So you’re thinking of spending some money on dining out. You want something fancy and you’re ready to splurge a little bit. Should you go a bit more practical but still upscale and opt for a nice all-you-can-eat buffet or should you book a table at a fancy restaurant?
Here are a few points that you might want to take into consideration:
Celebrity and top chefs don’t work at fancy buffets.
You don’t really see the most exclusive and elite chefs at all-you-can-eat restaurants, no matter how fancy they may be. Even the ones famed for their exquisite spread like the Wicked Spoon or MGM Grand Buffet don’t have Michelin-starred chefs on board.
This is why, if you’re more after a culinary experience that is related to a high-profile chef, then buffets might not do the trick for you. It might be ideal to head to a more exclusive eatery, one that is run by the chef you want to sample the cooking. Depending on how popular they are, booking a table can be a challenge, however.
Take the 3 Michelin Star eatery, French Laundry, for example. With the famous Thomas Keller at its helm, it’s considered as a dining destination by travelers and foodies alike. It’s also wildly famous for its notoriously difficult table reservations.
There are times when you have to book 2 to 4 months in advance just to get a table. The wait can be comparable to a major vacation while the process of reserving a table can be similar to buying tickets for a popular Broadway show or a famous musician’s concert. It might seem outrageous to some but it can certainly be a one-of-a-kind experience for most folks.
Fancy restaurants can be very intimidating and pricey.
This isn’t a surprise but it’s still worth noting that the finest varieties of the high-end eateries today charge a lot of money for a meal. Sure, many of them charge prix fixe meals so as not to seem too complicated but there are still lots of diners with per item menus that can break the bank for a single meal.
If you’re ready for that, then the ambience is worth noting, too. These places scream exclusivity and luxury that it can be quite unsettling for those who aren’t used to it. This is another consideration you should keep in mind as it will have a huge impact on your dining experience.
The Alinea can be a good example of this. From its reputation to the actual food they serve, it can be quite a bit daunting if you’re not accustomed to fine dining. They also intentionally design some of their dishes to be intimidating. It’s all in good faith, though, as it’s purpose is to provide diners with a whole different experience.
Upscale buffets offer fine dining options as well.
The great thing about heading to an upscale buffet is that you can also expect to find fancy dishes there. The Bacchanal Buffet offers smoked wagyu, lobsters, and foie gras. The Bellagio Buffet offers unlimited caviar, kobe beef, quail, venison, and snow crab.
Other high-end all-you-can-eat restaurants offer more than just fancy dishes, too. Fogo De Chao offers a full-service fine dining Brazilian steakhouse experience, so they’re not your run-of-the-mill expensive buffet. Not only will you be able to enjoy endless amounts of food but you can do so with top-shelf meats and amazing side dishes. They also offer tableside service so diners don’t have to get up from their tables for second or third (or even fourth) serving.
Of course, the experience of a US$595 per head multiple-course dinner will be different from a $150 all-you-can-eat dinner from the Bellagio Buffet. Both may be just as filling but there will certainly be some differences. It’s best that you manage your expectations because not because both are touted to be luxurious does it mean that they’re of equal level of opulence.
Some fancy buffets are only available for brunch.
Many roundups of the most opulent all-you-can-eat dining options have endless brunches at the top of their lists instead of actual AYCE restaurants. This is mostly because they combine the best of both worlds. They’re offered by some of the best fine-dining restaurants in the country so you get to enjoy an abundance of high-quality food with the exquisite service of the renowned diners.
The top examples for this are the Waldorf-Astoria’s endless brunch and the Nero’s Italian Steakhouse Sunday brunch. Both are widely famous for their lavishness and are mostly considered to be worth every penny. If you’re the type who enjoys brunch, places like this will let you reconcile fine dining with unlimited access to food.
As our points above demonstrate, it can be very difficult to pit an upscale restaurant against a fancy buffet as people go to these different kinds of restaurants for different reasons. They have their own charms and their own ways to showcase luxury and that’s fine.
It’s your hard-earned money you’ll be spending so it should really be up to you to decide where to go. Both are ideally great dining destinations as long as you go to the right eatery.