Friday, August 18, 2006

China Buffet City - North Babylon, New York

I past this restaurant on the road several months ago and since it is a distance from my home I did not try it. Tonight I wanted to go somewhere different so we headed to North Babylon and visited the China Buffet City.

From the name you expect something big - after all it is a "City" - and not to be disappointed, big it was. This is a very large restaurant with one of the biggest buffet areas of many restaurants - Chinese or otherwise, that I have been to. The buffet area was almost as big as the seating area and that was big. In addition to the dining room there is a private dining room for parties.

We went on a weeknight. As we entered we were encountered with a board with the prices - $12.99 per adult. For a week night that is expensive for a Chinese buffet, but we were there and we were going to see if it was worth the price. Friday to Sunday the price is $13.99 for dinner. Children's prices are from 2 to ten and under five feet tall and they are $7.99 and $8.99 for dinner respectively. There is a lunch buffet for $7.99 with children $5.29. Sunday is dinner price all day. The sign said nothing about beverages and we ordered two sodas. At that point my wife asked me if they were included. I did not know. She felt that if they were, the dinner price was comparable to other restaurants. They were not. Sodas were $1.25 each and there are free refills. So with a beverage this restaurant gets even more expensive. For a Tuesday night the restaurant was not full but there were a good number of tables filled. They are open to 10 pm on weeknights and 11 on weekends. We got in around 7:30 pm.

The restaurant bills itself as Chinese, Japanese, American, Italian, Mexican International cuisine. I say no Mexican on the buffet - unless fried bananas are Mexican. They claim they have over 300 items daily - and that is possible. There are 8 - yes, that is right EIGHT double sided buffet tables and there is a grill and sushi bar in the rear. The advertising flyer handed out in the front of the restaurant has a photo and speaks of a Mongolian Bar but there was nothing like that to be found - I wonder where the picture came from, because there was nothing that looked like that here. But there were 8 buffet tables so who is to complain.

There were five soups to start with - wonton, egg drop, hot and sour, miso soup, and seafood soup. The grill has meats including skewered beef, skewered pork, Chinese pork chops, grill chicken and peppers, and other meats. The sushi bar had a very large assortment of raw fish and vegetable sashimi, sushi, and rolls. Unfortunately, at 7:30 pm when we were there the sushi chef stopped working and once something was gone on the sushi bar it was not replaced. This was one of several MINOR problems at this restaurant.

There was a salad bar with lettuce, toppings, and dressings. There were prepared salads. All on ice. There was raw clams, muscles, and oysters - not on ice, but in a cold tray in the server. I have a problem trusting raw shell fish that is not opened on the spot and put directly on ice, so I passed on these. Had they been on ice, I might have tried them. There were hot crab leg clusters, hot muscles, and many seafood dishes, mostly shrimp and "crab" (It is not really crab but is an incredible simulation.) There was salmon and some type of white fish. This brings me to the second minor problem - signage. Some items had identifying signs over them but many of these signs were in front of the wrong thing - it said chicken, it was beef. One sign went with an item that was across on the other server. Then many items had NO signs and it was anyone's guess what they were. Some looked good, but was it pork, beef, or chicken- couldn't tell. Does it matter? It might to some! I tried what the sign said was Japanese Chicken - it was not chicken, but (I hope) beef.

There was a large selection of fried appetizers such as egg rolls, spring rolls, cheese wontons, etc. There were only two dumpling choices - pan fried dumplings and dim sum. The dim sum was one of the better that I have had. Most of the entree dishes were meat or seafood - and primarily meat or seafood alone prepared in different ways - not meat or seafood in vegetables, which to me is traditional Chinese restaurant food - and lately hard to find a Chinese buffets. This may be why the price is high - you are getting high priced items in meat and seafood. The ad flyer says no MSG is used - and it seems so. There were some pasta dishes and also Lo Mein and Mei Fun noodles. As I walked around the many buffet tables I actually had a little bit of a hard time picking out entrees to eat. I did not want to eat an entire meal of meats and seafood without mixing in something lighter. I did not go home hungry as I gave in to the meats and seafood.

There was a dish that they called "smoke pork ribs". These were little rib ends that were served in a dark brown sauce that tasted like American barbecue sauce. They were very tasty but there was very little meat on each one. At the grill the grilled chicken and peppers was good. Like the sushi bar, there was no chef at the grill - everything was cooked and out on trays with the grill in the back, but no one cooking. Once it was gone it was gone. (This may be different on the weekends, but hey, the price was no discount for a weeknight, regardless of the time!) My last complaint was that there were no knives anywhere to be found. I did not ask for one, and perhaps one would have been brought but many of the meat dishes had pieces too big not to cut with a knife to eat easily.

There was a large dessert assortment including hot apple pie that looked like turnovers. There was an ice cream machine. There was fresh and canned fruit. There were four colors of jello. There were puddings, fruits in syrup, hot cherries, hot apples, cookies, and the typical little Debbie-like cakes that are the mainstay of Chinese buffets across the country. (I would love to go to the Chinese Buffet Trade Show- there must be one - that presents all these same items that are found from Chinese buffet to Chinese buffet.)

Now, the restaurant was clean and the food was good. The service was good. Dishes were taken away and drinks were refilled.

Was the restaurant worth the price? Well... Let's say that if you like a lot of meat and seafood, as well as Chinese appetizers, you will be happy. For a few dollars more on mid-Long Island on a weeknight there is better value - see my review of International Buffet. On a weekend, this may be the better choice, as the price rises more at International from Friday to Sunday. Actually the weekend price here is just fifty cents above some of the others and below others too. Weeknights at other Chinese Buffets come in around $11.99 with the drink. Here with the drink on a Tuesday night we paid $14.24 plus sales tax.

There is no website for this restaurant. The address is 1114-1116 Deer Park Avenue in North Babylon (just north of the Southern Parkway) The restaurant shares a building with a Bennigans and the buffet is toward the back. The telephone number is 631-274-0888. They also do buffet and menu takeout.


Anonymous said...

When Chinese immigrants land at Ellis Island they are given a choice of labor unions - dry cleaning or buffet. If they choose buffet, they have to sign a notarized promise to never make knives readily available. It's Chino-American tradition. The knives are kept next to the desert bar, along with the normal sized spoons. If they don't adhere to this tradition, they will not be able to procure fortune cookies - unknown in China, but as expected in the U.S. at Chinese buffets as soy sauce.

Anonymous said...

Simply ask the wait staff for a knife and one will be provided.

The food here is much better than many other Chinese Buffets...

Do not go here for other dishes.. Stick with the Chinese prepared dishes, and seafood.

Of course if you want truly good chinese food stick to your favorite local chinese establishment.

The desserts are simply average.. But, I really don't care for the desserts anyway. Perhaps the best dessert choice is the ice cream .

Overall I give this place two thumbs up..

Robert A said...

True - ask for a knife here and they will bring it to you right away. I do disagree with the last comment that the non-Chinese dishes are not as good as Chinese food and seafood. Try the turkey - real roasted whole turkey carved from the bone - excellent! (So good it started a fight one night - look through the articles to find out how!)

Robert A said...

This restaurant has increased the time that the Sushi chef is working and now the Sushi does not run out early any longer. If you do not see something that you would like on the sushi bar and the chef is there, just ask. If he can make it, he will.