Friday, September 22, 2006

Grand Shanghai Restaurant – Williamsburg, Virginia

The Grand Shanghai Restaurant is a new Chinese buffet in Williamsburg, Virginia. The restaurant is in the location of the former Peking II buffet. That restaurant closed to become the larger Peking Buffet that I reviewed one year ago. The site remained vacant for a while and now the Grand Shanghai has opened. Many of the dishes used here still say Peking on them as used at the other restaurant.

This restaurant has a lot of competition in the Peking Restaurant that is just down the road. Reading my review of the Peking you will know that I consider that restaurant the best Chinese buffet that I have been to. We went into this new restaurant with a comparison in the back of our minds which is really not fair to the Grand Shanghai – yet, with the proximity of this competition comparisons cannot be overlooked. If you have a choice of the two, you need to know which one to choose.

The price of this restaurant is excellent at $8.99 per adult dinner. Soft drinks were $1.20 and there are free refills. There were no prices posted or in any literature so I cannot tell you what the children’s price is or what the lunch buffet costs. This restaurant is smaller than Peking. It has two dining areas - one with all booths at the side of the restaurant and one with a mix of both tables and booths. The décor is expectedly oriental and very nice. It is evident right at the door that this is a family run restaurant as even a young child was working seating guests and also working at the cash register – for an elementary age young lady she did an excellent job. Father and mother were working as was older sister (it seemed).

There are three short double-sided buffet servers at the side of a Mongolian grill (which is actually a small fry grill and not the large round griddle that is usually found). At each side of this grill was a mix of salad and toppings and Mongolian BBQ items on one side and grill items on the other side along with pan fried dumplings and dim sum. There was also a tray of “sushi” which is featured in the advertising but was nothing more than avocado rolls and cold shrimp on top of rice. This is really not sushi = there was no raw fish and no variety.

There were the three usual soups – wonton, egg drop, and hot and sour. The wonton soup had a light, good broth and the wontons were full, well cooked and had a light, but solidly good skin. There were two types of dumplings offered- pan fried and steamed. Both were good and full. There also was dim sum with a nice flavor.

We went into this restaurant on a Tuesday night at about 6:30 pm which is definitely dinner time. The restaurant was not crowded, but filled more as we sat there dining. When we went up to the servers there were several trays that were empty. No one seemed to be paying attention and they remained empty for a while. A short time later the owners and the little girl went around and took note of what was empty. Things started to be refilled in a short time after that. So my first impression of “hmm, who is watching these tables?” was proved wrong by mid-meal.

The food was all good. There were a number of entrees and vegetable dishes. Some of the offerings were Beef and Zucchini, grilled shrimp on a skewer, fried spicy shrimp, popcorn shrimp, General Tso’s chicken, Chicken and Broccoli, Hong Kong Beef, mussels, a wide variety of chicken dishes,and duck. All of the usual were there including peel and eat shrimp, fried wontons, egg rolls, fried rice (with both shrimp and pork), lo mein, spare ribs (with overly sweet sauce cooked on), chicken on a stick (though this was much lighter than the usual),etc.

To all of this there was also the Mongolian barbecue. The offerings for this are limited. There are three meats – chicken, pork, and slices of beef ribs. The vegetables were next to and mixed into the salad bar. There was some confusion here as to what went with what – and for the most part did not matter. My wife and I both took what we saw as zucchini and it turned out to be cucumbers. It did not go well on the grill – well, it was ok, but it was not zucchini. All of the hot entrees were well labeled. The Mongolian BBQ items were not labeled except for the several sauce choices. These sauces were a bit unusal with red wine, a lo mein sauce, and then the usual hot sauce, Mongolian sauce, and garlic. I tried a mix of the wine and the lo mein sauce and it was good. There is a bell to ring to get the cook to come out and put your choices on the grill. He was there when we went up and did a good job including cleaning the grill (scraping it down) between each dish that he cooked.

There is a limited selection of desserts. There were fried dough balls, little éclairs, and sugar flaky dough pretzel shaped cookies. There was also fresh and canned fruit, pudding, and jello. At the side of the grill area there was a freezer case with scoop yourself hard ice cream.

By now you have heard me refer to “cookie cutter” Chinese buffets where one is almost a total duplicate of another. This was only a partial cookie cutter restaurant. Some dishes were the same as at other buffets, but many were different and had a distinct flavor at this restaurant.

The service was excellent. Dishes were removed promptly by one of two young ladies working the dining room. Soda was refilled promptly – once while we were up at the buffet table. We were continually asked if we would like more. The check was put on the table mid-meal but I do not think thatthere was anything intended by it and the young lady kept coming back and asking if we wanted more soda as we continued to go to the servers and return to the table to eat.

There is great value here. If we must go back to the comparison, then I must say that the choices here are much more limited than at the Peking Restaurant. Then again, the price here is a about two dollars less per adult and for what you are paying you are not going to leave hungry or unhappy. If I could only go to one, I would still pick Peking first, but this is a nice alternative. I recommend it.

The restaurant is located at 5601-12 Richmond Road in the Ewell Station Shopping Center (strip mall) in Williamsburg, Virginia. The shopping center is adjacent to the Prime Outlets. There is no website. The phone number is (757) 565-1212. There are ads in the local tourist magazines but no discount coupons.

Try it!


Anonymous said...

This was absolutely the most disgusting Chinese food I have ever eaten!
I took a chance on it and brought my visiting family there thinking it might be okay.
The meal was a disaster. The buffet looked so terrible and greasy that we decided to order from the menu. Everything was either greasy, tasteless or both.
The service was pitiful and we were served our uncooked wonton soup in a child's plastic Peter Rabbit bowl!!!
We should have walked out after that but didn't and the remainder of the meal went downhill.
How anyone can patronize this restaurant is incomprehensible. But then again, judging by the girth of its clientele, it's all about the quantity, not quality.
Really gross...DO NOT EAT HERE!

Robert A said...

When I was there about a year ago, they had recently opened.Things in a restaurant can change dramatically - and evidently, from the last comment they may have.

My recommendation in this area for Chinese buffet remains the Peking Restaurant which is just down the road a few miles.