Fine dining is defined by a myriad of terms. Pala Casino Spa & Resort’s “Choices, The Buffet,” defines the term in eclectic, but exciting ways – two-hundred to be exact. That’s the number of choices guests have when they step inside the restaurant past a calming water sculpture and into the dining room framed by a view of rugged mountains. In that inviting atmosphere, skilled chefs prepare many dishes on site at various themed stations including Asian, Italian and Mexican.
Pala executives scoured the finest resorts to assemble a team of creative and experienced chefs. Passionate about perfection, this team of chefs, led by Pala’s Executive Chef Robert Camerota, is constantly working to provide the very best.
“It is more than a job – it’s our life,” said Chef Robert. He added, “If you enjoy what you do you are going to be good at it.”
Chef Robert honed his skills at the Las Vegas resorts Mirage and Bellagio, so he is familiar with buffets. An award-winning chef, he was once selected Chef of the Year by Bon Appétit magazine.
Chef Robert has excellent instincts when it comes to creating and enhancing the entrées, soups and sauces. A butter-based sauce made on the premises was born in the mind of Chef Robert. This creamy marvel is made mostly with secret ingredients, with the exception of white wine. Because the texture has more body than melted butter, it is used mainly on lobster tails, but also takes potatoes and vegetables soaring to new heights.
Choices offers a Lobster Buffet every Tuesday from 4 to 10 p.m., however lobster is also available for dinner on other days. Cold water lobsters are flown in live every day, mostly from Maine. The grilled lobster tails are savory without Chef Robert’s special butter, but add that one element and they’re a giant step beyond delicious!
The shrimp salad, which has a wealth of fresh, succulent Gulf shrimp, is dotted with mandarin oranges, which lend a tangy, citrus flavor to the mélange of fruit and vegetables. Spicy cucumbers and red bell peppers add a bit of a punch.
If you love meat, you won’t be disappointed – various offerings are available at both lunch and dinner. For example, top sirloin and pork loin are found at lunch, but if you crave prime rib, arrive after 4 p.m.
The freshly made chicken soup is worth a nod. It is made with chicken breast, and also thigh and leg meat. The dark meat lends a moist and flavorful element to the soup.
The lavish delights that constitute Choices dessert offerings will make anyone smile. Chef Albert Cruz prepares a plethora of luxury desserts with pride. From the elegant Crème Brulée to unique Pistachio Macaroons, these desserts are a fitting finale to an already exhilarating food experience. Two chocolate fountains – one white and one dark – slip lusciously over the sides to dreamy pools.
I savored every bite of the elaborate dessert, “Cherries Jubilee Crêpes.” The chef first cooked the batter until it was slightly browned then flipped it, shook it a bit, and repeated the process. Then, he scooped the cherry mix into the middle, dusted the top with powdered sugar and finished with drizzles of chocolate sauce. It’s served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a dollop of cloud-like whipped cream.
I was also delighted to sample the hand-mixed dessert made with pound cake, delicate slivered almonds, fresh strawberries and whipped cream, then crowned with more whipped cream and finally maraschino cherries.
After trying these delicious “Choices” I could confidently relay the following message to friends: “Meet me at Choice’s – the food is terrific!”
Choices is offering a Thanksgiving Day feast that will include a wealth of delights including turkey, as well as Canadian king crab legs and prime rib. Lobster and chateaubriand is a sampling of what will please guests on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.
Pala Casino Spa & Resort’s “Choices, The Buffet” is located at 11154 Highway 76 in Pala. The telephone is (877) WIN-PALA (946-7252). Check the website for further information at