Sunday, February 3, 2008

THE BUFFET at Valley View Casino

D. wanted to head to Valley View on Friday night. He had free buffets and wanted to redeem them. D.B. joined us for the trip out. Granted, I did vow to lose weight and reduce eating out, but it's a free buffet. C'mon, I'd be crazy to say no.

Valley View's buffet has always been good, but the quality of the food has declined as the casino grew and the buffet became more popular. Our visit on Friday finds the buffet in its new permanent home. The facility is very nice, but somehow still not big enough.

I started with a few general photos, then asked if I could photograph the sushi station. The sushi, while not the highest quality, was fresh and very nicely arranged. My hopes for a photo, however, were dashed by a very skittish staffer. She literally freaked on me and ran away. Said she'd ask a supervisor and never re-emerged. Not the most professional response, but I guess they must have concerns about competitive casinos "spying" on them. Granted, if I were a spy, a direct question may not be the best way to obtain photos.

However, I do have a couple of photos. Here's a general shot of the buffet. The chocolate fountains are a nice touch.

My favorite part of the buffet is that they serve Dreyer's ice cream. None of that soft serve BS.

Since it was a bit awkward taking pictures around the buffet, I took photos of my plates. The first started with salmon nigiri, a tuna hand roll, shrimp cocktail, marshmallow-topped mashed sweet potatoes, beef and broccoli (yeah, yeah, I know), and fried rice.

The nigiri is ok, but for what it is, it's surprisingly good. The hand roll was nothing special. Let's move to the special stuff. I have a special love for roasted marshmallows. I hate them uncooked, but a little heat and yum: instant happiness. Valley View serves roasted marshmallows on mashed sweet potatoes. Perfectly done, they're very comforting and I always have to have a big heap of them.

I always have a little faux-Chinese at buffets, hence the fried rice and beef/broccoli. The b/b was serviceable and the fried rice was undercooked. How in the world is rice undercooked nowadays? Malfunctioning rice cooker?

One of the best features of The Buffet is the ubiquitous shrimp cocktail. Gorgeous, fresh, and peeled medium-sized shrimp are always used at Valley View. The shrimp is fantastic without cocktail sauce, which is my standard for good shrimp cocktail.

Plate #2 involved more nigiri and a salmon hand roll, which was the same as the tuna. There was also unagi (saltwater eel), which was ok. I tried the gnocchi, which set off alarms when I spooned it on to my plate. The gnocchi clinked as it hit the plate! True to the sound, they were rocks. Inedible.

I had a half lobster, which was done very well. Cooked to perfection, I went to town digging out every little morsel of meat. What was even better was they left the "paste" (per Mom's description), which is the dark, gooey matter that is... innards? If there was roe, they left that, too. Those two are the most flavorful parts of crustaceans, so there is no point in throwing it out. Yet, many people miss out because it looks kind of gross. Too bad.

In the middle of the plate was salmon topped with pineapple salsa. One big filet of salmon was lightly roasted, then topped with the fresh and tart salsa. D.B. really enjoyed it and I agree the fish was cooked beautifully, but I didn't care for the salsa. I thought it was too tart for salmon.

Desserts at Valley View are good. Classic, decently-made desserts that are very nice, but not overly threatening to those who don't want to go beyond basics. They've improved on their creme brulee. It was very light and bland before, but it's much more of a weighty custard now.

Despite the pallid color of the crust, it was solid all around the ramekin. I don't understand why they choose to top it with whipped cream, but it's easily removable.

D. had a chocolate sundae with a rice krispy treat, followed by strawberry angel food cake. Their angel food cake has been dry on past visits, but it's a decent dessert with the strawberries on top.

They also had chocolate crepes, but I noticed that the crepes are pre-made, and a staffer heats them up in a pool of butter beforehand. Sure, it helps with the taste, but my arteries clogged after eating it. Yes... that's granulated sugar on top. Not the best.

Dreyer's pistachio is one of my favorite ice creams, but I can't seem to find it in stores here. At best, I find it in Dreyer's spumoni, which is very good. Pistachio goes really well with chocolate.

Valley View went from very good to pretty good. Since it's free, I think it's fabulous. Would I pay for it? Probably not. The cost of the buffet has risen, but quality has dropped significantly.

2 bites:

Charlie Fu said...

I tried to go here last weekend. We arrived at 7:00 and were turned away saying they are sold out for the night...

Luckily Harrah's was only a 5 minute drive and their buffet was also very superb =)

Meandering Eats said...

Their new "FastPass" method is vaguely ridiculous, but I guess it works for them. We lucked out b/c our friend has Elite status.

I haven't tried Harrah's yet, but I really should get out there.

2 bites