In my continuing quest to find the greatest buffet in Las Vegas (and eventually the world!), I may have found one to stand toe to toe with Rio’s Carnival World Buffet. Situated in Planet Hollywood, the Spice Market Buffet doesn’t fit into the Hollywood theme, at least in name. It also doesn’t bear any resemblance to a Spice Market. Nonetheless, it does use spices and the walls are adorned with food-related movie posters like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (two very similar movies). The lunch buffet cost 25 bucks, but as soon as I looked around, I knew it was going to be well worth the price.
Spread around the place were signs naming the types of food sprawled beneath. There was Seafood, Italian, Asian, American, Dessert, Middle-Eastern, Soup, Mexican and of course two Salad stations that I would have avoided completely had they not had both fruit and cheese. Our waiter, Juan, was awesome and even though his job was the simple task of clearing our plates and bringing us drinks, he was just about the friendliest restaurant worker in the world. After putting in my drink order, I had the enviable task of deciding where the hell to start eating. A brief walk and I knew just where to go.
My foray into my native country brought me prime rib, bacon, citrus-marinated chicken and mashed potatoes. This was a hell of a strong start. The prime rib was already juicy, but the au jus I ladled onto it made it even juicier and tastier. I was lucky enough to get a thick cut, but the thickness did not get in the way of the tenderness. The thing was a bit fatty, but not so much that I felt I wasn’t getting enough meat. Plus, had I wanted more I could have just gone up and gotten it. I followed this with some delicious bacon. This stuff managed to somehow be both crispy and melty. The initial bite was nice and solid, but as soon as it got in my mouth, it melted like delicious pig-tummy butter. The mashed potatoes made a nice side and although they could have just used some sort of mix, these were the real deal: creamy, salty and full of skin. My least favorite was the chicken, which didn’t taste bad, but was just something I felt no need to waste any additional stomach space on. After all, space is everything. And the final frontier. I was ready for my next plate.
Continuing my culinary world tour, I headed south of the border for some Mexican food. Part of the setup was a sort of taco/fajita bar, while the other side was more of a salsa station. I decided to make the most of both and created some loaded nachos. First I piled a bunch of nachos on the plate, then carefully picked out asada and chicken from their respective fajita trays, making sure not to accidentally grab any peppers. Next, I piled on their beans and then moved to the cheese. In hindsight, since the cheese was shredded and not melted, I should have put it on before the beans so it would melt, but alas, hindsight is 20/20. But I wasn’t done, I topped it off with some spicy red salsa and some guacamole, then finally returned to eat it. It looked and tasted like a thing of beauty. It had just the right ratio of components that no single ingredient overpowered. Once again, my least favorite was the chicken, because it was a bit dry, but the beans were enough to keep the mood wet. Yet, despite this wetness, the chips maintained their strength. So much so that 15 minutes into eating, they were just as crisp as they had been in the beginning. No floppy chips here. Now what?
Italian and Seafood.
Since neither of these nations of food offered me enough for a full plateful (or my stomach was getting packed), I decided to combine the two. I began with pizza and lasagna, then took a couple of tempura shrimp (which really bridges the gap of Asian and Seafood). The pizza wasn’t just some half-assed effort to get kids to eat at their buffet. In fact, they had a real wood-fired oven to cook the pizza in. It didn’t compare to the wood-fired pizza at most restaurants that are dedicated to that particular food, but was certainly a big step up from chain pizza. The lasagna, though, was just plain decent. Rolled up as though it was canneloni, it tasted fine, but wasn’t special enough to waste more than a biteful of my stomach. Finally, I crunched into the shrimp tempura. I always find shrimp walks a fine line between rubbery and tasty, but this shrimp had been so thoroughly fried that any semblance of its original texture was long gone. In its place was crispy, amazing shrimp tempura, which despite being so fried, refused to be dried out. Hell, I would eat my shoe if it were fried like that. By now, I was slowing down, but still fighting.
Like so many people throughout history, I took the fight to the Middle-East. Here I encountered hummus, pita, tandoori chicken skewers (Middle-East/India…same thing) and some chicken curry. This was definitely the most disappointing part of my meal. The hummus was just kind of too thick without being creamy. It wasn’t dry, as some hasty hummus can be, but after a few bites I was finished. As for the skewers, I found them to be a bit dry, and although I tried to moisten them up with some curry, I quickly found out that the curry was actually marinara sauce. Actually not bad marinara, but definitely not in the right place. The chicken curry had also been cooked in marinara. Again, I would have liked it had I found it in the Italian section, but this wasn’t quite right. I hoped my next plate would be better.
My stomach was nearing capacity and I really just went to the Asian area to get some tastes. This began with crab rangoon (again bridging the Asian/Seafood gap), then moved to lemon chicken and beef chow mein noodles. The crab rangoon was a nice surprise of taste and tasted even better when dipped into the sweet Thai chili sauce. The lemon chicken was a strange twist on orange chicken, except they had apparently used lemon instead of orange. The difference was negligible, but still tasted pretty good. Finally, the beef chow mein tasted pretty good, but the noodles were so thick that I could hardly get them into my belly. I’m glad I didn’t start out with these noodles, because although they tasted good, they were just too filling for me to have wasted early space on.
I finished off my meal with as much fruit as I could find. I needed to do my stomach at least some sort of favor in that meal, plus I would rather have fruit than any other dessert. In the end, I was ready to pass out, but instead I had a four hour drive ahead of me. I knew that for the full four hours my digestive system would be working overtime, but it was sure worth it. This was definitely a buffet worthy of rivaling Rio. The Asian and Middle-Eastern sections could have used a little additional effort, but there was really little to complain about. Plus, I know they add even more skewers and crab legs for their dinner, so if lunch isn’t variety enough for you, dinner sounds even better.