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Pechanga offers internationally inspired buffet

The buffet at Pechanga Resort and Casino is not just any buffet. Under the creative leadership of Chef Frank Ortiz, the buffet offers guests innovative and internationally inspired dishes that you would not normally expect in a casino buffet.

Chef Frank Ortiz stir fries vegetables in the Pechanga buffet kitchen.
Todd Montgomery
Cedar planked sliced duck in orange sauce was a highlight of a tasting at Pechanga's buffet.
Todd Montgomery

Chef Ortiz brings a wealth of international culinary experience to Pechanga. He has lived and worked in Spain, France and Italy, and most recently was the chef at two of the most famous casino buffets in Las Vegas.

Since his arrival at Pechanga about eight months ago, Chef Ortiz has introduced the small plate concept, inspired by his Spanish heritage, with a focus on wonderful, fresh ingredients. In addition to traditional buffet favorites, guests can now choose from a variety of enticing, appetizer-sized dishes each day.

We recently had the opportunity to sample some of these new dishes that Chef Ortiz is adding to the resort’s already scrumptious buffet offerings. We tasted a variety of delicious and unique dishes that left us impressed and ready to come back and bring our friends.

Sliced Duck with Orange Sauce was as appealing on the palate as it was beautifully presented on a cedar plank. The tender, slightly pink duck was set atop crispy vegetables that had been stir-fried in a tangy ginger chili sauce. Seared Achiote Shrimp that had marinated in a lemon lime vinaigrette was also attractively served on a Himalayan salt block. The shrimp dish was a perfect appetizer, a bit crunchy with a hint of fruit. The barbecued, smoked brisket was full of flavor, especially with the accompanying roasted fingerling potatoes, blue cheese and crispy onions. And the Mexican meatballs (known as Albondigas) were deliciously spicy in a minty salsa verde.

The chef also offered us an enticing array of small salad dishes, such as a zesty Thai shrimp salad with dragon fruit, a fresh caprese salad, a colorful beet salad with gorgonzola, and a savory roasted mushroom salad.

After savoring these special dishes, we sampled the extensive buffet of more than 250 items (no we didn’t try all 250). We wished our appetites were bigger as we surveyed the many tantalizing food stations, which included seafood; Asian, Mexican, Latin and Mediterranean specialties; grilled and roasted meats; and a wonderful selection of pizzas baked in a brick oven and made from Chef Ortiz’s own homemade pizza dough. And, of course, the dessert selections were luscious and never-ending.

The Chef admits that it is a challenge to serve fresh, high quality, delicious food to large numbers of guests, but he is dedicated to doing just that. He has a staff of more than 60 talented cooks who are committed to preparing the best food possible for guests. While crab legs and prime rib may be the most popular items on the buffet, guests can now expect to find a myriad of other choices and some pleasant gourmet surprises such as the small plates we tasted. On some recent holidays, the Chef has even ventured into serving more exotic meats such as boar, lamb chops and quail.

Chef Ortiz says he loves his job and is committed to avoiding complacency while serving food that is exceptional for Pechanga’s guests. We can attest to his success in achieving that goal.

Pechanga’s buffet is offered to guests at a variety of very reasonable prices. For instance, lunch from Monday through Friday (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is $16.99 for adults and $19.95 for brunch on Saturday and Sunday (9 a.m to 3:30 p.m.). Dinner on Sunday through Thursday (4 p.m. to 10 p.m.) is $21.99 and on Friday and Saturday (4 p.m. to 11 p.m.) $26.99. All prices are considerably reduced for Club Card holders. And there is a special “two for the price of one” offer for senior citizens (55 and older) on Fridays from 5 to 7. This Friday night special applies to all Fridays except on this coming Valentine’s Day when there is a holiday buffet offered for both lunch and dinner.