Friday, December 14, 2007

Green Olive Buffet and Grill - Second Time Around

In September 2006 I wrote about a buffet in Arlington, Virginia called the Green Olive Buffet and Grill. It is a Chinese buffet but as I will elaborate here, it is much more. I had an opportunity to return there a week ago. We went in on a Friday night. The buffet price is still $12.99 every night - no extra for Fridays or the weekend. This is unusual for a Chinese buffet. For this buffet $12.99 is an excellent price!

What struck me most on this second visit to the Green Olive is the abundance of seafood - and not just seafood Chinese dishes but SEAFOOD in every which way. If you are looking for a great seafood buffet at an unbelievable price this is the place! You will find everything that you could want here - with one exception, lobster. And for this price who needs the lobster!

You can start your seafood meal here with raw shellfish. There are clams and oysters on the half shell on ice. The oysters were good and they were fresh - they had been opened and refrigerated before they came out as was evidenced by the dry tops, but the oyster meat was moist throughout. There is also cold cocktail shrimp. You can follow this cold selection up with sushi which was being made by a sushi chef behind the long counter that also becomes a flame grill.

Soups included clam chowder along with the selection of Chinese soups. There is a salad bar, of course, which I have already described in my first review of this restaurant (See September 29, 2006).

The hot seafood out on the buffet was overwhelming. There were the usual steamed king crab legs that you will find in many Chinese buffets, but there were also whole, steamed blue crabs - famous in this area from the nearby Chesapeake Bay. These are an art to crack and eat the lumps of meat in the sides of the shell. In this area people like to spice them up with "Old Bay Seasoning" - a commercial product that gives crabs and most seafood a pleasant kick. There were cans of Old Bay at the grill for you to shake on what you'd like. If you would like to be a little courageous you can have the grill cook you large, whole shrimp on a skewer with the heads still on. I am sure to many of our readers around the world this is no big deal, but in the United States folks don't like to see shrimp with the heads on. These shrimp cook fast on the grill and the shell gets nicely charred. The shrimp meat is deliciouses this way but a bit of a struggle to get out of the shell - especially while the little shrimp eyes watch you. There was fried shrimp and fried clams. There was fried fish. There was broiled salmon. There was a whole broiled fish that you cut away from to serve yourself that was great. I am not certain what type of fish it was but I am guessing from the look of the head it was a sea bass. There were fried scallops. There were fried frogs legs. There were steamed clams. There was steam shrimp spiced with Old Bay Seasoning.

There were also prepared seafood dishes. Some of these were Chinese dishes, but many of them were regional seafood dishes. Crab mixed with other shellfish meats in a butter sauce, a spicy dish of crab and stuffing, pasta and seafood dishes, stuffed crab shells, and baked clams were among the many to be found.

This is a seafood lovers delight, but wait, if you don't like seafood (my wife does not) what will you do? In addition to all of the seafood there were as many selections of meats and Chinese dishes. There are also steaks grilled to your order on the chargrill. Everyone is going to be happy at the Green Olive.

Dessert are typical of Chinese buffets. Ice cream here is served hard in "dixie" cups in a freezer case with an assortment of flavors.

Service is good. The entire restaurant is well maintained.

There was one drawback that was very noticeable on this visit that was not on my first visit. There was a smell of cigarette smoke near the buffet servers. I looked around the restaurant to see if there was a smoking section of tables and I did not see one, BUT there is a sit down liqueur bar with full bar stools on the side of the room with the buffet servers and, evidently, they permit smoking at the bar. I am not a smoker, and it has been a long time since I have been around people who smoke. Most places that I go to do not permit smoking so I have become sensitive to the smell when it is around. It surprised me to find this here now, because all of the buffets that I have been to do not allow smoking. To have smoking in the same area as the food tables is not good. Now, it did not flavor the food, as I could tell and it could not be detected in the dining area where our tables were - which was just adjacent to the room with the food tables (and the smoke). It was very noticeable when I was at the food tables nearest the bar. I would wonder why they would allow this - but I guess that bar brings them the business of people who want to sit at a bar and drink. I would not jeopardize my buffet business for that, but this is Virginia and Virginia is the original place that tobacco came from. Unless you are very sensitive to smoke - and it may just be by chance that a smoker is sitting at the bar - don't let this keep you from this great buffet. AS I said, this did not happen the first time we ate there in 2006.

If you want to read more in detail about the Green Olive, read my September 29, 2006 descriptions and review. The Green Olive Buffet and Grill is located on US1. The address is 7405 Richmond Highway in Alexandria, Virginia. The restaurant looks a little like a road house from the outside but do not that put you off from going inside. There is plenty of free parking in their lot surrounding the restaurant. The phone number is 703-765-5899. There is a website which is listed at the side of the page.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had only one big misunderstanding with this restaurant, and it was the price for " TALL CHILDREN!" My niece is 10 years old and because she is taller than 54 inches, she is charged as an adult. This policy is ridiculous. I asked if that meant that midgets were free regardless of their age, and was told yes. My niece did not even eat a full plate. Once she got her smoothie and a plate, she was done. Management at Green Olive need to re-consider penalizing taller than what their native culture expects of children's height, as adults. Other than that, the food excellent. Looking at the restaurant from outside almost made me keep going. There is no classy appeal. I just said to my family, let's see what this place is like and was pleasantly surprised.

Robert A said...

The practice of charging children by height is becoming very common at Asian buffets. Look in our archives for the article that we did on it and some controversies that occurred because of it.

I avoid taking my 6 year old niece to Chinese buffets because all she eats there is white rice and is charged $9.

Anonymous said...

I used to love this buffet and really looked forward to going there today. They usually have the best price in town for the variety you get, but today was an insult to the regular customers. The Dinner price is usually $13.99 and the weekend lunch is $8.99, when we arrived they had a handwritten sign that said it was Valentine's Day and the price would be $17.99, but it would also include Crab legs which we didn't even want. We had driven a long way so we were sort of trapped and hungry so we stayed, but I watched as many people left in disgust at being forced to pay more than the regular dinner price! They even collected the bill at the table and they never do that, I figured it was because the manager received so many complaints. This was really an insult to all the customers and I will never return and I hope many others won't return either. I understand charging dinner prices for a holiday, but since when is Valentine's Day a holiday and it was more expensive than the dinner price! I couldn't even enjoy my dinner because I spent most of it bitching the whole time...