HB and I have been to Vegas together a few times (sometimes with the girls, sometimes with the BFs, sometimes just us two), and have talked about checking out the Bally’s Sterling Brunch (supposedly the best buffet in all of Las Vegas) quite a bit. However, when other people have been with us, they have hardly wanted to fork over the cash, so we’ve always opted out. With just us two, though, we were like, well, why not, let’s see what the fuss is!
The Sterling Brunch – reservations recommended – costs $85/person and – yes, you read that right, $85/person. Well, read on to find out why, stop interrupting me with your gasps and OMG WHAT DID YOU SAY?, sheesh! So, not all Vegas buffets are inexpensive, but are they all still cheap crap? (I have to say that no, Bellagio’s gourmet weekend dinner buffets have been delicious and well worth the $40ish/person when I’ve gone, and I have friends who adore Wynn’s gourmet dinner buffet which is priced similarly. Oops. We’re here to talk about the Sterling Brunch…)
Anyway, so the Sterling Brunch includes caviar, champagne, and lobster. And other stuff, but those are the big ticket money items, sort of. You’ll see.
The day we went happened to be Easter Sunday, before our afternoon flight. (Yes, we were in Las Vegas during a High Holy Holiday…) So there was all sorts of Easter themed items around, including this ice sculpture. I was trying to figure out how they’d colored the ice or if it was plastic when the host appeared to lead us to our table, so I never did find out.
My first plate – lobster, a small piece of filet mignon with mashed potatoes, some cured meat, an oyster, and Alaskan king crab claws. The lobster was pretty weak – dry and not too tasty. The filet mignon, interestingly, I picked out a small piece because I didn’t want to be too full, even though it was held in a warming tray, which meant it would probably be overcooked from being ‘kept warm’ – well, ironically, HB had thought the same thing as I did, so she picked out a larger piece, intending to just eat part of it. The ironic part was my piece turned out to be incredibly tender and medium rare, juicy even, while hers was dry and overcooked. Weird, right? My piece was a bit thicker than hers, though, so that might have played a part.
The cured meats & cheeses were fairly standard and yummy. The oyster? Eesh, both of us flinched when we ate ours. We’ve eaten many oysters together and these were probably the worst – gritty, flavorless, blah. I gave up, though HB tried another one after this and said it was the same. Also – these were either not fresh shucked or the guy was hiding in the back. I realize now that I prefer to be able to see the guy shucking them… it adds something to the experience.
Now, those Alaskan king crab claws? Hah. I really enjoy Alaskan king crab legs, but find that generally at buffets, they’re served cold, meant to be eaten with cocktail sauce. I like mine hot with butter, and they’re pretty messy to eat, so I avoid them normally. But this? They were already cut open for you, just dip, bite, and eat! I was really happy with that (and the hot butter provided) so I inhaled a couple of them. Win!
My second plate found me wandering around, grabbing a small cup (about 1/2 ounce, I believe) of caviar, some sushi, some hot food, and some salad. The salad was standard.
Here I want to make note that in all of the warming trays, a starch was included with the ‘meat’ of the dish, ie, the filet mignon pieces were cushioned atop fluffy mashed potatoes; the duck over risotto; the Chilean seabass over noodles, and more. I considered this out loud; HB and I decided it was in order to prevent overcooking and overdrying of the meats (although as noted, her piece of filet mignon was unfortunately overcooked regardless). In any case, I thought that was pretty smart.
The sushi was unfortunately drab, uninteresting and very much meh. I hadn’t wanted so much, but the woman gave me 2 pieces of each and I felt awkward saying “No, put it back! I only want one!” HB received only one piece of hers each, so I remarked on that; her response was “I said specifically I want one piece of this, one piece of that.” I’d simply said “Can I have octopus please?” etc. thus received more, so ask wisely!
The duck was fairly meh, though better than the Rio’s duck by a long shot.
And the fish was wrapped in something fried and crispy, which was lovely, but the fish itself was chewy, fishy, and pretty damn gross. A resounding pass on that one!
As for the caviar; with the blinis, capers, and various accoutrements that you could serve yourself, it was tasty. HB pointed out that she was eating the caviar on toast points and that she liked it better than the soft blinis, so I saved some to try with toast points later. The caviar itself was middle of the road; not the absolute sh*ttiest you could get, though nowhere near the amazing creamy saltiness of the good stuff, either. Suitable for consumption, in any case.
As I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of Easter paraphernalia scattered around, particularly around the dessert stations. Peeps, chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, everywhere, and I saw some people eating them. There were also GIANT chocolate easter eggs and bunnies that I worried out loud what they’d do with them if no one ate them. I saw one man sitting at his table eating a giant chocolate easter egg, and another man putting one in his jacket (true story; it was unwrapped, which made it very odd). But HB pointed out that they would simply melt them down or shave them over desserts, and they wouldn’t go to waste, so I felt better and didn’t decide to try to jack one to carry on the plane back to the BF for his eating pleasure.
A small bowl of extremely watery New England clam chowder…. pretty disappointing but what did I really expect? One cocktail shrimp, because I am not a shrimp fan (besides rock shrimp). That was pretty good but I didn’t feel compelled to get more. A piece of prime rib with some creamy horseradish; this was better than your average buffet prime rib, but remained buffet prime rib nonetheless (ie, not that well seasoned, but properly cooked and served nicely). Toast points and accoutrements for the caviar – much better on toast points, with a textural contrast for the caviar, a tang from the onion, capers, chives, and though you can’t see it, there’s creme fraiche there as well.
And that lamb chop… I’ve had lamb before, you know, and I quite like it. I’ve rarely had gamey/bad lamb (luck and careful choosing)… and I’d also never had mint jelly with my lamb, because mint jelly looks like lime jello to me and I don’t know, I was always like, ehhh, I don’t need to try it. But there it was, so I took a small scoop of mint jelly to go with my lamb chop.
And lamb with mint jelly? tastes like lamb with toothpaste. I made the horriblest face I’ve mustered in a while, sending HB into fits of giggles (remember, the champagne was free flowing, we were getting nice and toasty) and me into this face making frenzy. Ack. Finally, I swallowed and got out, “Well, I see why people eat mint jelly with their lamb though; I suppose it kills some of the gamey taste and cures the need to immediately brush your teeth after eating gamey lamb. Ack.”
I’m sorry but I gave it a shot. Mint jelly is not for me. Bad lamb chops are also not for me. I’ll take the soft, delicious lamb that doesn’t need mint jelly anyday…
(SkippyMom, when I took the lamb chop and while I ate it, I totally thought of you!)
More Easter on display… cute macaron lollipops!
The final plate (sort of)… I was clutching my belly and grumbling at this point, and HB was laughing at me. Again. But I was determined to eat “my money’s worth” so I opted for more pre-cracked claws. Nice. Perfect with butter. DELICIOUS.
Then, just because I could, I had a giant cookie (I love giant cookies, it’s a weakness of mine)… and tried a macaron for the first time. I have no point of comparison, but I will say this: this makes me desperately want to seek out more macarons. The cookie was crisp on the outside, dense and chewy – almond-y? – on the inside, though these had a spread of apricot jam that I wished wasn’t there but it held the cookie halves together to the stick. It was good. I want more. I want better ones. The chocolate chip cookie was really good too, chewy, chocolatey and not too buttery/greasy, I hate cookies that are overly buttery!!! (like mine, which soak through a napkin in .2 seconds flat… but they’re salty sweet goodness!) – I actually wound up walking over and taking two cookies to put in a sandwich bag for the plane ride. Yes. I did. I took food from the buffet. Sue me. (I wound up giving them to BF because I didn’t eat them on the plane, too.)
Yvo says: Pretty good stuff here; if you know what you’re getting yourself into, you can easily eat way over $85 worth of food (ie, “beating the buffet”). If not, you might want to avoid this place, although most items were big ticket items. There wasn’t much filler stuff compared to other buffets… If I’d stuck to seafood, or if this wasn’t my first time there, I could easily have eaten somewhere in the range of $100 or more worth of food. Those crab claws alone… eating a full plate of them could easily be $30-50 depending on what city you’re from and so what price scale you’re going by. I wouldn’t say this is an absolute must for a visit to Vegas, but it was fun to try once… maybe another special occasion sometime as well. (They also have a made-to-order omelet station that you can ask them to put lobster in your omelet, but I didn’t feel so inclined because eggs fill me up really quickly.)
middle of the road; could be fun or could be horrible for you depending on your tastes
First off – I didn’t gasp at the price – I knew this had to be special for that, and it did have some nice ticket items. Yum.
The minute I spied that lamb chop…I couldn’t read fast enough. How good was it? Did you like it? and I laughed so loud about the mint jelly because, here is the thing, Pooldad abhors the stuff…and I am not allowed to bring it in the house [I have never tried, I hate it too, but not like he does…] and your description was on point. Why do people do that? Yuck.
Then I saw the shout out and laughed even harder…the lamb, mmmmmm…thanks for thinking of me.
I like this review because I can completely see Pooldad and I going when we visit Vegas – special occasion type – I like it.
The chocolate bunny pilfering was funny tho’ – who eats buffet decorations for goodness sakes? LOL.
Can’t wait to see what you eat next week.
Regarding Your Lamb. Try fresh mint sauce. that really compliments any lamb dish. especially a tender slow roasted lamb shank. Mint Jelly as you say is not really that nice.
I was in Ballys in June. I didnt see any buffet. Do they still do one? There was a buffet in the Paris Casino which conects to Ballys.
I've been going to The Sterling Brunch since the 80's, when it was $25.00. Basically the same back then as now. Is Elario, the maitre'd still there with his cell phone? I like it better than you I think, but then I think I'm a foodie.