Friday, November 25, 2005

International Buffet - Garden City, NY

The International Buffet has been open for a number of years in Garden City, New York. It is located just off the Stewart Avenue exit of the Meadowbrook Parkway. This is essentially a Chinese buffet with very extensive international offerings.

The buffet is not cheap. It is $15.99 per adult on the weekdays with unlimited soda extra. Fridays through Sunday are more at around $24.00. The reason for the price is the extent of the types of food offered on the buffet and until just recently was justified on the weekends by the main dish that they are known for on the buffet - unlimited, broiled lobster. Unfortunately, on my recent visit a few days ago, there were notices everywhere posted on the walls, the buffet tables, and the door that there would no longer be unlimited, stuffed, broiled lobster on the weekends. There will continue to be lobster in ginger sauce (as is found at many Chinese buffets on the weekends), but if you want broiled lobster there will be an extra charge for half a broiled lobster brought to your table. There is no reduction in the weekend price, just no more broiled lobster. There still is a large lobster tank in the lobby of the restaurant. It was filled to the brim, but these guys were going to be safe for a while. Big disappointment!

The restaurant is large with two dining rooms, a private room that contains a cocktail lounge, and a large buffet area that includes a charcoal grill. Your table is set with place settings and soda , if ordered, is brought to you by your server. You take your own plates. If you are paranoid that someone is watching you, skip this restaurant, because the whole place is full of surveillance cameras that are pointed everywhere and monitored at the cashier desk in the lobby. There is also a time limit posted at each table. It is over two hours and has never been an issue, for me anyway. There is a napkin dispenser on each table, which is nice for this type of restaurant. On Saturday nights you will usually find a wait to get in. This is a very popular restaurant. Many people know it and go on "special occasions".

There is a soup bar with your choice of eight soups from the usual Chinese soups to Miso soup to New England Clam Chowder to a very good Lobster Bisque. There are two salad bars - one with greens and salad fixings and another large, two-sided bar with prepared salads. In the many times that I have been to this restaurant I have never taken anything from the salad bar - there is just too much else to eat than salad.

The grill is flanked by two seafood areas - at one end is a full sushi bar with a sushi chef continually cutting and refilling the variety of salmon, tuna, and other fish rolls and sashimi. At the other end is a raw bar with clams on the half shell and oysters and cocktail shrimp that have been peeled and deveined. There is cocktail sauce and lemon. The cocktail sauce tends to be on the sweet-side.

The grill serves spare ribs, beef ribs, skewered beef, grilled vegetables, mushrooms, fried dumplings, and salmon. At one time - not so long ago, this was where you would find the broiled lobster - served from the broiler to your plate. At the side of the grill is carved prime rib of beef (not roast beef but real prime rib) and Peking duck. A hot pizza server has recently made an appearance here as well.

There are three and one half double sided buffet bars serving Chinese entrees. Some are exotic - there were fish heads the other night. You will find steamed crab legs - large clusters that are full (not the broken pieces found at other Chinese buffets). There used to be steamed lobster claws mixed in here - not anymore. There are many dishes to choose from and they are well prepared. There are several shrimp dishes, crab in ginger sauce, chicken dishes, beef dishes, hot,spicy and mild dishes, and almost anything that you might expect to find.

If Chinese is not your thing there are one and one half double sided buffet bars that are serving continental cuisine - Italian, French, and American. There is eggplant Parmesan, chicken Parmesan, baked ziti, sausage and peppers, shrimp scampi, baked clams, scallops, sliced ham, a variety of fish, mashed sweet potatoes, and much more. Everyone should have no problem finding things that they like to eat and plenty of them. The other night there was a very good scallop dish with a scallop an cheese mixture baked on a shell. There is no reason for anyone to leave here hungry. The International and American dishes are prepared well. For the adventuresome there have been frogs legs. (Sorry, Kermit!) The buffet offerings on just these bars represent a complete menu in a menu only restaurant.

There is a double-sided chilled dessert table and a long cake buffet bar. The chilled bar offers fresh fruit, puddings, tapioca, flan, etc. The cake bar has a variety of regular layer cakes - not the little squares found in most Chinese buffets, and also pastries. There is ice cream from a machine that a server must server to you at the dessert bar. There is also a sugar-free ice cream machine with a sign on it that says "For Diabetics Only - too expensive". The sign goes along with the cameras, etc.

Service here can vary. This is a problem as the drinks need to keep flowing and sometimes they do not. Now I have been here many times when a pitcher of soda is brought to the table and that is great. Other times I have been at the mercy of attentive and non-attentive servers. The other night the restaurant was near empty - just six or so tables filled and the service was not good. There were plenty of servers but they were busy cleaning tables and the room - not clearing my dishes or keeping my soda glass full. It was late but they were still seating guests. The buffet bar was kept full, but the servers were otherwise occupied!

I would recommend this restaurant to anyone to try at least once - just for the experience. It is easy to overeat here - there is just so much to try. Even without the lobster, you will not find anything lacking. If you never knew there was once lobster here you would never know that it is missing or that you were not getting value for your money. The food is good. The price, of course, is a big factor here for many - but the place is full on the weekends and as I said, many come here for a special occasion. The restaurant is open most holidays and the price on holidays is usually the weekend price. There is a New Years Eve party here. Some singles groups meet here at night and have dances in the lounge during the week. The restaurant is open late almost every night - until 11 pm. If you are looking for something different, try it!


Robert A said...

I set off for a dinner at International Buffet last night only to discover that this restaurant is CLOSED. It may only be temporary - there was a banner sign over the entrance that was too folded to read that may have said "coming back again" but I am not certain. I will keep you updated!

Tee said...

I am from VA. My friend took me to International Buffet last year. We felt in love with this place. The lobster and the crab legs are great. I was gonna come back last month too. My friend told me that they closed for renovation. I hope they will make the place nicer. I think they will be re-open some time in Oct. Their website doesn't post any news at all. I called and nobody answer.

Please let us know when this restaurant open again. I will make a trip to NY to have some great seafood buffet.

Robert A said...

As soon as it reopens I will not only post that it is open but also write a new review for the "new" restaurant.

In the mean time one of the best seafood buffets is in your own backyard - go check out my article on Captain George's - several locations in VA!

Tuan said...

Beside this Chinese Seafood Buffet in NY area. Do you know any other Chinese buffet that serve Lobster and crab leg like this one in NY area? My friend told me that there is another one in the area that serve lobster too, he just don't remember the name of the restaurant.
Down here in Norther VA, Dragon Sea Buffet used to serve lobster for 18 dollar about four years ago. Now they drop down the price 14 dollar, but no lobster, and the food is suck now.
Thanks for the info.

Robert A said...

Lobster is no longer included on most buffet menus - at this price range. Crab legs are commonly found at many Chinese and seafood buffets. Crab legs in the Chinese buffets in VA that I have been to seem to always be an extra charge. In the Chinese buffets in NY they are included on the weekend buffet - and the weekend buffet is always a higher price.

Even at International Buffet - the half lobsters included on the weekend buffet were stopped a few years ago. They did continue to serve cut up lobster pieces in sauce until they closed for renovation but only on the weekend.

Robert A said...

The restaurant has reopened and is NOT the same any longer. See the review that will appear in January 2008.

Tee said...

Yeah, I called and they said the GInger Lobster only available on Friday, Sat, and Sun. I am not sure what do you mean by not the same. I can't wait to drive up there soon. Thanks a lot for the info Rob.

Robert A said...

Read the new review that will appear the first Friday in January.

Anonymous said...

I am going to NY this Jan 29, and try this restaurant again. Hopefully, it'll be better. Robert, you have a chance to eat there during new year?

Robert A said...

Read this week's review. This is NOT the same restaurant as it once was.