Posts Tagged ‘Buffet’

Tinkuy Buffet at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010 by virginia

There’s a hotel right next to the entrance of the Machu Picchu archaeological site called the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. It’s the only hotel that’s actually on top of the mountain, not a bus ride away, and is therefore very expensive. We stayed in the town of Aguas Calientes below but our tour package did include a buffet lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge’s Tinkuy Buffet. We went to the buffet after the guided portion of our tour. Since we had been walking around the ruins all morning and into the early afternoon, we were starving and pretty happy that we didn’t have to go too far to get lunch.

The restaurant is huge, which is good because it was really busy but there were still plenty of tables. The buffet itself, however, isn’t really that extensive. There were two sides to the buffet but both seemed to be serving mostly the same thing, with maybe just a slight variation on side dishes.

The inside of the restaurant

We nabbed a table next to a window and Josh watched our stuff while I got on one of the lines. There were salad items in the front so I picked out a few things to try first. There were beets, which I always love, pasta salad, caprese salad, fish ceviche, and roast beef. While the pasta salad and roast beef were pretty standard, the ceviche was surprisingly delicious, especially for a buffet. It was  light and refreshing, with a nice acidic brightness. It may not have been as sophisticated as some of the ceviches we had at Alfresco but I enjoyed it a lot, even going back for seconds. The caprese salad was good too, even though it wasn’t made with fresh mozzarella, but there was plenty of fresh basil pesto on top.

Pasta salad, caprese salad, ceviche, roast beef, beets

For the main entrees, there was osso buco and roasted chicken. The osso buco was tender but a bit fatty, and the sauce was kind of bland. The chicken was a much better dish – moist, tender, and flavorful. We ate it with rice and some roasted potatoes on the side.

Osso buco, bread, roasted chicken, roasted potatoes, roast beef, rice

There were a few more salad options, and oddly enough, spaghetti with meat sauce, but that was basically the extent of the buffet. There was dessert too but we weren’t in the mood. While the food wasn’t bad overall, it wasn’t that great. The Tinkuy Buffet is definitely a convenient option, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. The cost is about US$35 per person, which is pretty steep. It does include unlimited soda though, which was a bonus. We were really thirsty from all of the walking so we definitely took advantage of the soda fountain. If it comes as part of your tour package, that’s great, you’ll enjoy it, but I don’t think you should go out of your way to eat there.

If you plan on spending the day at Machu Picchu, I suggest packing a light snack to tide you over until you go back down to the town where prices are more reasonable and the food is better. They say you can’t bring food or drinks into the archaeological site but that wasn’t really true. No one checked our bags, and you definitely need tons of water to get through the day. We saw lots of people just sitting down on some rocks and having a snack. The scenery is unmatched. Obviously just don’t litter, and whatever garbage you end up with you have to take back out with you because there are no garbage cans anywhere. We ended up eating some pound cake at the top of Huayna Picchu the next day and it was one of the best experiences of our lives. While the buffet was forgettable, that view definitely was not.

Tinkuy Buffet at Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge
Machu Picchu, Peru

Alhambra Hacienda Restaurant

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 by virginia

After spending the morning and early afternoon in Pisac and Ollantaytambo taking in some Sacred Valley sights, we had lunch at Alhambra Hacienda Restaurant. I’m guessing the place caters mostly to tourists but the food was good, the grounds were beautiful, and there were lots of animals wandering around to keep us entertained. There was an indoor section of the restaurant but the weather was so nice that we sat outside under a large gazebo. The area that held the buffet items was sort of inside and outside, in a covered courtyard that was definitely built in the Spanish style.

An overview of the restaurant grounds with grazing animals, the gazebo we ate inside, and the main part of the restaurant in the back

Our lunch was included with our tour and was served buffet style. We walked around looking at all of the offerings before loading up our plates. We started off with bowls of vegetable soup that was simple but flavorful, and perfect for dunking with crusty bread.

Vegetable soup and bread

We basically both got a few “feeler” plates so that we could taste as many different things as we could fit in our stomachs:

Beets, roast beef, bean salad, baked pasta, causa (a layered casserole with potato, tuna, and avocado), and giant cancha (fried corn kernals)

Bread, lima beans, orange chicken, refried beans, beef, trout, pork, more bean salad in the middle

We didn’t really linger over our meal because we were eager to get up close with the animals that were grazing in the field behind us.

Shaggy llamas

Alpacas and a vicuna (Josh really wanted to pet it but didn't have the guts)

There were also a pair of colorful parrots hanging out in a tree.

Pretty birds

While Josh was playing around with his wide angle lens, I walked around and took some flower pics.

Overall the food at Alhambra was pretty simple and rustic but very hearty. Some of the meats were a bit tough but everything tasted pretty good, even the orange chicken, surprisingly. There was dessert too but we weren’t in the mood for sweets. The atmosphere is casual and laid back, and we kind of felt like we were at a picnic or barbecue. I’m not sure if the restaurant is always a buffet, or if they serve a la carte meals as well. It is close to a few major hotels in the area, so it might be something worth checking out if you’re there.

Alhambra Hacienda Restaurant
Carretera Urubamba-Ollantaytambo Rd.
Urubamba, Peru

El Balcon de Don Zacarias Restaurant – Chivay, Peru

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 by virginia

During our drive from Arequipa to the Colca Valley, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant called El Balcon de Don Zacarias in the town of Chivay. Lunch was included as part of our tour package but that wasn’t the case for everyone in our group, and Josh and I were pretty disappointed not to be able to explore restaurants in the town by ourselves. In our experience, tour package restaurants for the most part have served us pretty lousy, bland food that is designed for tourists. See most of my China posts for reference.

Nevertheless, since we had apparently already paid for lunch as part of our package, we grudgingly trudged up the stairs and into the restaurant. We were further disappointed to see that it was a buffet, and the few patrons in the restaurant were all clearly tourists. Josh and I took a quick stroll around the buffet to see what the offerings were, and I was pleased to see that the food did look pretty interesting, as we didn’t recognize any dishes. Everything looked homemade and kind of rustic, no fussy presentations or decorations in sight, so I was hoping that we would be eating authentic Peruvian dishes, not a watered down version of Peruvian food for tourists. With everything arranged in pyrex dishes on a long table, it looked sort of like a potluck, rather than a restaurant buffet.

Some dishes on the buffet table

Josh and I both started out with some soup – squash for him and chicken soup for me. The squash soup wasn’t like the pureed butternut variety we typically eat here. Instead there were cubes of different kinds of squash mixed in a creamy yellow soup that was surprisingly light and not too rich. The chicken soup I had was plain but soothing, with a clean chicken flavor. There were thin strands of noodles inside but they were long and kind of hard to spoon up so I mostly just drank the broth.

Squash soup

Chicken soup

I started out with a “feeler” plate, taking a little bit of most things so that I could try as much as possible. Half of the buffet contained raw salad items, however, which I avoided because I wasn’t sure how they washed their vegetables. I did eat things that were peeled though, like beets and tomatoes without skin. Maybe I’m just being paranoid but even though we’re adventurous eaters, we do take some precautions to try and avoid getting sick.

Beets, salsa, beef, bread, pork, quinoa, llama, alpaca, chicken, vegetable fritters, french fries in the middle

The meats were all in stew-like sauces, so it was hard to distinguish between them. It was the first time that we tried llama and alpaca though. The llama was very strange, since they have to dry the meat before cooking it. The result was very tough and gristly, almost like eating cartilage. Flavor-wise, however, it was fantastically gamey. I loved the taste but couldn’t get past the texture. The alpaca was inoffensive, with a texture similar to veal or pork, and tasted mostly like the sauce it was cooked in. The beets were fabulous, just plain roasted but super sweet and intensely “beety” in flavor. I took seconds of that, as well as the vegetable fritters which were a mix of corn and squash and were also sweet and fresh-tasting.

For dessert, there was fruit in a sweet, white syrup, a flan-like custard, and a passion fruit flavored pudding. Nothing super exciting, but not bad either.

Papaya and pineapple in syrup, flan, passion fruit pudding

The food at Zacarias really wasn’t upscale or gourmet, but I actually liked it much more than I thought I would. Yes, I’m sure it’s still designed for tourists, but the food seemed genuine and there weren’t any cop-out dishes (ie., plain chicken or beef, American food, etc.). The only dish we knew was french fries, but they were made from flavorful, starchy Peruvian potatoes, not the McDonalds variety. I don’t know if you need to be part of a tour group to eat at this restaurant or if you can just walk in, but if you find yourself in Chivay for whatever reason, it’s worth checking out. The restaurant and the facilities are clean, and the buffet was a nice way to try lots of different dishes. I still like to think they were authentic homestyle Peruvian dishes, though I don’t know the names and won’t be able to order them elsewhere. Regardless, the food was tasty and we left with our bellies very full.

El Balcon de Don Zacarias Restaurant
Av. 22 De Agosto, Valle Del Colca
Chivay, Peru

Vegas Day 3 – Bellagio Champagne Brunch

Sunday, June 7th, 2009 by virginia


You can’t go to Vegas and not eat at a buffet, so I did some research beforehand and settled on the champagne brunch at the Bellagio. It was in the middle of the range in terms of price, not as expensive as the Sterling brunch at Ballys and not as cheap as some of the brunches at the less extravagant hotels, and the reviews all seemed pretty favorable.

We arrived at noon and there was a HUGE line to get inside. It turned out that there were only two cashiers working the line (you pre-pay before you go in), which is kind of stupid in my opinion since that was the hold-up; the dining area itself was pretty empty. So we ended up waiting in line for about an hour before we finally got in and were seated.

Fortunately our waitress stopped by right away to offer us drinks. We both got champagne, of course, as well as orange juice, which is all included if you opt for the champagne brunch (opting for no champagne is only a few dollars cheaper, so it doesn’t make sense not to get it, unless you’re underage!).

Pretty decent cava (Spanish sparking wine)

Pretty decent cava (Spanish sparking wine)

We did a quick walk through of the buffet area to see what was offered. Josh stuck with breakfast for his first plate, as the omelet line was very short. He took the omelet chef’s recommendation and went for a crab and shrimp omelet with veggies and cheese – it was pretty good!

Crab and shrimp omelet

Crab and shrimp omelet

I went for a more eclectic first plate, trying little bits of lots of things to figure out what I liked. I had a mini bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon, onion, and tomato, which was pretty decent (though the bagel was kind of bad), pizza, mashed potatoes, beef tenderloin, leg of lamb, prime rib, and shrimp cocktail. The carved meats weren’t so great – I got an end piece of the lamb and it was horribly overcooked, and the beef tenderloin was pretty much bad hotel food. The prime rib was ok though, as the fattiness helped keep it rare and moist. The pizza was exactly what you would expect from buffet pizza, but since I took it knowing that, it actually wasn’t too bad. The shrimp cocktail was really good and tasted fresh. The shrimp were pretty large and cooked perfectly.

My eclectic first plate

My eclectic first plate

For my second plate I went with all things Asian – chicken with black bean sauce, Singapore style noodles, duck curry, sushi, thai summer roll, and a spicy tuna hand roll.

My asian-themed second plate

My asian-themed second plate

Josh also tried the summer roll and the hand rolls, and added in the shrimp cocktail that I raved about, as well as a slice of pizza.

Josh's second plate

Josh's second plate

Josh moved on to dessert at this point, with soft serve ice cream and a collection of pastries.

Cream puffs, eclair, strawberry tart

Cream puffs, eclair, strawberry tart

I did something kind of gross and had a mixed plate, with cream puffs, a summer roll, a hand roll, and a piece of french toast topped with smoked salmon and syrup (remember my fun with leftovers?). What can I say, I do love mixing my sweet with savory.

Another eclectic plate

Another eclectic plate

I also had a side dish of peach and raspberry yogurt, but these weren’t so great. They tasted very artificial and were a bit too icy.

Peach and raspberry yogurt

Peach and raspberry yogurt

Since we got into the buffet an hour later than we intended, and we ended up eating and drinking a lot more than we intended, we actually overlapped from brunch into the early dinner service, and they started bringing out the dinner foods. We nabbed a plate of crab legs, which weren’t really that great. The snow crab legs were ok, but the king crab legs were tiny and obviously frozen, as they still had chunks of ice in them. Totally not worth it, so I’m glad we didn’t do the dinner buffet as it is more expensive.

Sad king crab and snow crab legs

Sad king crab and snow crab legs

Service was really great, especially for a buffet. Our plates were cleared quickly, and they were very free-pouring with the champagne. No one tried to rush us or kick us out as brunch was ending. In fact, our waitress told us she was off after the brunch shift and brought us a full bottle of champagne right before she left so we could continue pouring drinks for ourselves even after brunch was officially over. At this point, however, we had our fill so we shared our bottle with the table next to us. We stumbled out full and happy.

Overall the food wasn’t spectacular, but it’s a buffet and we weren’t expecting gourmet stuff. If you take it for what it is, there is a lot of great variety and you can just stick with the things you like. The champagne at this brunch is pretty decent, a spanish cava that isn’t too sweet and isn’t too dry. The champagne brunch costs $25, and is a nice way to spend a few hours eating and drinking until you hit your limit.

The Buffet
At the Bellagio
Las Vegas, NV