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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
Keep in mind this review is our opinion based on personal experience. However, from our one, only and last visit here the best word to describe this place in the Rio Hotel is abysmal. It is our firm opinion that you should not waste your money on this place, especially if you consider yourself a seafood lover.
Over the years I had read many reviews on this buffet. Most raved about the incredible array of seafood and about the quality. In more recent years some of the reviews have been negative.
As you read our account of this restaurant please allow me to state my qualifications as being someone who knows seafood. While living in Florida, we had our own Gulf of Mexico fishing boat. We caught everything from grouper (Red, Gag, Scamp, etc.) to mangrove snapper to cobia to Spanish mackerel and king mackerel, to name a few. We harvested our own clams and even collected the local scallops from shallow water during the short summer scalloping season. We have also lived in some of the other legendary seafood centers of America including Louisiana, Texas, California, and Massachusetts. In our world travels we have sampled some of the best seafood in Europe, Asia, the South Pacific, Central and South America, the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic. So I know what I'm talking about when it comes to seafood.
Right off the bat I had misgivings about this place. As you enter instead of being met by a hostess you are confronted by a tacky TV screen and automated payment system. You put your credit card or cash into it in preparation for the big rip off. Then you proceed a few feet forward to a waiting station for five or more minutes until somebody directs you to a table. Come on folks, the restaurant industry is a hospitality industry for Pete's sake. This is a ridiculous way to start off a meal. Any restaurant that starts patrons off in this manner is an insult to the industry.
I had imagined a slick and elegant decor. Not here! It had a tacky and worn look to it. For a legendary buffet, it looked small in space. Before we even tried our first food there my son turned to me and said: "Dad, are you sure this is the famous place. It doesn't look very big." When I told my wife that I was writing this review her quote was: "I still don't think this place was 'the' place that we've read so much about over the years." I assured her that this was the place.
The restaurant boasted steamed clams and I couldn't wait to try them....until I saw them. Most had been overcooked to the point that the meat was shriveled up to the size of a pea. I found two that still had a little life in them but they were still overcooked and flavorless.
The sign outside the place says the buffet includes lobster. While true, it wasn't New England type lobster with claws. Nor was it spiny lobster from the Pacific or its cousin from the Caribbean. While I'm not positive what kind of lobster it was, I suspect it was a species called slipper lobster. The tails were about 3 inches long and the meat was rubbery and not good.
My hopes improved when I saw some giant shrimp or prawns, head-on, with giant "feelers". I snagged 4 of them (enough to fill up a plate--they were that big) and headed back to the table for a taste. I separated the tail and the meat inside had the consistency of paste! Inedible!
The fried shrimp were okay but clearly frozen. The frozen fish filets were awful! They were fishy and nasty. There's no excuse for this. Frozen fish can be prepared in a way that it tastes good. Long John Silver's filets would have been a stellar improvement at this place.
My wife, drawing from our Cajun feasts while living in New Orleans, was excited to find crawfish on a steam table. She peeled off a tail and the meat was pasty. Again, it was inedible.
I tried some fried scallops but right off there were danger signals when each and every one was exactly the same size. Real, unprocessed scallops are never exactly uniform in size. These, however, tasted moderately good. Then again I've learned over the years that it's really hard to screw up scallops even when they were prepared from the deep freezer.
The little deviled scallops in scallop shell forms were about the best seafood item I found. The cocktail shrimp (pre-peeled) were okay but fairly small. I can buy 'em at home for about $5 a pound. The restaurant probably gets them wholesale for about a third of that or less.
My son is a huge fan of snow crab legs and he was really looking forward to them here. He came back with a plate of four or five and tried one. From the look on his face I knew they weren't good. He dumped the rest of them into the discarded shell plate. My mother-in-law, who was also with us, remarked that other diners had returned to tables with what appeared to be a new batch of crab legs and encouraged our son to give them another try, which he did. He returned to the table, took one bite of the new legs and smirked saying they were fishy and slimy. Again, the rest of the uneaten legs went into the discarded shell plate. Inedible, according to my son. In all fairness I noticed some other diners going through plate after plate of the snow crab legs so perhaps my son just had bad luck on his two tries.
Ironically the items that were not seafood on this seafood buffet got the best marks. The roast beef was okay, pretty much what you'd expect from a Vegas buffet. Some of the pastas were good, too.
The only really bright spot to this otherwise miserable dining experience was the sweet stuff. The dessert table was really quite good with an amazing variety of pies, cakes and a frozen ice cream or yogurt machine -- can't remember which it was but it was soft serve style.
The bill for our party of five adults and one 8 year old came to $242 which I consider to be a total waste of hard earned money.
Folks, do yourself a favor and avoid this extraordinarily bad place. This, by far, was the worst meal we had in Vegas and sadly, the most expensive.
As we left a long line had queued up outside this establishment. I really felt like going up to each and every person waiting in line to urge them not to waste their money here. I rarely "bag" a restaurant but this one was so bad that there's no other way I could describe it.
When we got back home I talked with a good friend, Andy Dubin, who frequents Las Vegas and related our disgust at this restaurant. He was amazed to hear about our bad experience. He said he had eaten there probably 7 times in past years and had "no complaints." So maybe this used to be a stellar place. I don't think we just hit the place on a "bad" night which sometimes does happen at a restaurant. The overall quality of the seafood was so lacking that I think we got a traditional meal here.
The Rio Hotel web site is
here. It's funny. I didn't even like this hotel from what
I experienced walking through it. You have to pass through the casino and shop areas to get
to this disgusting buffet and the cigarette smoke about gagged me.
Restaurant of the Week
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