After a long drive and fast check-in at my hotel, I am hustling to make my way through the Bally’s casino floor towards Bally’s Steakhouse. The Sterling Brunch is held here every Sunday. It’s a bit late, and my 1:30 p.m. reservation is the final seating for the day. All it takes is one step inside the restaurant, and it instantly becomes clear why this is considered one of the premier buffets in Las Vegas.
An ornate and elaborate chandelier hangs over a mirror polished marble floor, surrounded by walls with crème and forest green vertical stripes. The walls are adorned with black and white photos depicting various members of the Rat Pack at play. Overall, the setting is quite casual, as is the dress code.
In contrast, the wait staff is dressed in formal attire, with dark burgundy jackets and bowties over bright white button-up shirts, tucked into black slacks. Although I am offered Champagne, bloody Mary, or mimosa, I decide to order water and coffee.
An initial run through the buffet reveals only the finest items are on display. Crab legs, lobster tails, made-to-order sushi, and a carving station featuring prime rib and rack of lamb are just the beginning. Soups include lobster bisque and clam chowder, and there even lobster raviolis. The dessert station features fresh made crepes as well as pleanty of pastries and a separate crème brûlée station.
My first plate is protein heavy with a couple of bones of the rack of lamb, garnished with a mint demi-glaze and mint jelly. I also select a fresh slice of prime rib with fresh horseradish, and a medallion of filet mignon.
I arrive at my table to find a cup of coffee and a clean glass full of ice water. The coffee is nice and smooth. It is hot, but not piping, and the porcelain cup and saucer add a touch of class to the presentation.
The rack of lamb is perfection. I have been eating lamb since I was a child; it is a weekly thing at my house, and I can say, this rack is as good as it gets. The meat, cooked medium rare, is rich and complex. The mint jelly is top notch, as is the mint demi-glaze I have drizzled over the top of the lamb.
The prime rib is a bit over cooked for my taste. I am a medium rare kind of guy, and this piece is prepared medium well. The quality of the meat is superb, and the rich beefy flavor shines through. The fresh horseradish packs a strong “umph!” that clears my head immediately. I have just taken a nice mouthful of horseradish when my server comes to check on me. “The horseradish is pretty fresh!” I exclaim through watery eyes. “Sure packs a punch!” my waiter adds with a smile.
The filet mignon is also prepared medium well. However, like the prime rib, the tender cut is exactly what fans of filet look for. The tenderness of the top-shelf beef shines through despite the medium well texture.
After all that meat, I am in the mood for something sweet. I make my way to the crepe station, where the kind woman making the treats offers the choice between a bananas foster or a berry madness crepe. I choose bananas foster, and she asks if I would like to add rum to the recipe. I am no fool when it comes to rum in a banana dessert, so I say, “you better believe it!” to which she smiles and replies, “it does make it better.”
I watch as she expertly pours the batter into a pan. She flips the delicate crepe at just the right moment, adding the bananas, sauce, and rum to the pan then letting it all cook together. I am also offered chocolate sauce and fresh whipped crème; I go for that as well. With my steaming bananas foster crepe on my plate, I move over to the pastry station and grab a trio of the first three things to catch my eye.
I arrive back at my table my server has refolded my napkin and replaced my coffee with not just a fresh pour, but a fresh cup and saucer as well. Now that is service. The bananas foster crepe turns out to be one of the finest dessert crepes I have ever had. The sweet sauce, bananas, and rum, topped with a chocolate sauce and smooth whipped crème is every bit as good as it sounds.
My three pastries all turn out to be winners as well. The first is similar to a doughnut hole, stuffed with some kind of nutty filling and dipped in simple syrup. Sweet, nutty, spongy cake, it is simply fantastic. Next is a caramel covered crème puff, where the caramel covering is crispy, like a hard candy. The pairing of contrasting textures adds to the enjoyment of this dish, as the hard caramel melts to smooth sweetness, and the cream puff base is smooth and, well, puffy. The last pastry is a fancy chocolatier’s creation, with a nutty filling. The presentation is wonderful; dark chocolate and nuts is always a winning combination. A classic duo restyled.
One might think that my sweet tooth is satiated after all of that, but there is just something about this day; I just can’t seem to have enough. On my third visit to the buffet, I head directly to the crème brûlée table. The offerings include classic, mocha, chocolate, and pistachio. I have a hard time bypassing pistachio anything, so rather than take the safe route and grab a standard; I decide to take a chance and try the pistachio. I also head over to the fruit bar and plate some pineapple, honey dew, papaya, and mango.
I return to find my napkin folded and my coffee replaced with a fresh cup again. I take a taste of the pistachio crème brûlée and I am pleased with my choice. It tastes like an expertly made crème brûlée, with a touch of pistachio flavor. The nutty tone is just enough, and the rich texture and crispy sugar crust all blend together to culminate a great ending to a meal. After I have consumed half of the dessert, I take a break and try the fruit I’ve grabbed. Unfortunately, there are more misses than hits when it comes to the fruit and melon. The pineapple looks good, but does not burst with flavor. The honeydew is good however, and has a nice, slightly soft texture and flavor. The papaya and mango both fail to meet any general standard of quality, fully-ripened fruit. It is nice that they offer these two exotic options, but it would be even better if the fruit tasted fresh.
As I finish off my crème brûlée, I notice an abundance of vanilla bean flecks in the bottom of the ramekin. My love of vanilla is unrivaled, so it is no wonder why I enjoy this dish so much. With fresh vanilla, it is difficult not to win my approval.
My server returns to check on me. It is clear that the buffet is winding down for the day, but no pressure is put on me to leave. In fact, I get the impression that the staff would gladly wait hours until the last guest decides to leave. This is clear from the booth next to me, which seats a well-to-do older couple. They clearly have a good repertoire with their server, who knows them by name. They were seated as I arrived, and now, as I assemble myself to leave, they are still enjoying their relaxing Sunday brunch.
I make my way out of my booth, and the server, who has been more than attentive, asks me how my meal was. I reply that it was fantastic, as was his service, and he wishes me a good day with a smile. Every staff member I encounter on my way out does the same, and it’s clear that the service at the Sterling Brunch is taken just a seriously as the high-end culinary offerings. Guests are not just paying for lobster and caviar, since the support of the staff is just as luxurious.
I snap a few pictures of the gleaming waiting area on my way out, and the hostess asks if there is anything she can do before I leave. I thank her for her assistance, but let her know that I am more than okay, and I thank her for the fine meal and great service. The staff simply made sure I had the best experience possible. With the mindful service and decadent cuisine, it is safe to say, the Sterling Brunch at Bally’s Resort and Casino is a great way to kick off anyone’s trip to Las Vegas.