I posted this on the San Francisco Bay Area board, but was told it belongs here. Enjoy!
Ah, the Bellagio--
Burke and I went to the Bellagio twice, and the difference was stark. The first time, it had just opened. The fountains didn't work yet. It was seething with activity and fighting hard to be the best casino on the new strip. Because it was so hungry, perhaps, it had the best damn buffet I've ever had. That buffet ($21) had items I'd have been satisfied getting in a formal restaurant. I remember one dessert especially, a cylindar of chestnut mousse (yes, CHESTNUT, and real ones from France) glazed with a thin ganache and hiding a core of crispy gianduja. I had three!
Also, the dinner we had at their Le Cirque was the first great meal of our lives together, and included our first taste of Yquem! What a meal.
We returned a year later, and the Bellagio seemed to have given up its struggle to be the best. The same buffet was now $15, and the quality had dropped so far we hardly ate anything, chosing instead to just fill up on fuel so we could gamble some more. We were so disappointed that we didn't give the other Bellagio restaurants a try, fearing the worst.
But across the street the Paris was just opening up and was as hungry for stardom as the young Bellagio had been. We had a marvelous couple of meals there! And yes, when we returned the next year, it had deteriorated the same way the Bellagio had.
Which leads Burke and I to draw a conclusion and compose a theory: a Las Vegas casino's eateries start off great (perhaps to build the name), and then slip quickly. Thus our rule of thumb has been to go to the newest casino, regardless of its theme (excepting a truly horrid one, like Excalibur, where you couldn't drag me even for a CASE of Yquem. Well...a case of '90, okay).
Last visit was Mandalay Bay, and it was new and excellent. I'm sure it's slipped already.