Friday, September 16, 2005

Chinese Buffet Restaurants

Chinese buffet restuarants have been around for a while, but there had not been as many as there are today. On Long Island in New York State it seems as if there is a Chinese buffet restaurant in every village - if not more than one. Most new Chinese restaurants that open are Chinese buffets. The interesting thing is that many of these Chinese buffets are carbon copies of each other - and that observation is not limited to just my area. I have visited Chinese buffets 150 miles away from home that are serving the exact same dishes as several of the restaurants at home - prepared in the same way, the exact same deserts, the same special dumplings, etc. It appears as if there is a pre-packaged Chinese buffet set-up or every owner attends a Chinese buffet convention and purchases the same packaged food. Sometimes the decor is exactly the same.

I believe that offering a Chinese buffet is more economical for a restaurant owner than a menu Chinese restaurant. The quantity prepared is less for the buffet, while the income is the same. When ordering from a menu in a Chinese restaurant, the entree is usually served as a pint to a quart of food. At the buffet the buffet tray usually holds perhaps three times that amount and feeds a number of diners. While diners are picking from a number of entrees on the buffet they are not taking as much as they would have been served if ordering from a menu.

There are many Chinese buffets that are offering a basic selection of appetizers, entrees, and small cake or cookie desserts. One of the big draws on Long Island at Chinese buffets is the addition of king crab legs. Usually put out in broken clusters, rather than the full clusters, many diners just come for the crab.

Beyond the basic Chinese buffet, you will also find Chinese buffets that call themselves, "International" buffets. These offer a variety of cuisines, but primarily they are Chinese. Often you will find a mix of Chinese, Japanese, American, and Italian. Some of these add lobster as a featured dish. Many of these restaurants are at the higher end of the price range.

As we go along, I will review the Chinese buffets that I have dined at. There is already one such review on this site - The Peking Buffet in Virginia. As was presented in that review, that restaurant is one of the more unique Chinese buffets.


Ashley said...

Gah, with the craving of the Chinese buffet. I know what's for dinner tomorrow.

David in Gary Indiana said...

I know this is an old blog, but want to comment on this. I've been to a number of chinese buffets over the last 3-4 years, and while the selection is primarily the same, the food is never made the same way.

I also notice that some have slight variations in their selections too. One buffet may have honey chicken. Another might have peanut butter chicken. Another has mongolian pork or beef. But many serve general tso's chicken, buttered potatoes, green beans (the crunchy ones, and not mushy like other restaurants), sweet & sour chicken, egg rolls, egg foo young, hot & sour and egg drop soups, fish, fried rice (typically vegetable fried rice), lo mein (typically vegetable) and other items that slip my mind. I usually find the exotic dishes at dinner time, while lunch has more american dishes, and that varies, such as: mac & cheese, pizza, onion rings, fried cheese sticks, and even chicken nuggets. I however have been disappointed with the salad bar at chinese restaurants. The salad selection isn't as large as other restaurants. So when I go to a chinese buffet, I avoid the salad bar completey. The rest of it, you cover well, as the rest of it mirrors that around my area.