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Friday, March 15, 2013

The Enlightened Traveler: Bellagio's New Caviar Buffet –
A Good Value Or A Waste of Money?

How much is too much?

The Luxurist has been pondering this age-old brainteaser ever since he learned that the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas is trumpeting an all-you-can eat caviar buffet. It introduced this schnor-fest a few months back and just announced that it will be a permanent feature, owing to – what else?popular demand.

(Or as one of the hotel's chefs told the Las Vegas Sun, "If we wouldn't have it here this weekend, people would complain." And we wouldn't want that, would we?)

As if there already is not enough fabulousness in the Macao of the Desert, the price of gorging on  endless blinis and fish eggs (along with a small selection of sushi) is a mere $38.

Now, for a hair less than two twenties, you will not be served any Beluga or Sevruga from the Caspian Sea, or anywhere near. The Bellagio is offering American Sevruga, salmon roe of unspecified origin, and tobiko roe from Japan.

There are excellent North American caviars, as well as a good many that are inferior. Let us hope that the Bellagio knows the difference, even if not all of its customers will.

The Luxurist and his Lovely Luxurista are particularly fond of the silky, delicate taste of good American salmon roe. Its flavor is not as complex as sturgeon roe, but can be sublime when fresh, having been carefully handled during packing and transit.

Both American Sevruga and salmon roe are best enjoyed on a slightly warm blini with a dolop of room temperature creme fraiche.

Skip the usual accompaniments of chives and chopped onions or eggs. They only detract from the  clean, faintly salty taste of good caviar and cannot mask the bad – unless you prefer onions and chives to caviar, in which case why shell out $38 when you can buy an onion and a bunch of chives at the supermarket for $1.50?

But I digress.

The Luxurist is of the opinion that Ang Lee's great "Life of Pi" should have won the best picture Oscar this year.
That the movie contains a memorable scene in which hordes of flying fish descend on the adrift Pi
and the Bengal tiger Richard Parker is the reason, however nominal, that we show this photo here.

Tobiko (or flying fish) eggs are small, crunchy, without a distinctive taste, and typically are used as colorful toppings on certain kinds of sushi. As The Luxurist has never seen these tiny red nuggets served on a blini, he wonders exactly what the folks at The Bellagio are thinking?

Do they believe that visitors will find this unusual presentation appealing, or that they will not know better?

Guess on which side The Luxurist is taking bets?

To be fair, The Luxurist has not yet sampled the pleasures of The Bellagio's endless caviar buffet. When he does, he hopes that he will be pleasantly surprised.*

Until that moment, The Luxurist can only wonder if enabling people to pig out is what businesses should be doing.

No one wants to end up at the craps table shouting, "Daddy needs a new pair of pants with a larger waistline."

As in all things, caviar should be enjoyed in moderation and savored.

If it's quality stuff, you, Dear Reader, will appreciate the experience all the more.  If it's not, you will spare yourself unwanted calories, as well as the uncomfortable feeling that comes with overeating.

Either way, both your waistline and those who love you will be grateful.

* The Bellagio also houses a Petrossian Restaurant, not to be confused with the hotel's caviar buffet. Petrossian's menu does indeed include costly imported caviars plus pricey foie gras,  fine champagnes and wines. No bargains here!

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