The setting is the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend. The cast? Me and what seemed like a thousand other people looking to satisfy our appetites at what is reported to be one of the best buffets in town: The Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan.
I miscalculated how long it would take me to make the trip from the Monte Carlo to the Cosmopolitan. I arrived at 5:30pm and there was already a very long line waiting to get in. It took 25 minutes to get a table, which meant I had to wolf down my dinner because I needed to get to the Smith Center (Downtown) for the 7:30pm showing of “Wicked”, with a little time before the show to get photos of the Center itself. I must have glanced at my watch every two minutes during the meal, which didn’t make for the most relaxing dinner ever.
The ambience felt upscale for a buffet: Dimly-lit, stylish décor in warm browns and oranges. I was seated at a two-top, but next to me on one side was a very long table that could be used for a very large party or communal dining. That night, they were using it for parties of two, all in a row with a space between them. All in all, I’m glad I got the two-top.
My waiter wowed me with his mad fine-dining waiter skills. I mean, usually, you hardly see your buffet waiter or waitress. They welcome you, they get your drink, they make your dirty plates disappear when you get up to get more food, but you rarely see them. This guy regularly checked up on me, refilled my water with panache, and was incredibly solicitous, like he could not do enough for me. He was awesome. (Remember this, because it comes into play later in the story.)
I LOVE the way they serve food in individual portion-size dishes at this buffet. It seems so much more hygienic than most buffets. Also, it creates perfect little portion sizes so you’re not tempted to overindulge.
The shrimp cocktail was both tasty and adorable—2 shrimp and a lemon wedge and cocktail sauce in a shot glass–the shrimp ceviche was very flavorful and delicious; the chop salad won me over when I realized there were olives and feta cheese in it—opa! The only misses for me were a crispy chicken that wasn’t all that crispy and a pasta dish that turned out to have eggplant in it. I hate eggplant. But that’s the way it goes sometimes at buffets, right?
Dessert was berries and chocolate mousse in a chocolate cup, a meringue of some sort in a chocolate cup with a coffee bean on top, and the most amazing peach cobbler I’ve had in years. That almost made me forget about the eggplant. Knowing I needed to dash out of there for the show and that my stomach was already over capacity with food was the only thing that kept me from a second helping.
In short, the food is great, but then, it should be for $44. (Damn Vegas prices.) But enough with the food review, that’s not even the point of this post. There were two things that happened that made this a memorable evening for me, and neither has anything to do with the food.
While I sat eating, two bus people (a man and a woman) came along to clear the table next to me. They were bickering like an old married couple the whole time they were cleaning, as if they didn’t realize there were customers seated around them. Ah, dinner theater. Got to love it.
A large party had come, seen and plundered, leaving the remains of a lavish feast fit for Roman conquerers (oops—wrong hotel). Instead of using trays or bins or even just stacking dishes in their arms for removal, this duo were using large plastic orange bags to collect everything for removal. Plates, glasses, silverware, leftover food—everything–was going in these bags. In my 40-plus years of dining out at restaurants, I have never seen busboys use garbage bags to clear plates and glasses off a table before.
First, this seemed very impractical to me. Wouldn’t you expect some breakage if you were lugging glasses and plates around together in a trash bag? Second, the bags had some kind of universal warning logo on them that made them look like biohazard bags. . . ,Just the sort of thing you want to see in the middle of a restaurant while you’re eating.
I swear to you, I am not making this up. (And no, I wasn’t drinking.)
Am I the only one who finds this unusual? I thought. I glanced around me, and nobody else seemed to pay any attention to them, but then, no one else was dining alone, either. They were all engrossed in conversations with their dining companions.
Solo diners are used to getting stuck at a table near the kitchen. But I’ve never been seated next to a biohazard zone before. (I kid, I kid. If I actually believed there were biohazards in the vicinity, I’d have gotten the hell out of there. Still, it was very strange.)
That odd incident would have made for a memorable meal all on its own. But it was my own forgetfulness that makes this, ironically, my most memorable buffet meal ever.
Remember when I told you how awesome my waiter was? Unfortunately, I was in such a frantic hurry to finish my meal and grab a cab to the Smith Center, that I completely forgot to leave a tip. Oh the shame of it.
Stiffing a waiter or waitress has only happened to me a couple of times before, but it’s never good. Guilt eats away at me. I know what it’s like to rely on tips for a living. I’m normally a 20% tipper (unless you really, really suck at your job and even then I’ll leave something). Once, when I forgot to tip my waitress, I mailed a check to her at the restaurant because I knew I wouldn’t be able to let it go until I did.
Which is why I made the long, hot hike back to the restaurant the next day from the Monte Carlo to see if I could find him or leave his tip with the cashiers. Unfortunately, there was an even longer line waiting to get into the restaurant the next day. It looked like an hour-long wait. I stood there agonizing about it for a few moments, but finally decided I just couldn’t wait in line for an hour just to try to explain to the cashiers what happened: “Hey, could you figure out who served me last night and give him this tip?” They probably would have thought I was a lunatic—especially since I wasn’t going to stay for lunch that day.
So, I’m very sorry, really awesome waiter at the Wicked Spoon. I didn’t mean to stiff you. You didn’t deserve that. I wouldn’t blame you if you were still sticking pins in a red-haired voodoo doll in revenge. I hope I have a chance to make it up to you next time I’m in town.
Orange garbage bags and bickering bus staff aside, the Wicked Spoon is a truly great buffet—and a very serious rival to my long-time favorite at the Bellagio. If you feel like splurging on a high quality buffet when you’re in town, definitely hit this one up. Your tastebuds will thank you.
Just don’t forget to tip your waiter.