Monday, August 3, 2009

Palette Dining Studio: It's Still a Buffet

I just love it when a restaurant has an anniversary (or, in this case, an entire casino complex)! 50% off is my middle name this week as I celebrate landmark anniversaries for both Opus One and MGM Grand Detroit! More on Opus One later (I look forward to cashing in on some $25 caviar tonight), but for now: Palette Dining Studio, take two.

They call themselves a "tapas-style" restaurant, but there really comes a time when you just need to call a buffet a buffet. If a heat source is needed to keep food items warm when they are prepared in the kitchen and brought out in large catering pans that are displayed on long counters with placards containing the names of said food items, it's a buffet.

As far as boo-fays go, Palette is be-yoo-tiful. With a thoroughly modern motif which echoes the look of the casino's other fine(r) dining establishments, Palette is certainly no Old Country. And at a regular price of $28.00 per diner, you can certainly expect main dishes a little more upscale than meatloaf.

Well, they did have meatloaf, but what I'm saying is that it's more than just meatloaf and mac & cheese. I mean, they have mac & cheese, but...oh, forget it.

Now through August 31st, diners can enjoy HALF OFF all buffet purchases (except for Wednesday nights, which is Alaskan crab leg night), excluding gratuity and alcohol purchases. This half-off special also applies to MGM's Breeze Dining Court and IGNITE Sushi Bar--which might not have the best sushi but the atmosphere is incomparable. All of this is in honor of MGM's 10th anniversary, so take advantage of the low prices while you can!

Truth be told, I wouldn't have bothered with a second trip to Palette if it weren't for the half off value. Is the upscale buffet dining experience worth $28.00? Hells no, but I'll pay $14.00 for it, sure.

The choices are varied enough: at the Asian "Far East" station, you have stir-fry, fried rice, gyoza, spring rolls, and select dishes like Kung Pao shrimp. "Fresh" gives you a selection of soups, salads, and breads--I tried the buffalo mozarella and the raspberry vinaigrette salads and was disappointed with both. The raisin sourdough bread--which you can get grilled over at the "Char" station--is great, though. Unfortunately for me, this is the station that once offered cheese tastes, but no more...sad face. "Char" is where all the meats are (as well as side fixin's like mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, and creamed spinach); expect bratwurst, BBQ ribs, BBQ chicken thighs, a prime rib carving station, beef brisket, pork chops, lamb chops, and more. "Sea" is the best of the bunch, with a spicy lobster pasta, a hearty seafood pot pie, tasty fried calamari, sushi, peel-and-eat shrimp, deep-fried shrimp, and those once-weekly crab legs with drawn butter (almost worth the extra $14.00).

And finally, "Indulge"--greedy gluttons will grab platefuls of each eye-catching confection...and feel shame as the Hindi server clears their mostly-uneaten plates with a look that says simply, "Wasteful Americans." Perhaps next time one shared plate would suffice.

While the desserts are the most visually tantalizing part of the Palette experience, don't be surprised when appearances prove to be deceiving. The gelato is okay, the pastries an imitation of Goldilocks with "This one's too rich" and "This one's too bland" (though I never did find the one that was "Just right"). You can also get made-to-order crepes, and I believe there is also the occasional chocolate fountain. The desserts look amazing, as do the intricate chocolate sculptures on display above them, but after a thorough taste test I found them mostly meh.

For real, that's chocolate

Like any buffet, the key is in the timing. If you're paying full price, make sure you have the time to wait as fresh dishes are brought out (instead of eating what's left in the bottom of the pan that has been sitting out for 30 minutes). Also, consistency isn't always the case: my friend grabbed some of the remaining beef brisket which looked lean and juicy, but when the next batch was brought out it was considerably more fatty. Expect other ticks natural to this style of large-batch buffet-cooking: the lamb was overcharred, the prime rib tough. But for now through August 31st, for $14.00, it's worth the price and the patience. The only thing this buffet is missing is pizza...because pizza makes things better.