UPDATE: Please check out my updated review of Le Village Buffet
My husband and I love French food and had been happy enough with our last experience at the Paris Buffet (back at the turn of the millennium), that we decided to give it a try again for dinner when we visited Las Vegas last month (July 2012). This despite the fact that the buffet now gets mixed reviews. In all, I have to say we were pretty happy and it was easily the best of the four other buffets we ate in Vegas using our Buffet of Buffets pass (Planet Hollywood, the Rio, Harrah’s and Main Street Station).
Three things make the Paris buffet special. One is the Disneyiske setting, in an open-air plaza, under a fake sky, surrounded by cute French-looking houses. My kids loved it, but so did I. A second is the fact that the food actually tries to be regional French, it doesn’t always succeed, but it’s a valiant effort. Finally, it’s the fact that the menu is limited enough to at least give you a chance to try everything you want to try (not everything there is, of course). I tried a lot of stuff.
The food stands are divided by French region, though there is a station dedicated to soup, salads and seafood and another to desserts. I tried the French Onion soup here and was underwhelmed. The onions had not been caramelized enough and the broth was too weak.
The first region I visited was Provence. Here I tasted some beef braised in a dark sauce. My husban liked it quiet a bit, but I felt the dish needed some sweetness, some wine in the sauce or caramelization on the beef. The saffron rice tasted like plain buttered rice, it was good but there were no hints of saffron. A dish of pasta in a cream sauce was quite satisfying, though I think it would have been helped by some grated cheese on top. A stewed chicken gave a hint of having been cooked in wine, but otherwise lacked seasoning.
My next region was Alsace, a region in the border with Germany that has gone back and forth between the two countries. I’ve both eaten and cooked Alsatian food before and I’m quite fond of it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t too fond of the chocroute garni, the meat was a tad too sweet and too spicy for me, while the pickled cabbage was too vinegary for my taste. The rest of the offerings were better, but not Alsatian. The cassoulet was nicely done and the meat was flavorful,the caramelized pearl onions were delicious, though a little underdone, and the scalloped potatoes were wonderful.
My venture into Savoie (a region I don’t know at all) was even more successful. Here I tried the grilled pita bread, lamb, tri-tip and chicken – apparently they like to grill in Savoie. They were all great, in particular the lamb and the tri-tip. Don’t bother with the chateubriand sauce, however, it wasn’t that good and would have ruined the meats.
This station also includes a sample of cheeses. The smoked gouda (or a cheese that tastes as such) was particularly delicious.
Normandy offered a stuffed sole which I loved. It had a beautiful crust and a delicious flavor, once you added a squeeze of lemon juice. Mike wasn’t as fond of it, and I can’t really understand why. The ham and cheese quiche was less successful, it tasted very much of Parmessan. There is also a small sushi section, but I didn’t try that at all.
Finally, I was surprised that there was neither beef bourguignon nor coq au vin in the Burgundy section but I then realized that this was actually the American station. Here you can find rotisserie chicken (I didn’t try it), prime rib (very good), roasted pork with apples (so salty as to make it inedible), roasted and mashed potatoes (good enough) and mac & cheese (lacked flavor).
For dessert, I first headed to the Breton section where you could try apple crisp and bread pudding (homey, but nothing to write home about) as well as made-to-order crepes. The crepes were the standard French variety, rather than Breton buckwheat galettes, but they were delicious. I had mine with strawberries and bananas covered with fudge and hazelnuts. The one problem is that the strawberries were already macerated and too sweet, so make sure you add some element to compensate for that. Still, it was sooo good.
We also visited the dessert station and here I tried several things. There was a chocolate mousse pastry on a hazelnut crust which was delicious and a lemon cookie sandwich that was out of this world. The other desserts impressed less. The cheesecake was less inspired that at other buffets and the creme brulet lacked umf. I liked the peanut butter cookie, but the sugar cookie was nothing special. The kids loved the soft custard (aka ice cream).
I had the unlimited mimosas/champagne/wine deal for dinner ($14, I think), and it’s a good deal if you’re planning to drink alcohol and are not too picky about quality. I enjoyed the mimosas and the champagne. The wine tasted like $2 chuck and I would definitely not have it again.
Probably the worst part of the evening was our waitress. She was efficient but seemed to be having a crappy night and there was never a hint of smile on her face. I’m sorry, but dining is an experience and unhappy waitresses bring it down a notch.
All in all this is a good buffet and I’d defintiely do it again.