Friday, June 29, 2007

Some Changes at the China Buffet - East Meadow, NY

In October 2006 I wrote about the China Buffet, located in the village of East Meadow in New York. This is a little neighborhood Chinese restaurant that turned into a buffet a long time back. I would love to love this buffet because it is so close to me.

On the evening that we went back to the China Buffet we had not been able to get into the local OCB as there was a line out the door. This was a Sunday night (Father's Day) and we decided to try the China Buffet once more.

When we arrived the dining room was near empty - does this say something? (OCB line out the door - China Buffet dining room empty) We were seated, ordered sodas (which we later learned are now extra according to a barely legible,handwritten sign, scotched taped to the door (not sure if this is a permanent change or just for "the holiday" - Father's Day)), and went up to the buffet server tables. We could see immediately that there had been some changes. One of the two serving tables was longer. Some items had been moved there and in their place on the other serving table were more dumplings than previously offered. Things looked a bit brighter and cleaner. As we went along there were several other new dishes added. There was a seafood mixture in butter sauce. There were stuffed crabs with "Krab" legs cut up with vegetables. There were whole fried fish. Instead of the usual buffet-style egg rolls there were large Spring rolls that were actually a cross between Spring rolls and egg rolls (tasty and crispy but dripping with oil). There now is also a fourth soup - a noodle soup. On the hot table was a hot apple strussel for dessert that is new.

The Mongolian grill remains in the back of the buffet area. This still makes up for the lack of main dishes - which despite the new additions is still a problem. The advantage of the Mongolian grill is that you can create just about any dish you would like using beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, noodles, and vegetables. When I am at a Mongolian grill I expect to find the meat frozen - a sign that it has not been sitting out long exposed to the air. All of the meat here on this night was not even close to frozen and because of that I did not take the chicken. There was also a lack of serving tongs to take the meat - one in the chicken and one in the beef. I took the beef and used those tongs for the shrimp. But I was not going to take a chance on the pork as surely the chicken tongs had been used to take it earlier by someone.

The added dumplings were nice. There were steamed shrimp dumplings that were actually rather good. There was dim sum. There were two steamed sweet dumplings - a bean paste dumpling that looked like a peach and a steamed cake. This is in addition to the fried meat dumplings that they have always offered. The dumplings were not bad. We tried the steamed cake for dessert and it was good.

One of my complaints in the past at this restaurant was that there were no knives. This night I decided to ask for one and see if they still said they had none. To my surprise - after a bit of translation two knives were brought to our table.

About three-quarters of the way through the meal I started to feel that lightheaded, MSG buzz. Something that I have not encountered in other Chinese buffets. MSG is a food additive that had been heavily used in Chinese cooking to make the meats and vegetables be more tender, be crisper and last longer in storage. I am sure that many Chinese restaurants still use it - menu restaurants always have an option for it to be left out - many do not use it at all any more because many people are sensitive to it and it can result in a headache. If other buffets that I have been to have used it I have not felt its effects. I know that if it is used heavily, I will feel it. I felt it here.

So, as I said at the beginning it would be great if this buffet were great - just minutes away! But sadly, no - not so great. In the front window there was a poster that said TOP in big letters with the name of this restaurant. There was a website listed and the sign told you to go and vote for this restaurant to be one of the "Top One Hundred Chinese Restaurants in the United States". Wishful, aren't they? This is not even close to the top one thousand. Ah, well.


JTan said...

I know how you feel about the over-MSG feeling. I, personally, am sensitive to even moderate amounts. However, I didn't know that MSG was used for the purpose of increasing shelf life of meats and vegetables and making them more crisp/tender. I always thought that it was an additive to make them more tasty because it sets off signals in the tastebuds. I guess I learn something new everyday. =P

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and as a Queens resident that goes out to Long Island frequently, I am excited to go try some of the buffets you recommend. In fact, we may go try the International Buffet in Westbury tomorrow! In any case, I just wanted to suggest that you visit Queens for the ULTIMATE meat-lover's buffet experience - Greenfield Churrascaria.

Be sure to let us know if you like it!

Robert A said...

I have written about the Greenfields that WAS open in Farmingdale, NY. Churrascaria is great! The Farmingdale Greenfields has mysteriously closed.

Anonymous said...

I checked Greenfields website site and it's updated with out the Farmingdale location. Must have not been making money.

Robert A said...

The Farmingdale, NY Greenfields closed suddenly and quietly. The building has gone untouched for about six months. There is suddenly work being done, but I doubt it will be Greenfields again - though the sign remains in front. There is a Greenfields somewhere in Queens, NY.

The closing was noted as a comment on my Greenfields article. The Farmingdale location was never included on the Greenfields website - had it not been for the shared logo I would have thought that the Farmingdale location had nothing to do with the chain.

Lisa said...

Greenfields location in Farmingdale is becoming a Melting Pot