Friday, December 21, 2007

THE BEST Asian Buffet 2007

I will choose two buffets that are THE BEST for 2007. One will be a Asian/Chinese buffet, as these tend to have their own class of buffet, and the other will be THE BEST BUFFET. In choosing these two buffets I have dined in them several times and have been to each as recently as this month of December. The choice was made on many criteria but one of the most important was that the restaurants maintained consistent from visit to visit continuing to please and delight.

This week I will name the Best Asian/Chinese Buffet for 2007 and that is PEKING RESTAURANT located in Williamsburg, Virginia. I have written about this buffet in several articles on this site and because I am awarding this deserving restaurant this significantly important distinction I will go back to the beginning and provide you with a complete description and review of this buffet.

The Peking Restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia is located at 120 Waller Mill Road in the Big Kmart Shopping Center. (Kingsgate Green Shopping Center – Bypass Road (Rt.60)) This is an individually owned restaurant and not a chain. The restaurant fills four store fronts in a strip mall with a KMart. The decor is Chinese palace. It is reminiscent of fancy Chinese restaurants that existed many years ago. There are three sections of large rooms separated by room dividers that fit in with the decor and are such that you can see around them and over them across the spacious restaurant. Each room is filled with tables - no booths here. There is a modern accent of large screen televisions set up at the ceiling throughout the restaurant but there are no sports tuned in here - each set is playing a video of Chinese music, acrobats, or travel scenes. There are two videos playing at the same time alternating on the various screens. The sound is turned low so there is no disturbance from the screens and they can be completely ignored or you may delight in the flow of Chinese culture and scenery.

The buffet is served across the entire rear wall of the restaurant from one end to the other. The buffet is divided into three sections and your meal includes it all. At the far left is a long counter section with a sushi chef behind the far most corner, followed by a soup chef, followed by a grill chef. In the middle of the wall are two long double sided buffet servers. The one to the left is full of Chinese entrees, side dishes, and appetizers. The one to the right is the vegetarian bar and contains hot vegetarian selections. At the right of the rear wall is a large, round Mongolian grill with one to two chefs. Around the grill is the salad bar, cold dessert bar, pizza, and all of the meat, vegetables, and sauces for the create your own Mongolian barbecue.

So where should you start your meal? There is a small salad bar and there are your basic selections of greens and toppings. There is soup. Soup is found two ways here. There is soup that has been made and out in servers on the hot entrees buffet server. There you will find egg drop soup and hot and sour soup. The usual choices for Chinese restaurants and buffets. But look around and you will not see wonton soup. For won ton soup and a whole selection of noodle soups you need to go to the counter to the soup chef. He stands beside a large cauldron of soup broth and a selection of noodles from a variety of oriental countries. There is a sign to guide you selection describing what each type of noodle there is. You will find noodles from China, potato noodles from Korea, Vietnamese Pho noodles, Japanese noodles, and wontons. You tell the chef what you would like and he will assemble the ingredients for your soup in a wire basket. He will then take that basket and dunk it into boiling water cooking it all together. He then places the hot contents into a large bowl and adds the soup broth. The soup is served steaming hot and is overflowing with noodles. We have found that it is best to get the soup and let it sit on the table while we enjoy something else to allow the steaming soup to cool off to a temperature easier to enjoy. This is a large bowl of soup and can be a meal in itself - but there is SO much more to enjoy.

The sushi chef is making sushi rolls and placing them out for you to take. The sushi here is beyond the usual piece of salmon or tuna on a bed of sticky rice. There is a nice variety of sushi rolls of fish and rolls of vegetables. The spicy salmon rolls are wonderful. I have come a long way in my taste for sushi since I first reviewed this restaurant in 2005 and I have come to delight in sushi beyond the basic raw salmon and tuna.

Do you like dumplings? There are dumplings and dim sum in steamers next to the soup area. Further along the counter there are also fried dumplings that are actually made on the grill. The dumplings, both steamed and fried, are excellent.

Chinese appetizers are plentiful here. You will find the usual appetizers and then you will find some that are different. They make an onion pancake at the grill. On the vegetarian buffet server there is a folded, seasoned bread. Back at the grill there are fried shrimp balls.

To start your entree course it is hard to decide what to try first. At the grill there is a chef cooking steak and chicken in the Japanese hibachi style. Along the grill there are other grilled meats and fried fish. At the buffet servers there are meat dishes and, as I said, vegetarian dishes. The selection of Chinese dishes is varied and not just the usual chicken and broccoli and beef and peppers that seem to be the staple at many Chinese buffets now. There is even Chow Mein and Egg Foo Yung. There are noodle dishes and there are three types of fried rice to be found - the traditional, a house special fried rice full of strips of meat, and Japanese fried rice cooked on the hibachi grill.

Now suppose you look at all of the hot entrees and you do not see what you like. What will you do? You will make your own. Go over to the large Mongolian Grill and start on the line filling a bowl with raw vegetables of your choice, noodles, and then meats and seafood. You can put beef, pork, shrimp, sea legs, chicken, and lamb into your creation. You then come to tubs of sauces and ladles. Spoon on one of a mixture of sauces both plain or hot and spicy. If you like, put some garlic in. Put as much as you want or leave it out - it is all your creation. At the end of the line when it is your turn you hand this to the chef who places it on top of the domed griddle. He moves around the round grill pushing your food with a large paddle which he uses to mix and make sure that each piece of meat is thoroughly cooked. He may go around twice until your dish is done. When there is a crowd there are two chefs working around the grill. When your dish is done it is placed in a clean bowl and handed to you. You watch the whole process so you get a little entertainment along with a great dish of your design.

If you visit and eat from each station you will probably find it difficult to move after dinner, but there is desert to be found too. There are hot steamed desserts next to the steamed dumplings. These are steamed cakes and sweet buns. There are cold fresh fruits, jello, pudding, and one of the jellos is traditional Chinese almond jello (which I had only had before this in Chinatown in NYC). There is ice cream, of course. A soft serve ice cream machine is in the back corner.

The service a this restaurant is excellent. The dishes were cleared immediately, sodas were refilled regularly, and we did not even ask for a knife - two were brought to us as we brought food to the table that required one. The tables each have a unique dispenser on each one - a clear acrylic holder with full of extra napkins, chopsticks, straws, and sweeteners. Other restaurants should have these!

Dinner price every night at the Peking Restaurant is $10.99. Let me repeat that - $10.99! Unbelievable for the amount and quality of food that you are getting. The lunch price is $6.99 and $7.99 on the weekend. There are children's prices. Soda is $1.25 for unlimited soft drinks. There is a bar and alcohol drinks are available.

This restaurant is located in the middle of a major tourist destination in Southeastern Virginia. Here you will find Colonial Williamsburg - the nation's foremost historic attraction - and Busch Gardens theme park. This restaurant does much more than attract the tourists. This is known and patronized by all of the locals as well. It is not unusual to be dining here and sit next to Colonial Williamsburg employees dressed in colonial clothing or members of the Busch Gardens show casts. We had dinner one night next to the Irish Dance Troupe from Busch Gardens. We have dined here during tourist season and off tourist season. Even on a weeknight the restaurant is busy. It is large enough that it is ever so busy that you will not get in shortly but if you do have a short wait there is a great little gift shop inside next to the entrance with wonderful jade and oriental imports.

The restaurant has a good website and a link may be found at the side of this article.

This is a must go to buffet. There is a lot in this area to see so take a vacation and make sure that this is on your list of where to go!

The Art of the Buffet names the Peking Restaurant as the BEST ASIAN/CHINESE BUFFET for 2007. Another Chinese buffet has got to go far to be any better in 2008. I suspect that this will hold this title next year as well. The Peking Restaurant will be receiving a certificate naming them as the BEST which we hope they will proudly display with other certificates of merit that they have hanging next to their door.

2 comments:

Benjamin said...

Robert,

We are honored yet again with your article "The Best Asian Buffet 2007"
We will proudly display the certificate on our wall of awards! Thanks again for naming us the best, we will continue to to improve for 2008!

From all of us here at Peking, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

moonyeen said...

Robert,

i have had the privelege of dining at Peking several times and i can definitely say you made the right choice in naming them the best.
i second the motion.