Friday, February 15, 2008

Return to Asian Buffet, Hicksville, NY

I first wrote about Asian Buffet in Hicksville, New York in September 2005. I have mentioned in a few other articles since then. We have not dined there for quite a while because, frankly, it is priced too high. Friday to Sunday dinner there is $15.99. Weekday dinner is $13.99. These prices are high for a Chinese buffet that is not really out of the ordinary.

On a recent Saturday night we could not think of where else to have dinner in the local area, and after a lot of procrastination, decided to bite the bullet and pay the extra $2.00 each at Asian Buffet. When one lives on a fixed budget, a few dollars extra here and there get to be significant. This restaurant used to place discount coupons in the newspaper, but there have not been any in quite some time.

We got there and were seated promptly. The restaurant was busy but not crowded. On past visits, since prices increased, this restaurant has never been as full as it could be. In fact, on this visit we were surprised to see the number of cars that we saw in the parking lot when we arrived. We were seated in a booth - I should have remembered that the seat cushions in the booths in this restaurant were compressed to a minimum long ago, and, if you are short, sitting in a booth is like a three year old sitting at the "grown ups" table. Your chin is not far from the table top. I pushed over to the inside of the bench where the cushion provided a little more lift. To lessen the total cost of dinner we did not order sodas and were satisfied with ice water.

What struck us as were went up to the buffet servers is the variety of different dishes that this restaurant has to offer. There are many things found here that are not served at other Chinese buffets. Not fancy or expensive dishes, but different. Of course, the usuals are there as well so anyone who does not want to stray too far from chicken and broccoli, pepper steak, and General Tso Chicken will not be disappointed. There is a nice assortment of dumplings - less so than in the past, but still a nice selection.

On the weekend and the basis of reasoning for the $15.99 price is lobster in ginger sauce. Few buffets still offer lobster. The lobster on this night consisted on mostly claws and a few side pieces. There was no meat in the claw and just a few shreds of meat in the side pieces. Perhaps someone got all of the tail pieces, but the tray remained the same the whole time that we were there and there was nothing but claws in the tray. The sauce is tasty but basically what you are eating is breaded coating and sauce with a hint of lobster taste. They also have crab legs, but these are pieces of legs, not whole legs and certainly not clusters.

But, I really want to get back to the different dishes that I sampled and not the shortcomings and price. I have had salt and pepper shrimp and salt and pepper crab, but I have never seen salt and pepper spare ribs before. Salt and pepper spare ribs are three inch pieces of spare ribs with the bones that are coated in a crust with salt and pepper. These must have then been fried, but they are not greasy as one might expect. They were very good. Another dish based on spare ribs was spare ribs in black bean sauce. This was very small pieces of spare ribs in a thick sauce with black beans. The tips and bone are there but the meat and sauce was terrific. Another interesting and tasty dish was a dish of chopped pork spooned on top of a cube of moist, pudding-like tofu. It must have been steamed, though the meat was well cooked. It had a very thin sauce that was mildly sweet and also had a ginger taste, much like the ginger sauce found on steamed fish.

Steamed fish is a special dish not often found at Chinese buffets and when it is the fish is generally full of bones. Here there was steamed flounder fillet in ginger sauce. No bones. The fish was moist and the sauce was tasty. There were a few tiny bones that were left behind, so eat carefully, but for the most part there were no bones.

On the cold server there were several different dishes that I did not try including dried tofu (which I have had before) and, also, slices of cold beef. Back on the hot server there was scallion pancakes - very good, but a bit oily. Not different, but better than the usual are the regular spare ribs. These are coated in what I have termed "over-sweet red sauce" often abundantly put on Chinese buffet spare ribs, but here the sauce does not overwhelm the ribs and they are cooked to a charred outside. For buffet spare ribs they were ok - most are not.

Despite the price I did enjoy the meal. With the tax and tip it still cost $40 for the two of us, which is about six dollars more than usual for a night at the Chinese buffet and that is without any sodas - but many are raising their prices and may soon catch up to this. For the variety of different this buffet is good. I would recommend it to anyone who does not mind the price. If they would start to run newspaper coupons again that would be good on the weekend, I might even come back more often.

As a matter of fact, after this return visit we were again in similar circumstances and we went back again - also a Saturday night. This second visit was as good and different as the first, but I will emphasize different. Many of the dishes that I describe in this article were not there on the second Saturday night. There were other out of the ordinary dishes offered - though I must say not as interesting as those I encountered first and described here.

On this second visit we also had an opportunity to observe another member of the "Lobster Grabbers" club. Search through the archives and read my article on the Lobster Grabbers. This new Lobster Grabber was an immense, older woman who emptied the lobster serving tray into two plates and took it to her table. At first we thought it was for both her and her companion - another immense, older woman, but as it turned out it was all for her. When more lobster was brought out she filled her plates again, leaving very little for everyone else in the restaurant. She ate lobster straight through the meal - even during dessert. They got their check and were eating dessert and suddenly she was up and back again with another dish of lobster. Cake and lobster I suppose is an interesting way to end a meal - of lobster. You see some of the oddest things and the most selfish people at buffet restaurants - especially when lobster is served.

Asian Buffet is located at 276 Old Country Road, Hicksville, New York. The phone number is (516) 433-6688. There is no website. For more detail read my original article from September 30, 2005.


Anonymous said...

Definitely the best buffet on long island! Great prices, delicious food, and wonderful service. A must try!

Robert A said...

Still very good, but the price has gotten a bit over the top and is now close to the high end Asian/international buffets. Close to $20 on the weekends now.

Anonymous said...

Its 17 dollars a person now

Writer said...

That is way too expensive. There is a lot better - and cheaper - alternative nearby.