Overused phrase alert!
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
Yes, I went to Sin City, but I’m not going to respond to any questions about it than flash you a coy smile, laugh, and perhaps look away with a *blush* when you ask me if I won/lost a lot of money, if I spent three paychecks’ worth (hey, which isn’t that much anyway) at the Forum Shops, if I dined out at ridiculously over-priced “celebrity chef” restaurants, whether I hit up any clubs on the Strip, or rather chose to hit up any strip clubs, whether I ever made it back to my hotel room before I had to hop aboard a flight back to LA, all in less than 24 hours.
Oh, alright, I’ll tell you a little something, just to appease your inquiring minds.
My trip to Vegas was less than 24 hours, which is still too long for my taste. Way too long. You see, contrary to popular partying belief, Sarah does not like Vegas. Let’s start at the beginning - getting to Vegas.
You can get to Vegas from LA by either driving or flying. If you drive, the quoted “five hours,” really ends up being six-and-a-half hours because unless you leave LA at oh, say, 2:30 am on a Wednesday, there will be roadrageous traffic all along any freeway that is within the LA County limits. Then once you actually take the death curve form the 10-east onto the I-15 north, you will first be playing life-size Frogger with Seabass in his 18-wheeler, then you will be tail-gating a swaying, perpetually braking, out-of-state Winnebago up a 2-lane freeway with a hyper-coked Guido dangerously riding your ass in a rented-just-for-Vegas Porsche. Plus, you have to stop at the giant McDonald’s near Barstow no matter what time of day it is just because it’s a giant McDonald’s, and since you and your cheap-ass friends decided to “save money” by driving six people in one car instead of spending $78 each on Southworst, you have to take bathroom breaks at least three times. Make that four if someone forgot to buy Flamin’ Hot Cheetos on the last stop. I hate driving to Vegas.
Of course, I hate flying, but there was, unfortunately, no other option for this trip. I flew. I know. I couldn’t believe it either, especially since I wasn’t even going to end up in a place that would make the pre-flight anxiety, panic, nausea, and side effects of xanax worthwhile. Nonetheless, I did not want to spend more time getting to Vegas than actually being in Vegas. Now I am here to share a couple of vaulable lessons, the first of which is overthrowing the misconception that Southworst really is the worst airline in the sky. It's not. Southwest is to America West what a Saleen is to a skateboard retrived from the dumpster. Oh wait. You can actually get somewhere on a skateboard. America West is a discount airline, and just like all those bazillion tv commercials for Stein-Mart, they never let you forget how much of a bargain it is. Scary planes. Dim-witted staff. And did I mention that they picked up their scary planes at Howard Hughes’ garage sale? Yes, they are that scary, and I swear that is beyond my personal fear of flying.
Now the real reason I don’t love Vegas like everyone else who is either Asian or has a gambling problem loves Vegas is that I don’t gamble, which certainly goes against every Korean bone in my body. (Ooh, was that harsh? Sorry.) I didn’t even put a single dollar in the slot machines. So, that’s a big “No” on the win/lo$$ question (except for the money I spent on airfare and lodging), which also takes away about 90% of what Vegas is all about. The other 30% of Vegas (see why it’s a good thing I don’t gamble?) is shopping, seeing shows, and eating. I don’t shop, and couldn’t if I wanted to anyway, so that takes care of that recreation. At the time that I was there, Barry Manilow hadn’t arrived yet, and I certainly didn’t need to watch men in tights fly through the air on trapezes playing with fire. I’ve had enough of that to last three lifetimes. (Don’t ask. It’s a long story.) All that leaves is eating, which, sometimes, is the only reason I travel to begin with.
But this is Vegas we are talking about. Vegas dining is either highly suspect $3.99 steak and lobster somewhere off the strip that is the darling of leopard-printed Rachael Ray or wildly over-priced, over-booked, over-rated dining with nameless, recently-rich glitterati. I didn’t mention buffets with “dining” because buffets are a whole separate category called “Ghastly Gorging on Germ-infested Institution Food.” Buffets. Ack! The B-word! I do not do well with buffets, and with the exception of Buffet City in West LA only because it has the stupidest name ever (strangely, every restaurant in that plaza has a stupid name), Vegas buffets are the worst of the lot. I hate buffets and yet...I ended up at Pharaoh’s Pheast in Luxor for lunch, "a true delight for Kings and Queens."
Now some may say that Vegas buffets aren’t all bad, that you just have to make sure you go to a “good” buffet. Where? Which one? Is there a buffet that magically knows what you want to
eat before you get there, allows one person in at a time, whose talented chef makes the food just as you pass through the velvet rope, places it on the “buffet” right before you pick it up, then cleans everything before they let the next person in? Where is Vegas hiding these “good” buffets? A good Vegas buffet is an oxymoron.
Pharaoh’s Pheast is so delicious that Luxor hides it in the basement. We rode the escalator down, the hyper-oxygenated air blasting upward from the depths below, blowing our hair upward as if we were part of some strange porn dream sequence. There are velvet ropes snaking back and forth at least a half dozen times in front of the entrance, presumably to control the crowd fanatically rushing to get at the glorious gourmet delights inside. I wondered when, and if, Pharaoh’s Pheast ever gets a rush because there was no one in line.
And yet, still we had to carefully wind our way through the maze because the velvet and Egyptian-inspired columns were there, waiting for some unexpected mad rush. A young lady with a clipboard asked us how many were in our party, as if she couldn’t distinguish our party from the thundering hordes of invisible people behind us. She asked us to wait for a moment while she went "to go check." Check what?!? I peeked around the corner to see what she had to check because the dining room was half-empty. Just like everything else in Vegas, Pharaoh’s Pheast is all a sham. Make it look like we’re bursting at the seams! And that was just the beginning.
I have no idea what determines the social buffet strata. We were dressed in our normal daily wear (I wasn’t in sweats), and yet we were exiled to a tiny, poorly-lit table in buffet Siberia. Did we not look like we deserved an A-list table, close to the food?! Did I look fat in those jeans, so that they thought I could use that little bit of 12-calorie-burning exercise walking from the table to the buffet before I ingested 12,000 calories? Wait, why am I complaining here?
The server asked if she could get us anything to drink, which confused me because 1) there was a server and 2) we have to order drinks? She assured us that the drinks were included. Well, alrighty then. I thought so! We got up, went to the bathroom to wash our hands, then headed to the doom of our stomachs.
Now from a distance, the size and array of offerings of any Vegas buffet really is impressive. But just like that hot guy at the other end of the bar you just made eye contact with, as he makes his way over to introduce himself, you are sorely disappointed. If I could, I would describe everything on the buffet, but I can’t because I didn’t try a lot of it. I picked up a few olives and marinated vegetables from the enormous salad bar (brine and acid can kill bacteria, you know) and secretly laughed because I had to wonder how many people actually eat a salad at a Vegas buffet. Doesn’t every Augustus Gloop just head straight for the carving stations and double-fist plates piled obscenely high with third-rate prime rib to get their money’s worth?
Pharaoh’s Pheast has a lot of cuisine-themed “stations” and it is no surprise that they are all heavy on the most fabulously deep-fried items that the cuisine has to offer. Deep frying is fast and grease fills people up. Chinese has eggrolls and wontons, Mexican has taquitos (or maybe they were chimichangas), and even Japanese has tempura, all of which looked dry, and overcooked in old oil that made them dark. Of course, there were other things at each station, like pasta at the Italian station, but all of it is filling, fattening, carbohydrate-heavy foods that are relativly inexpensive. In fact, I swear I heard somewhere that the kitchens spray starch onto the foods so that people will get full faster and not eat the buffets straight through the steam sewer into the ground. But hey, don’t quote me on that. The point is that Vegas buffets have to be cheap.
Along with my marinated vegetables, I went with the grilled vegetables that were supposed to be for fajitas. I took a tortilla, but knew I wasn’t going to eat it when it cracked as I folded it onto my plate. I walked by the carving station just to see what was there – ham and roast turkey. I might have taken a slice of roast turkey, but there was a throbbing, gluttonous mob of people eagerly awaiting their moment to shove their already-full plates into the chef’s face like teenage girls seeking an autograph at a Justin Timberlake concert. If ever you feel underappreciated as a chef, go be a superstar in the carving station of a Vegas buffet.
I was surprised to see a tiny little bar hidden between the giant shellaced Egyptian columns, but the server lied! Drinks are not included with the buffet! I didn’t care. I took out my wallet and gave the bartender $4 for a glass of $2 wine. See? Everything in Vegas is so overpriced!
The dessert bar is as big as the salad bar, and again, I had to laugh because after gorging on all that deep-fried, greasy, creamy, carb-y food, it was hard to believe that people would have room for dessert. Well duh, that’s why Pharaoh’s Pheast offers sugar-free desserts! They looked like very poorly manufactured vinyl replicas of dessert. In fact, most of the desserts, even the regular one
s, looked wholly unappetizing, which says a lot because my entire mouth is full of sweet teeth, and I had not eaten much else. Slices of cakes, cheesecakes looked like they had been molded out of Play-Doh, cookies, brownies, bars, miniature pies and tarts, especially a “key lime” tart that was an amazingly verdant color of Palmolive – it all looked a little too surreal to be edible. The only thing I managed was a piece of bread pudding, simply because it was warm and had the highest probability of being “fresh.” The two bites of the piece that I scooped out of the tray with a very elegant slotted serving spoon weren’t horrible.
We paid for our lunch and as we were walking back through the “Exit here” side of Pharaoh’s Pheast, I’m sure I saw a smirk on King Tut’s mummified face.