Bacchanal Buffet – Las Vegas, NV

Food Adventures, Las Vegas

Las Vegas really has something for everyone. This is especially true at the Bacchanal Buffet in Caesar’s Palace, which recently underwent a $17 million renovation to its 25,000 square foot dining area. Featuring over 500 dishes prepared daily, some of which are made to order, this buffet is the hottest and newest in town.

Rainbow of macarons!

Rainbow of macarons!

It was literally and figuratively difficult to digest that two hour eating marathon, but as they say, pictures say a thousand words. If we missed any descriptions or details, let us know in the comments and we can try to fill you in!

Based on what we could see from the main dining room, there was an extensive seafood section (both hot and cold) and Mexican food with an impressive variety of freshly prepared salsa. Prioritizing, we decided to visit the seafood section first.

Cocktail Shrimp

Cocktail Shrimp

Giant shrimp, conveniently peeled down to the tails, piled over ice. The shrimp were sweet, tender, and plentiful. Don’t miss the sauce bar next to it – there’s plenty of tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, and drawn butter to be had.

Green Mussels

Green Mussels

These steamed cuties propped up in ice were a unique find in a cold bar. The mussels were a bit chewy and probably would have been better hot.

Speaking of hot…

Seafood Guys

Seafood Guys

Just behind the counter of mollusks and crustaceans on ice, these friendly fellows loaded steamed crab legs into large pots of boiling water to reheat. Occasionally one will leave his post to shuck fresh oysters for patrons wandering by.

Mmm snow crab legs

Mmm snow crab legs

Plenty of cold crab legs lay over beds of ice, but if you prefer them hot, just hand an empty plate to one of those friendly guys and grab yourself a nice pile of legs. We took a break from exploring to enjoy our first few plates of noms.

Enjoying the crab legs at the table

Enjoying the crab legs at the table

The glass panes in the newly renovated dining area let in beautiful sunlight. What a beautiful way to spend a summer evening in the desert!

Centerpiece

Centerpiece

Even the centerpieces at the table looked stunning. The head-to-toe renovation, and even little touches like the table decor, truly made this whole experience beautiful.

And now for more food…

Crawfish and paella

Crawfish and paella

Next to the cold seafood bar was a selection of  hot seafood dishes like cajun-style crawfish, paella, sauteed fish, and more.

Oysters and Shooters

Oysters and Shooters

At the very end of the cold bar, fresh oysters are shucked to order. Some are served raw on the half shell (my favorite!) and others are destined to become part of these delicious oyster shooters (pictured above, top right). Basically like a non-alcoholic mix of tomato juice, cocktail sauce, and tabasco, the shooter had a great kick immediately soothed by the silky oyster. Another great addition to the cold bar was the ceviche (pictured above, top left). With lots of lime and chopped peppers, the fish was tender and deliciously tart.

Prime Rib

Prime Rib

While I moved on to more plates of hot crab legs, Martin went to check out the terrestrial offerings. He came back with this succulent, inch-thick slice of rare prime rib. The generous slice would fit right in at Lawry’s, although it did look a bit lonely without the jus, yorkshire pudding, and mashed potatoes.

Roasted Goods

Roasted Goods

Alongside the prime rib were roasted kielbasa, double-chops of lamb, and rotisserie chicken. Yum! Also on this side of the buffet were pizzas, pastas, and Southern-style barbecue complete with brisket and ribs.

Dim Sum

Dim Sum

Around the corner and past the cheese, charcuterie, and honey bar lies a taste of the East. Stir-fried Chinese dishes, dim sum style dumplings, glistening nigiri sushi, barbecued charsiu pork and Peking duck, and even soups.

Chinese Goodies

Chinese Goodies

Martin brought back a dim sum variety of xiao long bao (soup dumplings), egg rolls, fried gyoza, and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf. (If you look in the background, there’s a peek of a little salmon nigiri.)

Tonkotsu Ramen

Tonkotsu Ramen

I wove my way to the noodle soups and gleefully ordered a bowl of tonkotsu ramen. The chashu was fatty and the bowl was full of menma (bamboo), so that was awesome. Unfortunately the broth was a bit grainy, so I ended up setting this aside and heading to the desserts.

Artsy slider and macarons

Artsy slider and macarons

Our friend set up an artsy plate of a single slider and some colorful burger-like macarons. We just had to snap a quick photo before proceeding to…

Candy (for decoration only)

Candy (for decoration only)

The dessert section is amazing. Like a grownup version of frolicking through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Display Case

Display Case

Nearly all of the desserts come served on either a colorful square plate or in cute shot glasses.

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake

Even the cakes come nearly bite-sized. The red velvet cake was moist although the frosting was a bit too sweet.

More sweets

More sweets

One of our other friends grabbed the Oreo dome and marveled at the surprise inside (hint: the mini Oreo garnish isn’t the only Oreo in town…)

Shot Glass Desserts

Shot Glass Desserts

The chef’s special, the taro panna cotta, and blueberry cheesecake. It was hard to resist grabbing one of everything!

Gelato and mochi

Gelato and mochi

The pastry chefs here even make their own gelato and sorbets. Also available at the frozen goods section are mochi ice cream like the ones made by Mikawaya here in LA.

Cake Pops

Cake Pops

Perhaps one of the cutest bite-sized desserts are cake pops. The pink ones above are strawberry cheesecake while the conical ones are triple chocolate.

Dessert Variety

Dessert Variety

Perhaps the most interesting was the taro panna cotta. The flavor profile almost exactly replicated halo-halo. The chef’s special turned out to be a spongy raspberry shortcake in a custardy creme anglaise. Yum! Lastly, the shot glass dessert on the right was the tiramisu. Chocolate mousse layered with espresso dipped lady fingers and topped with a mascarpone creme. So good. The macarons had a crispy shell that shatters when you look at it, and the ganache fillings added a great flavor.

Dessert Variety #2

Dessert Variety #2

Sitting next to the cake pops are these cute crispy chocolate cones filled with a chocolate mousse. A fun and cute little treat! In the background, you could see I also went back for seconds  of the tiramisu. And who could miss those chocolate covered strawberries?

Chocolate covered strawberries dipped in pop rocks

Chocolate covered strawberries dipped in pop rocks

The grande finale – chocolate covered strawberries dipped in Pop Rocks. That’s right, my friends. Pop Rocks! Take a big bite out of these juicy sweet berries and the sprinkles immediately fizzle on your tongue. These are incredibly fun to eat and wonderfully delicious. We made sure everyone at the table got to experience it!

A brief look back..

A brief look back…

After indulging our gluttony for about two hours, we finally stood up and with our belly full of noms and our faces lit up with smiles, we walked out of the Bacchanal Buffet knowing we would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting and looking for the all-you-can-eat experience. The price is comparable to other higher-end buffets (here’s looking at you, Wynn) and the variety of and quality of the dishes (especially the desserts) is fantastic. Come hungry.

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Check out Bacchanal Buffet: caesarspalace.com

Caesars Palace
3570 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV 89109

See their Yelp reviews here!

For weekend dinner, $50 per person. Bacchanal is available with the 24-hour Buffet of Buffets Pass with a $15 supplemental fee.

Dim Sum – 888 Restaurant – Rosemead, CA

Food Adventures, San Gabriel Valley

Brunch is definitely the “thing” to do in Los Angeles on sunny weekend mornings. But as much as I love my crab cake benedicts and mimosas, there’s nothing that quite compares to a dim sum “brunch.” Dim sum is traditionally known as the food that accompanies yum cha, a session of enjoying tea with the main star being the tea and the dumplings, etc. acting as secondary characters. In the US, dim sum is commonly used to refer to the whole meal inclusive of tea. The meal includes fried or steamed dishes such as bao (steamed buns) and dumplings of all shapes, sizes, and fillings.

Dumplings

Dim Sum Dumplings

One of our favorite places to partake in dim sum is 888 Restaurant in Rosemead, Martin’s hometown. The food is pretty darn good, the service is friendly enough, the prices are very affordable, and they serve dim sum until 3pm. 3pm! That means we could sleep past noon just like the good ol’ college days and still make it there from the Westside in time to enjoy a smorgasbord of dishes! Yes, this happens quite often.

Here are some of our favorite dim sum staples:

1) Har gow (pictured above, left): steamed dumplings with a clear, chewy rice flour wrapper encasing a ball of shrimp and ginger. A dim sum staple, this and shiu mai are the most popular dumplings, but fear not — the dim sum places know this too and always have plenty available for purchase.

2) Xiao long bao (pictured above, right): Taiwanese steamed soup dumplings. They don’t quite measure up to the ones at Din Tai Fung, but if you’re really craving it, these soup-filled pork dumplings will hit the spot. Don’t forget the vinegar!

Sticky Rice (before)

Sticky Rice (before)

Sticky Rice (after)

Sticky Rice (after)

3) Lo mai gai: savory sticky rice steamed in lotus leaves. Tender, gooey rice drenched in saucy braised pork, fragrant with the infused aroma of the lotus leaf wrapper — so yummy!

Tripe & Daikon Stew

Tripe & Daikon Stew

4) I’ve seen this referred to as “niu za” but if you ask for tripe, usually they’ll know what to give you. A hearty bowl of daikon (radish) cubes and stewed beef tripe in a flavorful broth, this one is one of the more “adventurous” dishes but definitely give it a go.

Xia chang fun - shrimp rice noodles

Xia chang fun – shrimp rice noodles

5) Xia Chang Fun: sheets of freshly steamed rice noodles rolled up with whole shrimp and served drizzled with a sweet soy sauce. This is one of our all-time favorite dishes, reminiscent of Vietnamese bánh cuốn. Prepared properly, the noodles will have a chewy, not mushy, and the shrimp will be just cooked and tender.

Turnip Cake

Turnip Cake

6) Luo buo gao: blocks of doughy rice flour containing bits of turnip and occasionally other add-ins like taro or Chinese sausage, sliced and pan fried to order. These are a bit greasy (they’re oiled to keep the blocks of dough from sticking to each other, and then oiled again to keep the slices from sticking to the griddle) but oh so delicious. Even on days when I’m trying to be “good” and healthy, I can’t resist the roasty-toasty aroma wafting from the cart.

Turnip Cake Cart

Turnip Cake Cart

Yes, friends, I risked ending up on Asians Taking Pictures of Food in order to capture this moment for all of you. I hope you enjoy it.

Bor Lor Bao

Bor Lor Bao

7) Bor lor bao: literally translated as “pineapple buns,” these sweet treats do not necessarily contain pineapple at all! They are named for the crust, which cracks and crumbles like the scales of a pineapple. The top is crispy and flaky, the bottom is soft and fluffy, and the filling is usually a sweet eggy custard. So good!

Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

8) Mango pudding: Martin’s favorite dim sum dessert, this mango pudding is often prepared using the boxed mix, but sometimes we luck out and find a place that prepares theirs with fresh mango puree. Don’t forget to have it drizzled with milk!

Sweet Tofu

Sweet Tofu

9) Doufu Hua: freshly made silken tofu served with a ginger-infused simple syrup, this sweet warm dessert is the perfect way to end a dim sum meal.

Dahn Tat (Egg Tarts)

Dahn Tat (Egg Tarts)

10) Dahn tat: Flaky layers of dough make up the tart base, each tart is filled with creamy egg custard. These are an iconic dim sum dessert, but watch how many you eat — the custard has plenty of egg yolk and you know what makes the tarts so flaky? Lard. Still, life’s too short not to enjoy one or two every once in a while.

These are just a few highlights of our favorite dim sum dishes. Not pictured but noteworthy is the ever-popular char siu bao, a.k.a. barbecue pork buns a.k.a. manapua (for all you Hawaiians out there!). Warm, fluffy steamed buns filled with a sweet and salty pork filling, these are the perfect “starter” item for first-time dim sum goers.

One of the biggest appeals of 888 is that they still serve dim sum the fun way – with carts pushed through the aisles, navigating the maze of tables in the dining room. You can peruse the offerings in their cart and point to what you want or ask for it by name (see a few of our pointers above!). They then stamp your order sheet according to the price range of each dish, and when you’re stuffed to the brim with dumplings and (if you specified) chrysanthemum tea, a guy in a suit will come over and tally your bill with mind-bogglingly quick mental math. Definitely a unique experience!

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Check out 888 Restaurant:

8450 E Valley Blvd, Ste 121
Rosemead, CA 91770

See their Yelp reviews here!

PS: If you’re craving some soy sauce chicken, check out the small barbecue shop located just behind the restaurant (it’s an extension of 888) that has ducks and sides of pork hanging in the window. If you come in the afternoons on the weekends, sometimes they’ll have dim sum leftovers for sale (I’ve been known to snag some last minute bor lor bao this way).

Day Nine: San Francisco – Dim Sum Tour

Food Adventures, San Francisco

On our last day of our One Week, Three Cities trip and for our first meal(s) of 2012, we decided to spend the afternoon in Chinatown and have ourselves a dim sum tour. What we hadn’t anticipated was the lack of seating. While there are plenty restaurants that serve the sit-down dim sum brunch we’re used to, a lot of the more popular dim sum places are a grab-and-go sort of joint. Lines out the door and into the sidewalk, steamer baskets stacked high with different types of dumplings and goodies on each level, yelling across the counter in a mix of Mandarin and broken English. It’s definitely an experience!

As our bus approached Chinatown, the signs became increasingly flecked with Chinese characters and the sights and smells became increasingly more reminiscent of home. Conducting your own dim sum tour is simple — just follow your nose and eyes… and bring cash.

Look at all those dumplings and buns! I want all of them!

We had jotted down a few key places to visit and hit Good Mong Kok first. Known for their dim sum staples, we decided to pick up a selection of our go-to dim sum items: har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings with a clear, sticky wrapper), sticky rice steamed in banana leaves, and cha siu pao (barbecue pork filled buns). Unsure of how to proceed, we stood right out on the sidewalk and started munching on the har gow. Yummy morsels with a juicy filling and soft, translucent wrapper, these really hit the spot.

A whole tray of har gow!

We took a gamble and decided to continue on our search for more dim sum (and hopefully a place to sit and dig in!), so off we went toward Wing Sing Dim Sum. Here we found more of the same basics, including dumplings in many varieties, but what caught our eyes were the xia chang fun (steamed rice noodles with shrimp and sweet soy sauce) and dahn tat (egg custard tarts). And just as noteworthy, here we found a place to sit! Wing Sing has some tables available in the back for self-seating; on the way we also spotted ads for some killer lunch specials ($5 for a plate of rice or noodles and sides? Awesome!). The verdict? The sticky rice had a good texture (not mushy nor undercooked) but it was a bit bland. The cha siu pao, which many people seemed to recommend, are good but the filling was a bit too sweet for my liking. The xia chang fun, our favorite dim sum dish, from Wing Sing looked good in its clear clam-shell packaging with the sweet soy sauce in a little container on the side. It would have tasted even better if it were warm. I guess bringing it home to a microwave would have been one advantage of doing take-out dim sum as the locals do. The dahn tat custard middle was delicious but the crust was dense, more like a pie crust rather than the flakier phyllo crusts we prefer. All in all though, our brunch only cost us about $7 total, so we can’t complain!

Dim Sum Staple: Xia Chang Fun (Steamed Rice Noodle Sheets with Shrimp and Sweet Soy Sauce)

A dim sum brunch would not be complete for us without some delicious boba, so we stopped by Ten Ren TeaStation. Note: the term “boba” for those little tapioca balls varies by region. I tried a few Yelp App queries for “bubble tea” and “pearl tea” after “boba” generated few results. Ten Ren is a popular brand of loose leaf and bagged teas, sold in grocery stores and in many retail locations, so I love stopping by TeaStation when I can. I had their sweetened iced black tea with grass jelly and Martin had their iced black milk tea with boba. The grass jelly was a great texture and reminded me of the cans of suong xao that I used to buy at the Vietnamese markets back home.

The rest of our day was spent walking off our dumpling-filled morning, window-shopping for Hello Kitty hats, and making our way toward Haight-Ashbury. By the time we hopped on the BART to catch our flight out of SFO, we were glad to be heading home. Our One Week, Three Cities adventure was full of fun and delicious noms. We hope our blog series will help some of you plan a future trip to Seattle, Portland, and/or San Francisco, or at least give you a chance to live vicariously through our photos and food adventures. Stay tuned as we return to posting recipes and local hotspots!

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Check out Good Mong Kok:

1039 Stockton St
(between Washington St & Jackson St)
San Francisco, CA 94108

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Wing Sing Dim Sum:

1125 Stockton St
(between Jackson St & Pacific Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94133

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Ten Ren TeaStation:

949 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94108

See their Yelp reviews here.

Day Two: Seattle – Dim Sum and Henry’s Taiwan for Christmas

Food Adventures, Seattle

What we hadn’t anticipated about holiday travel was just how many places would be closed on Christmas Day. We asked around for ideas on what to do, and the general consensus seemed to be “Go to Chinatown.” Sounds like a plan!

Christmas morning, while children around the world are eagerly tearing up wrapping paper to uncover their presents, we stood outside of a cramped doorway packed with others who apparently had the same idea that we did – DIM SUM. Harbor City Restaurant and its neighbor Jade Garden Restaurant are local favorites for this weekend brunch of sorts. Did you know that dim sum is thought to have given rise to the Western concept of brunch? Who would’ve thought that thousands of years of traditional ‘yum cha’ with hot tea and dumplings would one day evolve into pancakes and French toast. But I digress.

Dim Sum Staples: Cha Siu Pao, Chicken Feet, Har Gow

Harbor City has one cart that holds most of the steamed items, and the waitstaff brings out the stirfried, fried, and baked items on trays in batches as the kitchen rotates through its repertoire. We ordered the staples: har gow, cha siu pao, chicken feet, turnip cake… oh my! The har gow had a nice and sticky wrapper the way I like it, and the shrimp filling was moist and succulent. The cha siu pao, touted as some of the best you could find in Seattle, were hot and fluffy. The barbecue pork filling was a little sweet for my liking, but the texture was perfect. And the chicken feet, if that’s your thing, were flavorful. The turnip cake (below) was crispy on the outside and had bits of lap xuong (Chinese sausage) throughout the turnip dough/paste.

Turnip Cake and Bor Lor Bao

We noticed a lack of our favorite steamed dish – xia chang fun (steamed rice noodle sheets with shrimp, served with a generous drizzle of sweet soy sauce), so we asked our server and she very eagerly brought out our request straight from the kitchen. Ask and you shall receive, indeed! It was warm and fresh with the familiar slippery texture.

Xia Chang Fun

We usually forgo the assortment of entrees and deep-fried offerings, but a pleasant surprise was the crispy shrimp and tofu – a cube of tofu topped with a dollop of shrimp paste, all battered, deep fried, and served with a sweet and sour sauce. Yum! They were wonderful and fresh, but be careful because they come out of the kitchen piping hot!

Crispy Shrimp and Tofu

For dessert, we had the usual – bor lor bao, dahn tat (egg tarts), and mango pudding. After polishing off the last savory dumpling, I dove in a bor lor bao (pictured above). Translated as “pineapple bun”, these baked goodies don’t actually contain pineapple (although some do) but are named for the way the top crust crumbles and looks like the pattern of a pineapple. These were filled with a sweet egg custard. Not the best I’ve had but they certainly satisfied my craving!

Mini Egg Tarts

The dahn tat here are smaller (and cuter!) than those at some other dim sum places. It has a great flaky crust to custard filling ratio. I could eat a dozen more of these!

Mango Pudding

Just as how no dim sum experience for me is complete without bor lor bao, so does Martin feel about ending his dim sum meal with mango pudding. The mango pudding here has bits of a chewier mango jelly, and the main pudding has a more ripe mango flavor and a less from-the-box taste than other places. And of course you can’t go wrong with a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk!

As if that wasn’t enough to fuel us for the rest of the day, we wandered around and ended up stopping by Purple Dot Cafe. Rei had taken me here years ago when I visited, and I still remember her excitement over the black-and-white checkered jello. What brought us in, though, was the Hong Kong style milk tea and a dessert missing from Harbor City: sweet steamed tofu. Freshly made silken tofu topped with a simple syrup and ginger concoction, it’s the perfect way to truly complete a meal of dim sum.

Sweet Tofu

We realized that dinner would be hard to come by later on, so we planned ahead! First we stopped by A Piece of Cake; we had passed it on our walk between the station and Harbor City and marveled at the cake displays through the window. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go inside and take home a slice! My eyes darted around at the sheer quantity of beautifully decorated cakes, my stomach growled and my mind became increasingly overwhelmed by the choices.

Such a beautiful cake display at A Piece of Cake!

Finally, I saw it — the green tea honeydew mousse cake — and I just knew it would be the one. Martin already had his heart set on the mango pudding cup, so it was an easy transaction. Dessert in hand, we hopped down the block to Henry’s Taiwan, a place known to the locals as serving up some of the best night market style food. I opted for the must-try dish — beef shaved noodle soup. I asked it spicy and for the noodles to be kept separate so they don’t expand and get mushy before I get the chance to enjoy them. Martin perused the menu for some time before settling on the Shanghai wonton soup and an order of sticky rice from the dim sum offerings.

Beef Shaved Noodles

Christmas dinner in the hotel while watching The Travel Channel might sound less than ideal to some, but I think Martin and I made the best of it and ended up having a great evening. Our room came equipped with a microwave to reheat our meal and a set of table and chairs at which to enjoy it. My soup already smelled amazing but wow, I could eat those hand-shaven freshmade noodles with just the broth all day long and be happy as a clam. They were generous with the beef, which was fatty and cartilaginous just like Mom would make. The dessert was delicious as well — the cake was moist and the layers of creme were not too sweet, just the way I like it. Martin seemed to enjoy his mango pudding, but I think it could have used some condensed milk to make it even better.

Green Tea Honeydew Mousse Cake and Mango Pudding

All in all, we had a very merry Christmas with good food and good company. Despite most places being closed for business, we managed to uncover some great finds in Chinatown, a very worthwhile second day in Seattle.

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Check out Harbor City Restaurant:

707 S King St
(between S 7th Ave & S Canton Aly)
Seattle, WA 98104

Their hours are crazy – opening at 8:30am every day and not closing until midnight on the weekends.

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Purple Dot Cafe:

515 Maynard Ave S
(between King St & Weller St)
Seattle, WA 98104

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out A Piece of Cake:

514 S King St
(between S 5th Ave & S 6th Ave)
Seattle, WA 98104

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Check out Henry’s Taiwan:

502 S King St
(between S 5th Ave & S 6th Ave)
Seattle, WA 98104

See their Yelp reviews here.