Friday, September 14, 2007

Hong Kong King Buffet, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The last time that I was in Winston-Salem, North Carolina was about five years ago. At that time I found one of the very few western-themed buffet restaurants that was part of the Old Country Buffet family at that time (it no longer exists.) I knew that this buffet had gone out of business but was curious as to what may have taken its place. On this trip "South" I went back to the location and found the Hong Kong King Buffet. So what am doing eating in a Chinese buffet in North Carolina when I should be eating the local version of barbecue (shredded, slow cooked pork in a vinegar sauce)? Well, I could not resist seeing how an Old Country Buffet (even under another name) converted over to a Chinese buffet.

I must say it was interesting to see the entire OCB layout inside the restaurant. The usual OCB curtain-topped walls along the booths are now topped with glass partitions with Oriental designs etched into them. The pictures on the wall that were once western themed are now pictures of Hong Kong.

So how was the Hong Kong King Buffet? It was good and for the price of $8.99 per adult was exceptional in what is offered. Let me begin as I usually do in telling you about this buffet.

As I said this space once was an OCB and all of the booths, all of the tables, and some of the serving areas are the same. This is a really big restaurant. We went on a Wednesday evening at 7:00 pm and there were diners spread through all of the dining areas. Had this been a more conventionally sized restaurant for a Chinese buffet it would have appeared very busy, but because of the size and layout, it looked sparse (but wasn't). Now this is North Carolina - the home of most of the tobacco and cigarette companies and smoking is not so frowned upon in these here parts. So this restaurant has a smoking section - which for a buffet is very unusual. We asked for a non-smoking table only to find later on that we were sitting on the edge of the smoking section - and the smoking section is right at the edge of the buffet serving area - well, this is North Carolina.

This restaurant had six double sided buffet servers plus a Mongolian grill. There was also a server along one wall. Prices at this buffet are very reasonable - Dinner is $8.99 per adult and $6.99 for children ages 6 to 10. There is also a younger child price from age 3 to 5 at $4.99. Now, there are king crab legs on the buffet, BUT if you want these there is an additional $5.00 charge for all you care to eat. On their website there is a current weekend offer that adds unlimited lobster to that same $5.00 additional charge- which is not bad (I am not sure how they serve the lobster (whole or pieces).) There is a lunch menu for $6.99, $4.99, NS $2.99 , respectively. Now all of these prices are from Monday to Thursday for dinner and to Friday for lunch. Saturday AND Sunday lunch is $7.99, $4.99, and $3.99. Lunch ends at 3:45. Dinner prices on Friday to Sunday are adults $9.99, children 5 to 10 $6.99 and children 3 to 5 $4.99. The crab leg charge at dinners is always $5.00. There is a clear sign over the crab legs on the buffet table that if you take crab legs on your plate you will be charged $5.00. There is a ten percent discount for seniors over 65 at all times. Soft drinks are $1.50 with unlimited refills - all Pepsi products. Hours for this restaurant are from 11:00 am until 9:30 pm and !0:30 pm Friday and Saturday.

To start off there is an extensive salad bar with greens, dressings, and toppings, along with prepared salads. There were four soups - the usual wonton, egg drop, hot and sour, and an unusual vegetable seafood tomato based soup with a Chinese name that I have never encountered before. I tried the hot and soup soup and it was good - not too hot and spicy. My wife tried the wonton soup and the broth was very good but the wontons were just fair - when she first went for soup there were no more wontons in the broth in the server - it took about twenty minutes for more wontons to be brought out - she felt it was not worth the wait. There is sushi with a good assortment of raw fish on rice and raw fish rolls. The rolls looked as usual,but instead of avocado rolled with the tuna it was cucumber. Looked the same but not what I expected as I bit down and crunched the cucumber. There were steamers for dumplings but no dumplings. Instead there were steamed rolls and steamed cake in the steamers. There were no dumplings of any kind.

There was a broad assortment of entrees. Some of them very unusual if you are used to Northern US, Midwest, or Western US Chinese buffets. This buffet offered steamed crayfish and frogs legs made salt and pepper style. Crawfish down South are known as "bugs" and they look like a cross between tiny red lobsters and bugs. You eat them by biting off the heads and sucking out the meat in the body and tail. I find them very fishy and salty. They are not bad. It is more of a get used to how it looks and how you eat it than anything else. If you like 'em you can have all that you want here. I did not try the crawfish or the frogs legs here. I have had them elsewhere and yes, frogs legs do taste like chicken (so does rabbit). There was plenty to eat without them. There were crab halves (included in the regular buffet price). There was a lot of shrimp and seafood dishes. There were several fried fish dishes and there was a steamed white fish in a light sauce. There were several chicken dishes - many hot and spicy and the hot sauce was very evident when you looked in the serving pan. There were beef ribs and boneless pork spareribs (that looked over done). There was Peking Duck - mostly carved duck pieces but these looked much too greasy - perhaps sitting in the tray too long and the duck fat melting into the pan. There were fried scallops but these also were overdone and hard when I tried to eat one. There were some dishes that were very good. The shrimp with scallions was great. This is one of the House Specialties on the take out menu. There was a good chicken in peanut butter sauce - thin strips of lightly fried chicken with a liquid peanut sauce on the side to pour on as you wish.I have had peanut chicken before but this one was much better. Of course there was General Tso Chicken, chicken with broccoli, and pepper and beef. There were several American dishes including fried potatoes several ways. There was also pepperoni pizza.

If you could not find something that you like among the claimed 180 buffet items, there is also the Mongolian Grill. Here there was a large assortment of raw vegetables including three types of mushrooms including the black mushrooms that are usually in the most expensive Chinese dishes. There were several types of noodles to add including the hair thin rice noodles that make up Mai Fun dishes. Of course there is meat and here it included beef, chicken, pork, crab, and shrimp. You mix what you want on a plate and hand it to the chef at the large flat round grill. He asks what sauce you would like added and rather than put it on at the beginning as is done at all of the other Mongolian grills that I have been to, here they put it on after the mix has mostly cooked through. There is a sign on the counter explaining exactly what is in each sauce which is a great idea! The chef was very nice and accidentally dropped my mix on the counter as he took it from me - he appologized in limited Chinese English a million times and with no problem I made a new mixture which he took and excellently cooked- handing it to me still apologizing with me saying, "No problem."

If you still want dessert after all of this there was a great assortment of the usual Little Debbie type Chinese buffet cakes, puddings, fruit, jello, and soft serve ice cream.

Service was very good. The dirty dishes were removed quickly enough and soft drinks were refilled regularly. An interesting aside to the drink area is that it is the old OCB drink island - two sided, with all of the equipment from the former tenant. They do not want you to go up and get your own drinks - they will bring them to you - and they do.

The restaurant was clean and nicely decorated. Restrooms were fine. The atmosphere was very pleasant (except for the cigarette smoke - BUT THIS IS CAROLINA!)

When the check comes the tax is added to the individual amounts so they don't look like the prices listed - but they are with the sales tax (for our UK readers this is the VAT) The check came with a fortune cookie for each of us - these were commercially baked cookies with the plastic sealed wrapper around them - the fortunes inside however were a bit unusual - a little nasty actually (I guess to bring a smile). Mine said,"You laugh now, wait until you get home." Oh boy! Not what you want to read after a meal!!!

The owners advertising claims that this is the largest "international" buffet and grill in "town". On the website they say that they are from Hong Kong and that is why they called the restaurant the Hong Kong King Buffet. That normally would imply Cantonese cuisine, but there was a broad mix of Oriental cuisines served here.

Do I recommend this restaurant? Yes. Would I go back? Probably, though I might want to go looking for one of those North Carolina barbecue restaurants (no buffets like that unfortunately). If you live in this area give it a try.

The address is 1237 Silas Creek Parkway, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27127. There is a website and that is listed on the side of this site. The phone number is 336-725-9788. The restaurant is located in a shopping center next door to an Office Depot store. (Exit 192 on I40)

One other thing- restaurants are inspected by health officials everywhere, but in North Carolina those health inspection reports are on the internet. If you search for this restaurant you will find the latest year's reports. Maybe you don't want to read these. This restaurant got a score of 94 out of 100 on its last report. This is good. The violations were not significant. I think that I would not want to see the reports on many of the restaurants that I enjoy.


Michael said...

Wow! This sounds like my kind of place. I'm always amazed at the variety of foods some of these buffets have. This one sounds like one of the best.

Anonymous said...

Excellent review, and spot on! I take my 12 year old there on a regular basis, and even though she's an extremely picky eater, she never fails to find all sorts of things she likes. We have a running deal where we each try something new every time we go, and we've picked up a few new favorites.

Ferrell said...

My husband and I frequent this restaurant at least once a week. He loves the raw oysters, clams, crawfish, mussels, anything creepy and crawly. On the other hand, I am hooked on the mongolian grill. I LOVE IT. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone.