VEGAS ’08: “The Sterling Brunch”

image I am a foodie.  I love a good meal.  And a loathe a bad one.

During my vacation in Vegas, I discovered a place that actually made my eyes water with tears I was so happy.  It’s called the "Sterling Brunch" and it’s a champagne brunch at Bally’s.  Held in the steakhouse in the very back of the hotel only on Sunday mornings, this meal doesn’t just qualify as a rare gem:  I would classify it as a OMG, one-of-a-kind, must-visit experience. 

I have photos of this but I don’t have time to upload them right now.   Suffice it to say that I’ve been to a ton of buffets and famous chef-type restaurants in Las Vegas.  In fact, just this past week alone I had meals at:

  • Wolfgang Puck’s "Cut"
  • Wynn Buffet
  • Thomas Keller’s "Bouchon"
  • "Country Club" at the Wynn
  • "Yellowtail Sushi" at Bellagio
  • "Woo" at Palazzo (from the Mayflower Cuisiner family)
  • "BLT Burger" at Mirage
  • Bobby Flay’s "Mesa Grill"

…and none of them, not a single one, held a candle to our meal at the "Sterling Brunch" at Bally’s.  This place is utterly phenomenal and I hate it when people gush over places but then don’t give you details about WHY the place was so great so let me try to get into the nitty-gritty elements of this culinary masterpiece to help you, my dear reader, understand why I will NEVER EVER EVER miss going to the "Sterling Brunch" ever again when I’m in Las Vegas.

THE SETUP
0817081150a First of all, it’s important for me to tell you that you absolutely must have a reservation to get in.  This thing books up and fills fast so call ahead early.  It’s open from something like 9:30AM to 2:30PM and will set you back an even $75 a person.  No, it’s not cheap especially for brunch, but believe me, it’s the best $75 you’ll spend all week.  I would recommend this single meal over any place in Las Vegas, and this includes Picasso or Michael Mina’s @ Bellagio, Charlie Palmer’s @ Four Seasons, Carnevino @ Palazzo, Nobu @ Hard Rock, or any number of other highly touted restaurants.  I told my wife that I could have done without some of the show tickets I’d bought for the two of us just to go to this place again, if we could, including Jersey Boys or Hall & Oates. 

And she agreed.  What does that tell you?

Yes, I know it’s at Bally’s which makes this whole experience a bit out of place.  I mean who are we kidding?  The typical Bally’s patron isn’t likely going to have a spare $75 lying around to buy brunch for Ma & Pa Kettle, are they?  No matter – when we approached the restaurant, things got quieter and the atmosphere began to change, starting with the patron’s apparel.  While just outside, you’d expect to see people wearing t-shirts that read, "I’m with stupid" (with the accompanying arrow pointing toward the spouse next to them) but around the restaurant, people were wearing golfing outfits, collared shirts, and pleated well-pressed pants.  It reminded me of the oasis that is the Steakhouse at Circus Circus.

When we walked in, we were immediately served champagne.  This usually rings hollow to most foodies being that the champagne is usually two-buck-chuck… but this was Perrier Jouet!  Hell – my wife and I drank this after I’d proposed to her at the Fairmont in Whistler, BC, Canada.

As we were seated, we were offered beverages other than our delicious champagne.  Coffee & Orange Juice please.  A glass & a cup appeared and lo-and-behold. the OJ was FRESH SQUEEZED and the coffee was smooooooooth – not at all sour or bitter.  Things were lookin’ awesome.

THE BUFFET
I know what you’re thinking.  And you’re right.  I hate buffets.  I’ve been to the Bellagio Buffet, the Le Village Buffet, the Wynn Buffet, the Rio Seafood Buffet, blah blah blah.  I’ve got news for you.  They’re all marginal-to-moderately good.  (although the Rio’s gone into the toilet over the past few years)  The other three are okay and have their strengths.  They have reasonable quality and you’re not going to get sick at any of them but you’re not going to come away with an OMG-thatwassogood reaction.

This was completely different:  None of the aforementioned buffets even comes close to the Sterling Brunch – it’s in a class of it’s own.  The buffet literally glowed under the warm incandescent lamps above.  Here’s a list of the things that I sampled from this embarrassment of riches that laid before me.

  • Hot gourmet-prepared Lobsters
  • Caviar with toast, breadcakes, creme fresh, onions, egg crumbles, & chives
  • Steamed Alaskan King Crab legs
  • Prime Rib with Au Jus & 3 different types of horseradish
  • Rack of Lamb with Mint Jelly
  • Extremely fresh fruit on ice including watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and various melon slices
  • Huge shrimp… I mean really large prawns… with cocktail sauce
  • Shucked oysters on ice
  • Omelets ready-to-order with sausage, mushrooms, green onions, and a variety of other ingredients
  • Sushi of all sorts (Didn’t eat any of this)
  • Lox & Bagels (Didn’t eat any of this either)
  • …and a lot more that I didn’t look at.
    (Bally’s Sterling Brunch Menu)

Normally, at a buffet – the shrimp are some of the first things you ‘hit’.  In this case, they were the absolute LAST things we tried.  No joke.  I mean, heck – we figured, you can get shrimp anywhere.

Understand, it was really hard not to just pig out.  What with all the champagne being poured and fresh coffee being decanted, and the bottomless glass of fresh squeezed, sweet orange juice that I was being spoiled with, I really couldn’t tell you what I was doing other than stuffing my face and pretending I was a Roman Emperor.  One thing I can recommend is for everyone to be selective about what you get.  It’ll be there later when you want to try it – they don’t run out.

In all seriousness, any one of these buffet items would have been worthy of a delicious paid for meal in-of-itself.  I told my wife that I could sit and gorge myself on the lobster alone it was sooooo sweet, soft, hot, and did I mention they had an endless supply of melted butter to go with the endless supply of lobster?

But no, the thing that I spent the most time with was the caviar.  I love caviar.  I once won a @#$%load of money at the Bellagio blackjack tables and spent most of it on a multi-thousand dollar bill for just caviar at Petrossian of Paris, the caviar bar near the Bellagio lobby.  The Bally’s caviar was obviously American Sturgeon caviar and not the heralded Iranian Osetra or Beluga but it was oh so so so good, I went back for seconds.   And thirds.  I actually felt guilty and embarrassed at one point for how much I was eating but I got over that quickly when I realized that there were people in the restaurant getting caviar that had no idea how to taste it with creme fresh and the other accoutrements.  One guy ate it straight with a soup spoon.  Another put it on a saltine. 

I’m tellin’ you – these are the things that make Jesus cry.

THE ENVIRONMENT
I talked about this briefly but it can’t be overstated how luxuriously indulgent this place is.  Imagine having everything you ever wanted… all the most expensive foods in the world in one location… and you can eat an unlimited amount of it.

Every minute or so there was another champagne bottle popping as someone was getting their glass refilled with Perrier Jouet.  I never saw the bottom of my orange juice glass it was filled so quickly and even the water, dispensed from bottles, was tasty… really!  It was Italian water that was exceptionally drinkable in massive quantities. 

Dishes were being removed from tables at a frenzied pace.  I should also point out how incredible the service was:  The people there are just the pinnacle of professionalism.  To put this into context, our meal a couple days later at Wolfgang Puck’s "Cut" was sullied by what I can only describe as weak, slow, disorganized service, whereas everything we could possibly want or need at the Sterling Brunch was tended to without our even saying so.  The term "Johnny-on-the-spot" came to mind numerous times as my champagne glass was being automatically filled or my empty plate was being removed just as I’d finished it.

THE DESSERTS
A lot is made over the Paris’ Le Village Buffet, in particular, for their desserts.  Here’s a tip:  The desserts from the Bally’s Sterling Brunch are all made by the same dessert chef and she serves them to you from the dessert area.  Chocolate Ice Cream…. massive chocolate covered strawberries… parfaits of all sorts… cream cheese pies…

Don’t get me wrong:  I couldn’t eat most of them.  I had a couple strawberries and that was it.  We were absolutely stuffed.  God bless you, Bally’s.

IN CONCLUSION…
I think it’s safe to say that this will forever be on my list of places to go in Vegas from here on out.  It’s only available on Sundays, but I think it will be well worth it to "stick around" on Sundays to go to the brunch before heading to the airport. 

This is truly the "One Meal to Rule them All".

LINK:  http://www.harrahs.com/casinos/ballys-las-vegas/restaurants-dining/sterling-brunch-detail.html
Reservations: (702) 967-7999

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