(Updated with 8/14 visit)
Las Vegas used to be the land of buffets. Every casino used to offer them as a way to draw in customers, who would then spend lots of money gambling. They used to be terribly cheap. That’s no longer the case. Every casino still has a buffet, but the majority of them are extremely expensive. Even a cheap buffet like the Luxor’s is $20 for dinner, with most of the better ones averaging around $30. I think the only reason why they can get away with those prices is that most of the restaurants on the strip are grossly overpriced, going off the strip requires a car, an expensive taxi drive or an uncomfortable bus ride. They have you.
All that said, I sort of wanted to go to a buffet during our 2011 trip to Vegas. I had gotten a 2-for-1 buffet offer with my MGM Grand room, but the MGM buffet gets such terrible reviews that I didn’t want to try it even at the reduced priced. I decided upon trying the Spice Market Buffet mostly because it was at the Planet Hollywood hotel, where I wanted to go to check the “rainstorm” attraction, and because at $23 after a $5 off coupon I found online, it wasn’t terribly priced. Plus it got decent reviews. In all, it wasn’t a bad choice. The food ranged from OK to good and given the prices in Las Vegas it wasn’t a bad value.
We returned to the buffet for dinner in August 2014, using the “buffet of buffets” pass (which gives you entry into 5 participating buffets for $50/$65 weekdays/weekends). The food then felt even more tired and less exciting than the first time around. I don’t think any of us were able to find anything that really excited us. The items I had liked during my first visit (Italian short ribs, American BBQ ribs and Chinese pork buns) were either missing or inedible this time around. As in other buffets, your best bet may be with the roasts – if you watch to make sure that the piece you get is from the center of a fresh roast.
The Spice Market Buffet portrays itself as an international buffet, and while the food stations are arranged by cuisine (“seafood”, “American”, “Italian”, “Asian”, “Mexican”, “Middle Eastern”, “bread & salads” and “desserts”), in reality all the “ethnic” food are American favorites from other cuisines. For example, Mexican food included fajitas, tortilla chips and guacamole – not a mole poblano or a pollo al pibil. Similarly, there was no chance you’d encounter a Persian stew or Syrian kibbeh at the Middle Eastern station: hummus, pita bread and a chicken curry was more like it. Still, there was a lot of food, much more than anyone could possibly sample on just one visit.
Among the things we sampled and failed in our visits were a linguini with a garlic butter sauce lacked flavor, though my 9-yo liked it. The meatballs were too dry and not worth the calories. The sauce on the chicken marsala was nice enough, but the chicken was so dry as to make it inedible. The beef on both an Asian stir fry and Mexican beef fajitas was also dry and tough, though the flavors were OK. The guacamole had been clearly mixed with some extender. The crab legs were very, very dry. A crab-stuffed-sole had been left for too long under the heat lamps and had become too tough.
Desserts were weak during our first visit, but had improved for our second -perhaps in comparison to the rest of the meal. We were able to get seated relatively quickly, but our service, which had been good the first time, was so-so the second time.
I’m definitely not looking forward to returning.
Spice Market Buffet
Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino
3667 Las Vegas Boulevard. South
Las Vegas, NV
Breakfast $20/13, Weekday lunch $23/$15, Sa/Su Brunch $28/$20, Dinner $31/$20 (second prices are for kids 10 & under, Total Rewards members save $1)
$5 off coupon often available, Groupon deal often available, part of Buffet of Buffets pass
Marga’s Restaurant Reviews – Outside the Bay Area