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Sunset Station Buffet

Aside from the generally poor quality of the food, my objection to buffets is, they always encourage overeating - and it isn't broccoli and fresh fruit that most people are filling up on. But, in the spirit of fairness, I thought I'd give a fresh look to an old bugaboo.

Officially, it's called the "Feast Around the World" buffet, but let's fact it - whether you're at Caesar's Palace, Palace Station, or Sunset Station -all casino buffets are just "the buffet." Most now feature action cooking, which puts cooks right before you while they scramble, sauté or stir-fry some of the world's most mediocre food.

The Palace Station (the granddaddy of Sunset Station) pioneered this craze over ten years ago, but the Sunset Station does all of its best cooking off stage . . . And some of it is worth a special trip.

Like most buffets, Sunset Station separates types of food into separate serving stations (try saying that sometime after a bottle of burgundy!!!). Here you have a Mexican - Chinese - Italian farmer's market (another term for generic American) and barbecue. I didn't want to give short shrift to this buffet, so I thought I'd test-drive the food of at least three regions. Trying all five was beyond even my gastronomic stamina.

The Mexican offerings were passable, although underspiced and reheated to the point of flavor death - no surprise there - but, surprisingly, the wok-fried chinese food was fresh and as good as any number of chinese restaurants all over town.

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Neither would bring me back to the Sunset Station. What would, however, was the BBQ presided over by Chef Leroy Hodge. Mr. Hodge has the pedigree and the talent to put out some first-class 'cue. Thirty years in the business has given him an "I-cue" and puts him in the Mensa club of marinators. A corny joke, I know. But his cornbread is worth a bite, too, as are the superb baked beans. But the best of the bunch is the beef brisket. This and the pork and beef ribs get 24 hours in a wet rub before letting low and slow hickory smoke work its magic on the meat.

So, thank you Mr. Hodge, and the Sunset Station for finally allowing me to say something good about buffets.

John Curtas

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Thursday, April 15, 1999

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