Friday, September 23, 2005

China Grand Buffet - Farmingdale, NY

The China Grand Buffet is located in a strip mall shopping center next the Republic Airport in the Airport Plaza shopping center at 201 Airport Plaza Boulevard in Farmingdale, NY. It is just off of Route 110. This is one of the "cookie cutter" Chinese buffets, meaning it looks and has some of the exact same menu items prepared the same way as many other Chinese buffets in the area - and around the country.

This restaurant offers a lot on its buffet tables from lobster and crab legs to a Mongolian-type barbecue - yet in many ways it seems lacking. One reason is that there is rarely anyone cooking at the window that contains the Mongolian barbecue and it always seems like an imposition to get someone out there. This does not seem to change whether you go in early or late in the day. Along with the Mongolian grill, there is a charbroil grill - but again - no cook. In addition, the lobster is put out so sparsely and with long periods in between, that when it does go out, diners descend on the lobster tray and there is rarely enough to go around. When the restaurant is not crowded and you find the lobster still in the tray from an earlier serving, it is often dry and tough from sitting too long. When it is fresh out, it is good.

The restaurant has three dining rooms - this is not a small place, despite it being in a store front. It also has a separate room for private parties. There are four long buffet tables - two of them double-sided. There is a buffet table that contains mixed greens and all of the toppings and dressings for salad. This table also has cocktail shrimp (shell on), raw clams on the half shell, sushi and sashimi, sauces, fresh fruit, jello, and puddings. There is a double sided buffet table with four soups, dumplings, dim sum, a variety of Chinese appetizers, the lobster, sweet and sour chicken, French fries and hot apple pie. There is another double sided buffet table with all of the entrees including Happy Family, the usual General Tso Chicken and Chicken and broccoli, and an assortment of stuffed items - all with the same chicken stuffing including peppers and mushrooms. On this table are also the crab legs (small broken clusters and pieces) and baked salmon. The final buffet table is the desert table and this is filled with small cakes and pastries that are identical to those found in many other Chinese Buffets. I often think of the Little Debbie snack cakes that are sold packaged in supermarkets whenever I see these cakes. They are good for a fast sugar fix, but have little substance. There is a soft serve ice cream machine with chocolate and vanilla with dry toppings. At the window, when there is a cook, there is a variety of raw meats and vegetables to create a Mongolian barbecue on the griddle. There are also spare ribs that sit in a heavy, sweet sauce. They are not to my liking because of the heavy sauce, but there are those who seem to enjoy them - if you can find them, as the hot tray is covered and unmarked. There is also a hot dog server with hot dogs rotating around to cook.

There is certainly no problem in the quantity and variety that is offered. The food tastes good - and we have never gotten sick - that is actually the best recommendation that any restaurant could get. The restaurant is kept clean. The trays - except for the lobster - are filled regularly. The service is usually good - although tonight we never got a soda refill - we could have asked, but it should be offered. Dishes were picked up promptly - sometimes too promptly with the server looking to take a plate that is still being eaten from. The servers just barely speak English and are all young, Chinese women (girls, actually). The servers bring the check too fast - tonight we were still in the middle of our entrees. My wife feels that this is timed. There is no rush for you to leave, but the check should not be plopped down in mid-meal, as if to signal you that it is time to go. One good thing is that there is a supply of napkins on the table in addition to the place setting that is there when you sit down. You get your own plates and there are knives and shell crackers at the buffet table. Most of the tables are booths that would just seat four. There are a few larger, regular tables in the back two dining rooms.

One thing to note is that the soup is served VERY HOT in temperature. This is as it should be for health reasons, but it is too hot to eat without letting it cool down first. The Hot and Sour soup is not only served hot in temperature, but it is also HOT in taste. I think too hot and has a strong pepper taste. It makes me sweat and I do not enjoy it - though I like this type of soup very much. I have even mixed just a touch of this soup into the egg drop soup to get the taste of Hot and Sour soup and it is still too hot in taste.

Just from the offerings alone, this should be one of the premiere Chinese buffets, but it is not. It is just ordinary and average. More attention to management - particularly of the grill window - and it would improve some. As I am sure that the grill is figured into the price, it should be better attended to. One often has the impression that the grill is closed, despite the large sign on the wall over the grill window that says, "Grill included with Buffet".

There are always people dining, usually couples and families. I always look to see how many Asian people are eating at a Chinese restaurant - there are rarely any dining here. We come here often and drive a bit to get here. It is a satisfying meal, but I feel it is missing the mark. Also as a regular customer, you would think that there would be some recognition, by the same host that is there week after week - no, there is no acknowledgement at all.

Prices at Chinese buffets in this area have recently gone up and this restaurant is no exception. The price is $13.49 per adult. There is a children's price. Everyone must pay. (I have seen a few here try to pull the "I am just sitting with them and not eating. No go - you have to pay to eat or sit. (Ahh, One of our rules!)) The soda is an odd price of $1.16 for unlimited refills - that the server must bring you and hopefully, she will. (I have to be fair and say that most times when I have been here I am asked if I "want more drink?".) You pay as you leave, however, I have seen them make groups of teens pay in advance.

At Christmas time they decorate the restaurant with a Christmas tree and have a big raffle on New Years for many big prizes including TV sets, DVD players, etc. You have to be there on the holiday to participate. They hand out bamboo calendars throughout the holiday season.

There are other Chinese buffets around named Grand Buffet. There is a possibility that this is one of a small chain, but there is no indication at the restaurant that there is any other location. There is no website. The hours are Monday to Thursday, 11 to 10:30 (last seating at 9:30); Friday, Saturday and Holidays, 11:00 to 11:30 (last seating at 10:30); and Sundays, 11:30 to 10 (last seating at 9). The phone number is 631-777-8199.


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Robert A said...

AS of November 1, 2006, the price of this meal went up fifty cents per person. At the same time they have eliminated lobster from the menu.

Robert A said...

Children's price here on the weekend - Friday through Sunday dinner is $7.99 for all children 3 to 10.

BtB said...

Went there yesterday, and it cost sixteen dollars (15 for buffet, 1 for soda)

Came across your post looking for the phone number to this place -- thanks for the helpful information.

Robert A said...

interesting to hear that they have raised their price - I was there on a Friday night two weeks ago and the price then was still $13.99.

I am not sure that this one is worth $14.99!

Anonymous said...

This restaurant excels in one area over all other Chinese buffets I have been to - their soft serve ice cream is sweet and rich, not watery. I mentioned this to the server who said some people come just for the ice cream.

Robert A said...

Yes, I agree! They do have good ice cream.