The Cuisine Scene
Brenda Hill

The Potrero Canyon Buffet
Morongo Casino Resort & Spa

Cabazon, CA

Would you enjoy a complimentary glass of champagne with your meal? Perhaps you’d rather have a Bloody Mary. No matter your preference, you’re served your choice with the Sunday buffet at the Morongo Casino.
I love buffets. I don’t know if I died of starvation in a past life or if it’s because I lived in Northern Minnesota for several years where lye-cured fish and three different flavors of Jell-O were considered a smorgasbord. Whatever the reason, a well-prepared food line is beautiful. The casinos do them so well, and I’ve visited several. I happily pass up the gambling tables and slot machines to head straight for the buffet.

Sunday, Sheila and I tried the Potrero Canyon Buffet in Morongo, and Rudy, one of the supervisors and our host, greeted us. He led us to a booth and was so gracious that I wondered if he'd always been that mannerly or if his gray hair was evidence of a lifetime learning how to make people feel important. But if this early encounter with a Morongo employee was an indication, Sheila and I were in for a nice experience.

We learned that while the regular buffet lasted from 10am to 10pm, the breakfast items in the Sunday brunch ran until 3:30. However, they offer a glass of champagne, a Bloody Mary, or a Mimosa punch, made of champagne and orange juice, all day.

After we were seated, Chef Duc Le, along with Sous Chef Amine Boussaksou, told us they serve an international cuisine of American, Chinese, Italian, and Mexican dishes, plus accompanying sides. Chef Le also likes to create dishes and they both enjoy taking a standard food and changing or adding to it to make it just a little different. Chef Le proudly worked his way up in the industry and Chef Boussaksou holds a degree from the Cordon Bleu Institute. While they talked, I could see each valued the other’s opinion, which I translated to mean a good working relationship and good food for the customer.

Sous Chef Boussaksou & Chef Le

When I strolled the huge buffet line, I found it difficult to decide what to try. In addition to the prepared Chinese dishes including soups, Chow Mein, and Potstickers—which looked like miniature fried pies but had been prepared with meat and vegetables—BBQ pork, Cashew Chicken, Fried Rice and Spicy Orange Chicken, the buffet had a hot wok station. In that area, you select fresh vegetables from two rows of veggies along with your choice of meat, and the cook stir-fries the dish while you wait. Talk about fresh. Before strolling to the next section, I took a Potsticker, a small circular pastry dough folded over stuffing and fried. I’d never had one and I found it similar in taste to an egg roll.

But I didn't want to get too full because the Italian section was ahead with fresh pizza and several pastas, including the Special of the Day, Cheese Tortellini in Marinara Sauce with bell peppers. Some of the other selections were Linguini Pesto with pine nuts and mushrooms, Cioppino and Mussels in a tomato sauce, and Italian Green Beans.

In the American section, the fried chicken called to me, so I took a small drumstick, but I eyed the country fried steak and garlic mashed potatoes. The Catch of the Day was Mahi Mahi, and alongside that was Meat Loaf and Beef Bourguignon. I'd never had Beef Bourguignon, so I opted for a helping. It was lean, fork-tender, and delicious. I’d have it again.

The salad section had the standard vegetables and fruit, plus some goodies such as Crab Salad, Cole Slaw with pineapple sections and sunflower seeds, and a platter of chilled smoked fish. A big bowl of chunked papaya and oranges sat on the end.

The carving station offered Rotisserie Chicken, Ham, and Prime Rib with horseradish and sherry au jus on the side. 

In the Mexican sections, I saw Roasted Jalapenos and Chicken Empanadas, which, like the Potstickers, looked like miniature fried pies, only they were made as a dinner side instead of a dessert. Beans, Chili Colorado, and Beef Machaca with a reddish Pasilla Sauce sat in that section as well as Peel and Eat Chilled Shrimp. If I hadn’t already sampled so much, I would have loved the chilled shrimp.

But two vegetable dishes were my favorites of the evening, the Spinach and Artichoke Soufflé and the Squash Medley. The warm soufflé was cheesy, yet firm with eggs, cream and bread crumbs, and the artichoke gave a slightly different flavor to the spinach. The zucchini and yellow squash medley was tender and tasty with a surprising bite. Cajun seasoning, Chef Lu told me with a smile. I loved each so much that I sacrificed dessert for another helping of each.

Sheila’s favorite was the Cheese Tortellini and Egg Flower Soup.

For those of you who do not wish to bypass the desserts, you have quite a variety to choose from. Two cases held different varieties of pies, cobblers, and cookies, plain and chocolate dipped, biscottis, pineapple upside down cake and Crème Brulee. The brulee with crusted brown sugar on top was Sheila’s favorite, and I couldn’t resist just a taste of the pear-shaped upside down cake. Topped with whipped cream and a cherry, it topped the evening. 

Sheets of rain poured down when I collected my car, but the valet took a moment to place my briefcase in the back seat so Sheila and I could slip into the front. Another example of rare old-time courtesy.  

Lunch: $11.95, 11am-3pm 
Dinner: $18.95 4:30pm-9pm
Lunch: $11.95
Seafood Dinner:    4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. $25.95
Saturday All Day: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. $21.95    
Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. $21.95
Children 5 and under eat free / Age 6-12: $7 / 13 and up full price
Valet service is $6.00.

The Potrero Canyon Buffet
Morongo Casino Resort & Spa
49500 Seminole Drive
Cabazon, California 92230
Located just off I-10 in Cabazon