"In a sea of buffets, we're the whale." Or maybe it's the killer whale. Or maybe they're the sharks. No, that's Mandalay Bay. Or is it the jets?
A lot of people say, perhaps with some dithering over the Bellagio Factor, that the Aladdin Spice Market Buffet is the best in Vegas. For once in this crazy world, a lot of people are right.
After looking at the first five or twenty photos, Mike put it best: "It's like a buffet designed for vegetarians!"
Don't despair, meat eaters. That's not exactly what he meant. What he meant was that here was a buffet where the vegetarians don't have to hope for a particularly inventive pasta salad to set this buffet apart from Golden Corral. There's plenty of meat. Maybe too much meat, if you're squeamish over lamb.
I did take a bunch of photos, but they were all pretty bad (low lights, and I prefer not to vex other patrons with the flash), so you won't be subjected to them here. Except for the one above. I had to post something and this (some sort of soft cheesecake hill with raspberry and chocolate and the ubiquitous choc-dipped strawberry on the side) was super-delicious.
How good was this buffet? So good that, despite carefully taking small bits of everything so I could enjoy the greatest variety, I still didn't get to try everything! There are mozzarella balls and three kinds of small Italian pocket breads and carefully cut sweet potatoes with fruit on top and fresh dessert crepes that have chastised me in my dreams every night since.
I tried to do the cheat-your-way-into-dinner thing by arriving right before lunch (and lunch prices) ended, but the Aladdin isn't having any of that. They stop seating for lunch at 2:30, and dinner starts at 4. I was fourth in line at 3:45. At just past 4, there were at least forty parties waiting. So, watch for the start-gun rush.
Service was pretty good; I would have liked my drink to be refilled a little faster. The first time, the waitress waited until I was seated to ask if I wanted a refill. Bit odd.
What are some of the yummies that I did get to try (while waiting to take my midterm, which I got an A on, in case you've been worrying)?
- cheese enchiladas (with several kinds of cheese and olives and herbs on top -- you know, classy)
- roasted pepper quesdillas (actually toasted a bit and not just a flour tortilla folded in half and pressed on really hard to keep the cheese in)
- prickly pear salsa (I always wanted to try this -- it's really nice! Crunchy!)
- chickpeas with seasoning and small peppers or something
- vegetables made into that Middle Eastern dish that starts with an S... sousaka?
- fresh feta cheese and a variety of olives
- basmati rice with almonds and raisins
- tabouli that wasn't too tart or too dull (light on the tomato, but that's okay)
- eggplant parmesan (lovely small rounds with perfectly melted cheese and not a bit rubbery)
- pasta pomodoro (not as spicy as Bally's but still a solid dish)
- cheese ravioli (with artful green things on top)
- stir-fry vegetables (I can't walk past baby corn)
- vegetable egg roll (it tasted almost creamy inside: unusual, but nice and light)
- mushroom pizza (nice enough, but not extraordinary -- one of the foolish things I grabbed before surveying the bounty of each station -- I apologize to the starving children for abandoning it unfinished)
- Chinese eggplant (I rarely eat eggplant every two years, let alone twice in one day -- good seasoning)
- mashed potatoes
- did I get some of the sauteed forest mushrooms, I don't remember
- FARFALLE PRIMAVERA! Do you know what that means? "Spring Butterflies." The white sauce was just... the best. The best I have ever had. Or ever noticed I had. So light yet so nurturing. Yes, it imprinted on me, and now I will follow it everywhere, like a duckling.
- chocolate-raspberry cheesecake scoop
- bread pudding styled with caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, sprinkles, and almonds -- my own (dare I say fun and fabulous) design
- creme brulée
- tightly rolled baklava
- dried fruit in orange blossom honey
Did I not try hard? And there was so much untouched that I would be happy to touch, not to mention all the stuff I'm never going to touch (lamb kebobs, sushi, crab legs, sushi, roast beef, sushi, some sort of pork roll, and also a hell of a lot of sushi).
Make fun of buffets all you want. I'd pay thirty bucks for less. (Although, admittedly, not often.)
And thirty bucks is what it costs to know this much food joy: $26 for the buffet plus $4 for the overtip. (I think I'm going to go back to tipping 10% for buffet like a sane person and let the rest of you throw on the extra guilt dollar and keep contributing to problem. Well, I'm going to try, anyway.)
I took the following photo while at my table. Don't I look happy?
Maybe I should have taken another snap after winning $17 off a 45 cent bet on The Price Is Right slot machine? (Showcase Showdown Bonus!)
I guess it's the Bellagio next. Maybe I'll start easy, with breakfast. But can anyone compete with Paris' Le Village Buffet for breakfast? Have I accidentally ruined myself for all other buffets in this town? Do I have to move now?