All-you-can-eat is a high-class affair at newest buffets

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The ubiquitous buffet has gone haute cuisine in the past few years.  No longer a quantity-over-quality experience, Las Vegas newest buffets are measured by their number of action stations, a la minute preparation, eye-pleasing presentation and superior quality. The following feasts are the best-of-breed in the citys newest (or newly redone) upscale buffets.

" Feast Around the World at Red Rock: Off the Strip but definitely in the running, the Feast Around the World is Station Casinos entry in the upscale buffet wars. Like sister property Green Valley Ranch, Red Rock caters to vacationing hipsters and savvy locals with a mix of trendy bars and affordable restaurants. The Feasts multiple live-action stations feature freshly prepared, tasty and nicely presented choices.

Diners enjoy seeing their creations prepared at the Mongolian Grill. Chefs will gladly customize sauces at the Italian pasta station. A friendly, can-do attitude pervades the staff, and guests dining in the spacious, comfortably lit and relatively quiet dining rooms appreciate the service.

The off-Strip location translates to bargain pricing that doesnt compromise quality. Price: $8.99 to $18.99.

" Carnival World Buffet at the Rio: Vegas buffet cognoscenti know that in its prior incarnation, the Rios Carnival World Buffet broke new ground and set the standard for ethnic multi-station dining. But within a few years, Carnival World was left in the dust by casinos that improved on the action-station concept. Since a $9 million makeover in 2004, however, Carnival World is back with the buffet big boys. 

The football field-length service line brims with 12 stations, including a Chinese area with Cantonese dim sum, an extensive American station and a teppanyaki-style grill. Serving 7,000 patrons a day isnt the only amazing statistic here: How about the 1,000 pizzas served daily?

A separate entrance for Rio Platinum and Diamond members leads to a hushed, darkened, private dining area with high-backed booths. Price: $13.99 to $23.99.

" The Buffet at Wynn: As befits its chic and stylish surroundings, the Buffet at Wynn meets expectations. Diners entering the gorgeous main room are treated to a feast for the eyes and the stomach. High-arched ceilings, dangling floral and fruit displays and rich colors adorn the elegant space. Featuring an impressive 17 live-action stations, this upscale affair pushes into the gourmet zone with specialties like sturgeon Wellington and rack of lamb. 

Other highlights include a risotto station, a sushi counter and a dessert station featuring crepes and bananas Foster. Price: $15.95 to $29.95.

" Cravings at the Mirage: Whatever you do, dont call Cravings a buffet. According to press materials, its an all-you-can-eat, self-service dining experience. And if that mouthful doesnt satisfy, the artfully crafted and presented cuisine will.

In an effort to evolve beyond the current all-you-can-eat model, restaurant designer Adam Tihany completely overhauled the traditional buffet concept and delivered a sophisticated and eclectic setup. Set amidst an ultra-modern, semi-institutional design, Cravings features eight food stations, small-batch preparation and efficient service. Each unique station resembles a free-standing restaurant where chefs prepare specialties behind viewing windows. 

While winning points for originality, not everything works perfectly here. Signage is good-looking but difficult to read. The dinnerware is squared off and smart-looking  but too heavy. The lighting is less than flattering. Customers cant go wrong, however, with the dim sum, well-prepared fish dishes and the gelato. Price: $12.50 to $22.50.

 

" Flavors at Harrahs: Looking to replace the unheralded Fresh Market Buffet, which evidently had become a little stale, Harrahs introduced Flavors late last year.  The redesigned space has a contemporary look with earth tones and wood accents.

The new menu highlights diverse action stations, including churrasco (Brazilian barbecue), hand-rolled sushi and Southwestern fare. Other notable areas feature Italian casseroles, pizza fired in a wood-burning oven and gelato and sorbet. Price: $12.99 to $21.99.

" The Buffet at TI: The latest in the buffet overhaul program sweeping through MGM Mirage properties is the Buffet at TI (previously known as Dishes). With a nod to Cravings at the Mirage, the Buffet is all about style and substance. The theme is Global Street Market and, except for the lack of a faux sky, the room feels like an international marketplace gone upscale. 

Extensive use of glass walls and dark woods create an intimate and soft interior, while made-to-order salads, pastas and sushi epitomize the buffets service orientation. Rolling carts deliver chili tableside, and dessert highlights are creme brulee, chocolate souffle and cotton candy. Price: $12 to $26.

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