April 11, 2013

Wicked Spoon satisfies diverse tastebuds

Posted in Between Us column, Dining, Travel at 10:04 pm by dinaheng

Casino buffets known for their cafeteria line, eat-all-you-want atmosphere are a fixture in most Las Vegas casinos, but a few upscale venues are turning to the more refined small plate concept in offering their variety of cuisines.

At The Cosmopolitan’s Wicked Spoon, there are six stations — an Asian kitchen, Italian kitchen, carving station with carved meats, “Comfort International” featuring classics with a twist (think shrimp and grits), a salad station, and the dessert station.Dinah Eng

The majority of items are served in small plates or pots, which is good for portion control but awkward for carrying selections to the table. With 120 items on the buffet, the restaurant averages 1,700 to 2,500 diners a day, depending on the day of the week.

“The theme behind the Wicked Spoon is an upscale food hall,” says Bryan Fyler, executive sous chef of the Cosmopolitan-owned restaurants in the hotel. “You get restaurant-quality food with different cuisines in small plates. Because we’re open all day, we want guests to have the same experience, no matter what time they come in.”

Fyler says the buffet’s most popular items include the Korean short ribs, crab legs, the chocolate-covered strawberries, and the gelato (you can choose from 18 flavors).

“We have a lot of repeat customers, locals and people from Los Angeles who come for a weekend getaway,” Fyler says. ”We change dishes with the seasons, using the ingredients that are the freshest.”

Fyler served as an executive chef for China Grill Management at the Mondrian Hotel in Miami and chef de cuisine of the Boca Raton Resort & Club’s Chauncey’s Restaurant before moving to Las Vegas to help open The Cosmopolitan’s restaurants.

“We didn’t want to call the Wicked Spoon a buffet, but the setting allows you to try a vast majority of the offerings in one shot,” he notes. “It’s all about value these days.”

Photo courtesy of The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

Photo courtesy of The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

The contemporary tangerine and brown decor of The Wicked Spoon feels like an upscale restaurant, and video screens above the various stations offer tidbits of culinary information, such as the definition of parfait (the French word for “perfect,” which began referring to frozen desserts in 1894). It’s unfortunate that the acoustics don’t dampen the clatter of pans in the kitchen area.

On a recent Thursday evening, the offerings were interesting, but the taste and presentation inconsistent. The prime rib was perfectly done, and mashed potatoes nicely seasoned, but the citrus-glazed salmon over peas had been sitting under the heat lamp too long. The steamed rice and wok-tossed Udon noodles in individual Chinese carryout boxes was a cute touch, but putting two pieces of duck ravioli in a pot seemed a little too stingy a portion.

The best station was the desserts, which had a wonderfully moist carrot cake, a scrumptiously tart strawberry key lime shot, and yummy cranberry oatmeal cookies.

The worst part of the evening was the inattentive wait service. Each time we went to get food, we’d come back to dirty dishes from the last round still on the table. We solved the space problem by stacking the dishes as we ate.

The Wicked Spoon isn’t wicked great, but it’s definitely worth trying if you’re looking to sample new cuisines without breaking the bank.

Brunch ($24) is served Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and on weekends ($33) from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Dinner ($38) is served Sunday to Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. On weekends, dinner ($41) is served Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Alcoholic beverages are extra.  Alcoholic beverages are extra.

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