance was beginning to suffer and we took a breather. We had selected the bottomless mimosa option, and our server was unrelenting, keeping our table constantly stocked with one glass of champagne and mimosa each. 
My Asian Thanksgiving plate
Finally, I visited the counter that I had been studiously ignoring since we started this gluttonous trip - the dessert counter. All kinds of enticing sweet treats were on offer, with a gelato counter making up one side. I confined myself to the wheat-free desserts, which limited me somewhat, but not too badly. An orange macaron (which I think was pumpkin) was gooey crunchy, and raspberry topped pannacotta was both creamy and sharp. A pistachio chocolate mousse cake was the only weak note, but  scoops of peanut butter ice-cream and mango sorbet quickly put things right. 
A selection of patisserie
By the time we decided to cash out, one side of our table was covered in sticky plates and empty champagne flutes. The cheese and cold meats counter sat across from us, taunting me with its ripe brie and creamy goats cheese. But I was defeated, worn down by a magnificent and varied feast. There were still so many dishes which I wished to sample, but my stomach had waved the white flag.

What really stood out was the high quality and standards of cooking. Producing fresh food on this volume must involve some keen logistics and management, and I'm sure that the kitchens are non-stop bustle. However, the dining room is relaxed and calm, making this feel more like a high-end restaurant than a Las Vegas buffet. Roll on Christmas.

The Wicked Spoon Buffet, Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109
URL: Link
Twitter: @Cosmopolitan_LV
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