Ah, Vegas. So unabashedly supertacky. Formerly the land of the cheap buffet, Vegas is now the place to indulge your appetite in, well, anything. But with their wallets loosened by free casino cocktails, are consumers really getting their money’s worth from the parade of high end eateries?
Zolli was forced to spend a week at the Wynn to find out.
The Wynn Buffet: MISS. The problem with buffets is that foods meant to be solid are often semi-liquid, and foods that are meant to be liquid are often semi-solid. I generally avoid buffets. But famished after spending the day travelling with only airline pretzels for sustenance, the Wynn Buffet lured me in. It is, along with the Bellagio, reviewed as one of the best in Vegas. Nonetheless, sauces had films. Lettuce wasn’t pert.
Granted, I didn’t try any of the ‘live action’ stations. I find them awkward. On the bright side, the white anchovies, lightly pickled, were quite nice, and the shrimps were acceptable. I had some chicken medallions in a white wine sauce that were tasty. But a roast vegetable preparation had undercooked (read: crunchy) turnips, and the baba ganoush was all garlic, no eggplant. The alfredo sauce reminded me of a yeast infection and its host pasta was gummy. The sushi was meh. Worst of all were the much lauded Alaskan King Crab legs: they were overboiled then chilled to near-frozen (again). Every bite delivered a squish of cold crabby water. They were sliced exactly in half in a rather amputational sort of way, presumedly to avoid litigation over splinters, chipped fingernails, excessive-effort-required, and the like. (Isn’t half the fun trying to get the meat out of the shell?). But the warm butter was good.
Because I think you would be better off spending your $40 on one nice entree elsewhere, I give the Wynn Buffet a MISS.
Table 10 (Shops at the Palazzo/Venetian): MISS. This outpost of the Lagasse empire is tucked in among the high end shops of the Palazzo. After you’re done with your meal, you can go look at shoes which cost more than your mortgage payment. The decor is ‘Dark Speakeasy’ with a touch of ‘Disneyland Gift Shop’. They should turn up the light in the bathrooms – I over-lipsticked and it was only after I had emerged into the glare of a Manolo Blanhnik store that I realized I looked like a Eastern European prostitute. The tables were uncomfortably high – in fact, when I was seated in the booth the level of the table was mid chest. If it weren’t for the excessive lipstick the waiter probably wouldn’t have noticed me there.
Anyhow, about the food: I smelled the Scallops Crudo with Pickled Watermelon Rind ($17) when it hit the table, which is never a good sign for raw fish. Only one scallop was wonky, and the rest were fine. (Was this a contributing factor in Zolli’s ensuing diarrheal onslaught? We’ll never know.) But there was too much coarse sea salt on the delicate flesh, giving the impression of grit and not of seasoning. Besides, the pickled watermelon rind was salty enough – extra salt wasn’t necessary. The Fettucine with Veal, Asparagus, and Truffle Butter ($18) was decent: the pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce was just rich enough. The asparagus was tender-crisp. But the veal was bluntly chopped up into little bits and had a rewarmed-meat sort of texture, making me wonder if I wasn’t dealing with the creative use of leftovers from yesterday’s dinner service. So for the so-so food and for making me look like a hooker, I give Table 10 a MISS.
Okada (Wynn): HIT. Even though it’s half artificial, the view out the window at this Japanese eatery is almost worth the price. It’s all waterfalls (fake) and bamboo trees (real) waving in the wind (real) and casting reflections on a rippled pond (fake). It is worth noting that the portions are quite small, and they will burn a serious hole in your wallet (real).
I started with Japanese Oysters with Ponzu Sauce ($26). These little bivalves were typically Japanese: small, but full of substance. The ponzu ‘mignonette’ was the perfect condiment, with more umami lipsmack than the standard version. The Variation of Tartares ($20: ahi, salmon, yellowtail) was precisely executed and plated in little taro chip tacos – and I appreciated the fact that the tartare wasn’t mucked up with a million other flavours. Beautiful fish.
Now. The Foie Gras with Japanese Eggplant ($26) was an absolute mouth-gasm. While the texture of the two components was similarly silky smooth, their discrepant richness made for the perfect pairing. Smush it all around in some balasamic and mustard sauces. Brilliant. Robata Grilled Alaskan King Crab was perfectly tender ($25), and its accessory vegetables were seasoned so as to not overwhelm the subtle crab flavour.
For expertly executed food in a beautiful setting, I say save up ahead of time and HIT Okada at the Wynn.