Friday, March 09, 2007

Grand Buffet - South Plainfield, New Jersey

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had tried to find this restaurant that evening on a trip to New Jersey. I have known about this restaurant for a few years, passing it on the road while driving through. Tonight, I was back in the area and I finally got to dine at the Grand Buffet in South Plainfield, New Jersey. Was it worth the long wait? Sadly, no.

Let me start off by saying that the restaurant and the food was not bad - it was just fair to OK. I would like to say good, but not spectacular, but I honestly can't.

This Chinese buffet is located at 101 New World Way in South Plainfield, NJ. The restaurant is connected to, but not part of a Best Western hotel and they share a parking lot. You enter the lot by way of the hotel driveway. The restaurant is in a large building. In the interior is a room for the buffet serving tables, two dining rooms, and a large ballroom (maybe once part of the hotel). The sign outside says Since 1995 and it bills itself as Chinese, Italian, and Japanese - in that order.

You pay for all meals as you enter - much like the chain buffets. The prices are both reasonable and not. You decide - dinner from Monday to Thursday nights is $11.99 per person. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday dinner is $13.75. Lunch Monday to Thursday is $8.99. From Friday to Saturday (Sunday was unclear as to a lunch price or dinner price all day) the lunch is $10.99. Now, children's prices are high - under 2 1/2 is free (ok), from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 is half price, over 4 1/2 is full price. I guess that some five year olds can eat a lot, but charging full price is a bit much. All prices include refillable soft drinks - not bad! They automatically add a tip to your bill when you pay (as you enter) of 9.5% which is fair and probably less than one might leave on their own.

As to hours - the restaurant is open from 11:30 every day and closes at 9:30 pm Sunday to Thursday, and 10:30 pm on Friday and Saturday. We were there on a Saturday night and at 9:00 the restaurant was emptying out. It had been crowded earlier when we entered. You should be aware that the "Ballroom" adjacent to the dining room is used as a night club on Friday nights - and happened also to be on this particular Saturday night (though it might have been a large, private party- but I do not think so. They call it a "Ballroom Dancing Social" at $20. per person which includes dinner. Nice, but the music was very loud and very evident in the dining room. It was nothing unpleasant so it was ok, but at times the music was intrusive.

A good sign in a Chinese restaurant is when many of the guests are Oriental - and that was the case here. Perhaps things were more to their tastes than mine, but I had higher hopes when I walked in.

So to the buffet... There are five double sided buffet tables in a separate room. Along half a wall is a sushi serving area and along a full wall are two buffet serving counters. There is no particular logic to the order that the serving stations are laid out. Soup is along the full wall and also mixed into two other buffet servers. There were six soups, but without looking around the whole room first you see only four soups together. There was a variety in the soups - hot and sour, egg drop, clam chowder, a sweet Chinese soup, wonton soup on another server, and a chicken and pork special soup that was meat with large pieces of vegetables. Real Chinese dinners include sweet soups for dessert and that is why the sweet bean curd soup. The hot and sour soup was on the oily side and I was a little concerned as I was eating it as to how it was going to sit.

There was a cold buffet server with some of the most unusual things that I have ever seen in a buffet. There was cold pork tripe and cold beef tripe. For those who do not know - tripe is stomach. Not to my taste. There was also cuttle fish on the cold buffet along with two cold chicken dishes. The more standard peel and eat shrimp, COLD (on ice) crab legs, and raw shell fish of clams and oysters on the half shell. At one end was lettuce with several dressings. There were tomato salads, and other prepared salads, as well.

Appetizers were scattered all over. There were some unusual and promising appetizers. There were bean curd rolls - thin bean curd rolled around vegetables, a chicken roll - a spring roll with chicken, and fried squares of bean curd among other dishes. There were no traditional egg rolls and no spare ribs (but there were boneless spareribs in a thick, red, sweet sauce). The chicken roll was ok. The fried bean curd was good. The bean curd rolls were fair. Many things that I tried including the bean curd roll were dry when they should have been moist. Fried dumplings were dry, tough, and chewy. Steamed shrimp dumplings had little flavor. When I went up for Sushi there was little out - and all of it were vegetable rolls and California rolls. A while later the whole bar was refilled and raw salmon on rice was added.The salmon was good, but the pieces were sliced much too thick for Sushi.

There were some unusual entrees as well including cooked pigs feet. There was a dish that looked like chicken with a thick GREEN sauce over it - and no sign as to what it was. I have no idea what that might have been and have not seen any food like it before in that shade of green. There were broiled short ribs that were thinly sliced and not bad. There was a steak in a brown sauce that looked too dry and over done (skipped on that). There was Beef in Oyster Sauce that was ok. Stuffed egg plant was good (small slices of small egg plant with a breading stuffed on top and broiled. Some of the usuals like chicken and broccoli were there as well. Pieces of broiled duck looked good but there was little to no meat on the pieces served. Bourbon Chicken was ok but tasted just like terriaki chicken. There were cooked muscles and there was broiled salmon.

There were several non-Oriental dishes that were not bad - actually they were good. My wife tried the Chicken Marsalla and said it was good. I tried the Veal Cacciatore and it was good. It was small tender chunks of veal in a light tomato sauce with peppers and mushrooms. There were stuffed portobello mushrooms that were good - small portobello caps filled with a slice of roasted red pepper and covered with mozzarella cheese all backed together. There was a dish labeled Eggplant Parmesan. I love Eggplant Parmesan. I was disappointed in this one because what it was when I tried it was eggplant rolled around ricotta cheese - which is not Eggplant Parmesan. A ziti with a tomato cheese sauce looked good, but I did not try it. There also was spaghetti with tomato sauce served separately for you to take. The Italian part of this buffet was better than the rest except for the pizza that looked too dried out.

There were several American side dishes including mashed potatoes with brown gravy, corn on the cob, broiled asparagus, and french fries. On the side of the room, next to the soups was a carving station - with no one there. On it was a whole roast turkey. Part of the turkey had been carved into earlier but there were no slices to take. There was no heat lamp over it and it sat that way all night with no one ever being served any. I am sure one could ask - but I am not sure how good it would have been under those conditions. It did look good - BUT...

Overall food could have been hotter. The buffet was "well tended", meaning that dishes were stirred and replaced,but many of the dishes were just warm and not hot. Even items in steamers were not hot, as they should have been.

Desserts - believe it or not, they did not have the usual assortment of Chinese buffet "Little Debbie" cakes. They did have tiny squares of cakes very similar but they were cut into smaller pieces than the usual "Little Debbie's", as if you can get much smaller than that. There was soft serve ice cream but it was in a serving hallway that the dining room accessed, but if you did not notice it - which we didn't until it was too late - you would leave with no ice cream (as we did).

Now, all of that said - the restaurant was clean. The service was good. The staff was friendly. Dishes were removed regularly. Soft drinks were refilled.

I really wanted this one to be good. There is a convention center that hosts trade and retail shows in the area that we have been getting to more often and this would have been a great place to dine afterward. Ah well - not so. It is four hours since dinner and the meal is still repeating on me. (Burp... Arrrp...) There is a diner down the road that was much better and if I pick a diner over a buffet... well, that says something about the buffet. We will have to do some searching. There must be other buffets in this part of New Jersey.

After several hours, I was still reacting to dinner - I must say that this has never happened to me from a buffet before- and I have been to a lot of buffets - Chinese and otherwise.


MLmayko said...

Buffets can be a dread, your experences are some thing that everyone should learn from. Happy reading and much success to you :)

Anonymous said...

I think the Old Country Buffet in Watchung or Hometown Buffet in Edison is better than this Grand Buffet which we've passed visiting friends in the area.

We live in Bergen County NJ - there are lots of buffets up here which are good and bad.

Lodi Buffet in Lodi
the buffet on market street in Saddle Brook (forget the name, owned by the people who own Lodi)

Bad/So So:
City Grill in Lodi by Walmart
Bon Buffet in Lodi
the Chinese buffet in bergnefield (forget the name)

Grand(?) Buffet in Ramsey
Minado in Little Ferry

Lou said...

City Grill Review: I am a teacher in Lodi. I went with a friend for lunch at the City Buffet & Grill. We came into the restaurant and had a seat. The waitress brought us glasses of water. In one of my ice cubes, there was a dead baby bee in the center. I called the waitress over & told her of what I found. She offered me a new glass. We continued with our dinner with no other mishap, but when we went to pay I was sure to make mention of the dead bee in the ice cube. The woman proceeded to charge my card & ignore me. I asked her if they had any intention of compensating me with an apology or SOMETHING... 10% off... but nothing. She looked at me and just said, "No".

This place is pretty nasty to not notice their ice has suspended insects within their icey chambers. And the lack of remorse was incredible. I could not believe they saw nothing wrong with it. I informed her I would not be returning to that establishment. Don't need to find a roach cadaver in my sushimi...

Robert A said...


Anonymous said...

Has anyone tried the Palisadium buffet in Cliffside Park, NJ?

website is

Would like feedback!

Robert A said...

Thanks for the suggestion of the Palisadium buffet. It looks from the website to have an emphasis on Asian, but mentions "international" dishes too. If we are in that area - and the price is reasonable we will give it a try.