Friday, December 22, 2006

Golden Buffet, Centereach, New York

Sometimes the story of how we found a buffet is better than the restaurant itself, but in this case both are good. So here is what happened. We wanted to see a certain movie that has been playing around for a few weeks but has now left the local theaters. A search through the newspaper found the movie playing at a multiplex half way through Suffolk County toward the east end of Long Island (you know, the Hamptons, where the actors go to hide - not quite that far, though). It was a trip, but not so far from there is a shopping center and since we have not purchased one Christmas present yet, we decided to head out east. As we were finding the movie theater with the map software, I did a search for restaurants in the area. There were a few diners so we figured we had dinner covered. After leaving the mall and trying a nearby Wal-Mart to find nothing worth buying (not because it was Wal-mart as we got nothing at the mall either), we saw in the shopping center that the Wal-mart is in a Chinese buffet restaurant called Golden Buffet. It was about two and a half hours before the movie and we were still not sure where we were going to eat. We also were not exactly sure where the movie theater was, so we figured we better eat there and then and not have to go searching for both a restaurant and a movie theater. It was Saturday night, so I was not certain just how expensive this buffet could be. Sometimes weekend prices at Chinese buffets get a little out of reason. No matter, we went in.

The restaurant, as stated, is called Golden Buffet and it is located at 1973 Middle Country Road (which happens to be Route 25). It is located in a strip shopping center that has a section that is a small inside mall. Most of the stores inside have been closed, but despite the large window, (locked0 door, and sign for this restaurant facing the parking lot, the entrance is inside the mall. You enter by the mall door to the right of the restaurant's window and the door to the restaurant is just inside to the left, as you follow the restaurants window from outside and around to inside the mall. The restaurant is large with a big dining area with both tables and booths and a large buffet serving area in the rear. There also seemed to be a private party room in the back. There are six large, double-sided buffet tables and one buffet counter along a wall. The decor is modern Oriental and very nice. The tables have the name of the restaurant embedded into them.

The prices are about the going rate - weekdays dinner is $12.95 per adult with children under five feet (an interesting way of deciding - unless a very short adult shows up) are $7.99. Weekend dinner is $13.95 and the same $7.99 for children. There are lunch prices of $6.95 during the week and $7.95 on weekends. The kids lunch price is always $4.99. Unlimited soda is $1.00 per person. The restaurant always opens at 11 am and closes at 10 pm on weekdays and Sunday. It stays open until 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Seating is up to an hour before closing times. There is also take-out buffet by the pound and a regular take-out menu.

They claim that there are over 180 items on the buffet. They also claim that the food is American, Chinese, Italian, and Japanese. With no detraction from the claim, I guess so. Italian was a stretch, but if you consider pizza and grilled sausage to be Italian - then it had Italian. It has so much of a variety that anyone should be happy - even someone who does not like Chinese food.

Let's start with the appetizers, salads, and soup. There were four soups including a special beef soup. The salad buffet server had a variety of Oriental and American prepared salads - some with fish and crab. There were mixed greens and a large variety of vegetable toppings and dressings. On this server there were also large, cold peel and eat cocktail shrimp, raw clams, and raw oysters - oysters are s0mething you do not usually see from a restaurant in this price range. There was also cold rock crab - half large crabs. This all filled one double-sided buffet table. On the side of the room was a serving counter table that included a sushi bar and a large variety of sushi and rolls. The sushi was very good. There was both salmon and tuna on beds of rice, California Rolls, Spicy Salmon Rolls, and vegetable rolls. Sushi was not refilled as often as it should have been - but it was refilled while we were there. (No, I did not become a Sushi Grabber - I made sure NOT to take it all. ) On this counter there were other considerable items that we will come back to later. On a mix of other servers there were a variety of other appetizer type dishes. There were all the usual Chinese appetizers, such as egg rolls, spare ribs, etc. There were baked clams. There were three types of dumplings. And yes, there were crab legs. They were good sized clusters.

The entrees were many and varied. Back on the counter server were two hot carvings. There was a large prime rib and there was a leg of lamb. Both hot and moist under heat lamps with the carving knives and forks out for you to slice your own. Along the buffet tables were a pork roast to be sliced and long rolls of grilled Italian sausage. The pork roast was moist and nicely seasoned. There was salmon and there was an Asian steamed fish. There were many Chinese dishes including chicken with mushrooms. a special steak, Hong Kong Beef (beef chunks in a brown sauce), the usual chicken and broccoli, pepper steak, General Tso's Chicken, roast duck (labeled roast chicken, but it was definately duck, mixed seafood (labeled Shrimp with Lobster Sauce- but it wasn't, however, the shrimp were large and good flavored. They were mixed in with mock crab and squid.), crab meat in cheese, and many other dishes.

Side dishes were as many and as varied as the entrees. There was fried rice and lo mein. There were also several types of potatoes including french fries, chunked potatoes, and a potato stuffed with cheese. There were Chinese stir fry string beans, corn on the cob, and many others.

There was a large double-sided dessert table with the usual "Little Debbie" type cakes. There were a number of canned fruits. There were two jellos and two puddings. There was a variety of fresh fruit and melons. We heard a mother telling her children that they were going to have ice cream, but I looked around and saw no soft serve machine. So if it was there, it was not obvious.

So how was the food? - very, very good. There were many things that struck me as better than the usual buffet. One of them was the egg rolls. I like a good egg roll. Usually egg rolls at Chinese buffets are more wrapper than filling. The ones here were a decent size and full of vegetables and pork. They were very good. Everything that I tried was good. Nothing was such that I would say skip it (well... OK, the spare ribs looked dry and were covered in that sweet red sauce that only seems to show up on spare ribs in Chinese buffet restaurants).

Service was equally good. There were several young Chinese women who traveled around the tables making sure that dishes were picked up promptly and soda was refilled. There are knives at the buffet server. A stack of extra napkins were put down on the table. There were little dishes for sauces on the salad buffet table. Everything was well tended. Food was kept moist and refilled. There is a minor problem with labeling on the buffet, but the majority was correct. The check was brought before we were finished, but that does not really mean anything. (Some might take it as a hint - if it is, too bad.) My wife likes to add some fruit to her last plate, before dessert - and often after that at many Chinese buffets, the check is brought to the table. I think that for some reason that fruit is a signal that we are having dessert - even when we are not and I still have a plate full of entrees. No one says anything, and we go right on eating.

My only regret is that Golden Buffet is over 45 minutes away from me, and with the price of gas it cannot be a regular choice. It is far better than where I usally go. So if you are ever in mid-Suffolk County on Long Island, go over to Golden Buffet in Centereach. It is worth the stop. There is no web site, but the phone number is 631-588-5188. (The movie was good as well.)

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to ALL!

1 comment:

D said...

Great review, I've always wondered how this place was but your opinion actually made me try it and i wasn't disappointed.