The prices in the ad were interesting - $11.99 on Friday and Saturday nights. There was a coupon for $3.00 off. The ad said lobster or crab legs every night. They claimed to be the largest buffet in Baldwin and had great quality and quantity in what they offered on the buffet. It intrigued us enough to decide to go and find out for ourselves. Last time we never made it past the lobby. I wondered if that was going to be different on this visit.
We went. We walked right in. We were seated at a booth - I did not ask for anything specific in terms of seating. We were taken into the dining room and seated in front of the window. My wife commented that this was why we walked out the last time. We sat down. The window is large and on a cold night as this one was, it was not very comfortable - and being on display to anyone who walked past on the sidewalk was not great. There were other tables and booths away from the window - but it seems like they want to fill those window booths. We put up with it.
The buffet includes an hibachi grill, four double sided, double length hot and cold buffet tables and a counter of hard scooped ice cream and dessert cakes. On an L of the hibachi grill is a sushi bar. The restaurant is 1/4 filled with the buffet area. 1/4 filled with a dining room and 1/2 filled with large party rooms and a lobby. The party room seemed to have two parties going on - one with a rock band and another with small children. As we had walked into the restaurant we could hear the band as clearly as if we were next to them. As we were going up to the buffet several times the children had moved out of the party room for their party and were running through the restaurant. Later we could hear their party entertainment - across the restaurant - as clearly as if we were in the room with them. I had to wonder through this dinner why this restaurant does not just become a party catering venue and forget the restaurant which always seems to be an afterthought here.
The dishes to use at the buffet are located UNDER the buffet tables on near the ground shelf. If you have problems bending over you are going to have a hard time getting the dished to eat off of. Maybe this is minor but I know people who would have had a problem - and not that they are "fat" which might be the assumption.
So how was the meal. I was fairly happy at the start. The food here is tasty. I tried a number of things on the buffet. They have what they call barbecue beef. This is a slice of beef about a quarter inch thick with enough marbling to give it some taste. My first selections of this beef seemed to have been sitting out on the buffet for awhile and perhaps I should have skipped it at that point - but I took a couple of slices. I looked around the buffet for knives - this was not going to be easy to eat without cutting it. There were no knives. I tried spearing it and eating it that way. It was tough but it had a nice taste. So much so that I wanted to eat it but some of it came out into a napkin because after chewing and chewing it was not small enough to get down. I tried other things. There are crab cakes that are rather different - more cake than crab but again they were tasty. There was lobster - the usual buffet lobster in ginger sauce broken into chunks and pieces. There was not a lot out and about one tray and a half of the tray was put out during the time we were there. And the lobster was tasty.
I then had something happen about half way through the meal that I have had perhaps only once in all of the years that I have been writing about buffets and Asian buffets. I suddenly had a headache - and I knew right away from how it felt and how this type of headache has felt before - this was an MSG headache. MSG is a powdered substance (mono-sodium glutamate). used in some Oriental cooking that is a preservative and brings out the flavors of foods. It is not unusual to find this at Chinese restaurants and I am sensitive to it and get the common reaction to it - a headache. I eat at Asian buffets at least once a week and as I say, I can recall once many years ago that I got an MSG headache at an Asian buffet. This reaction to MSG is common - at take out Asian restaurants and at menu Asian restaurants one can request that it is left out. I know that the take out Asian restaurant that I go to uses this - and they do leave it out on request. You can't do that at a buffet - but Asian buffets that I have been at don't put it in the food. Here they must put it in quantity as I can usually get through a meal before I feel it. Quality foods and good cooking does not need MSG added.
There was nothing that I could do at that point and continued with dinner. Several of the things I tried - like the bbq beef that did not chew (I have to say that I took more later that looked less dried out and that was better) - I had a few things in addition that went into my mouth and came out in a napkin. There was fish with bones that were not obvious. There was fried zucchini that - again - was tasty bu that had a overdone coating on it that almost broke a tooth.
There were things I would not take. The some of the sushi was off-color and dried out. There were raw clams that had an odd color and were dried out. Some of the food on the buffet needed to be hotter. When items first come out to the buffet table they are hot, but they cool off shortly after and that should not happen.
I did not go up to the hibachi grill but only because when I decided I would try it, there was no one there cooking. There had been earlier.
For dessert they have a variety of hard ice creams in a freezer case that you scoop yourself. There are the sheet cakes that you see at many of the Asian buffets. There were some fresh fruits and canned fruits. There was also hot apple wrapped pastry.
The service was fine. We did overhear a discussion between customers at a nearby table with the waitress about the coupon that offered three dollars off. We had seen the coupon but had forgot to bring it. The coupon said $3.00 - limit 2. The discussion at that table was that the two dining gave the coupon and only received $3.00 off and not $3.00 for each of the two. The waitress was telling them that the coupon was only for one $3.00 discount and there had to be two people to get it. This is clearly not what the coupon we saw said - and if this restaurant meant this then the coupon should have read $3.00 off - minimum 2 people for discount. This was not good. Other Asian buffets in this area offer coupons that include all adults who are dining - some specify no more than ten. Some reviews of this buffet that I read after our visit talk of a language problem here - maybe so and that extends to their coupons.
Will I go back? With the MSG issue here I don't think so. Yes, the food is tasty. I was able to find things that I liked but the headache was not worth it - especailly when less than a half mile away is Flaming Grill with a a larger buffet, better quality food, and almost the same price (especailly with a coupon which are put out in local papers and mailings often - and no headache. If you don't react to MSG then maybe you might like this buffet. There are things here though to be careful about - especially any raw seafood.