Friday, July 10, 2009

A Second Visit to Europa Buffet

In March of this year I wrote an article about a wonderful buffet find in North Brunswick, New Jersey. Since then I have been looking forward to going back again and business happily took us back near enough to travel the extra twenty minutes out of our way to have dinner in this great restaurant. If I can I always like to visit a new buffet find at least twice so that I can report to you all that what I found on my first visit is consistent over time. Europa Buffet did not disappoint the second time around.

I am not going to repeat the layout or details of things that were exactly the same. You can read the first article here and learn all about that. What I will tell you about now are the differences that I found dining there on a different night of the week. My first visit had been on a Friday night which according to the buffet's website is Polish Night. My second visit is on a Saturday night - which is said to be Italian Night. Overall, there were still some Eastern European/Polish dishes included on the buffet on Saturday night - the same as they were on Friday night, but more about that later.

This visit found the restaurant a bit busier than it had been on that cold Friday night in the early Fall when I went there last. I would have expected more people to be here on a Saturday night though there were consistently seven or more tables full through the time we were dining. Everyone but one table were having the buffet. One table that came in toward the end of our meal was ordering off the menu - but it seemed that the salad bar and the drink area were part of their meal (whether they were paying extra for this I do not know). With the buffet you get everything - buffet and soft drinks for $15.99. No coupons are accepted on Saturday night, but the coupons on the website are good for all other nights. I actually hoped to find more people there - perhaps a sign that people read my first article and started filling this gem. That would be great for the people who own and run this restaurant.

As I said in my first article everything in this restaurant is done by two people - the husband and wife who own the restaurant. A quick glance through the kitchen door revealed another man. So in total this is a three person operation and as I understand it all of the cooking is done by the husband and wife. She also takes care of the cash register, greeting and seating guests, making sure the buffet server is full, and clearing away plates from everyone's tables. She also takes your order should you want to order from the menu.

We started again with soup and there were the same two soups that were served on our first visit - chicken noodle and seafood bisque. They were as good as we remembered them to be. The seafood bisque was full of fish - I would say much of it was salmon but there were other seafood in there as well. I am not a big fan of cooked salmon but this was excellent.

The salad bar was just as it had been with one item that had not been there that Friday night. It was a spagetti pasta salad. It was cold spagetti in an oil based dressing and to me there was a taste of anchovy. There is an Italian dish rarely served in general American Italian restaurants that is spagetti or linguine sauteed with anchovies, garlic and olive oil. This cold pasta salad reminded me very much of the taste of that dish. It was very good.

The entrees and side dishes on the hot buffet featured a variety of food some Italian and, as I already said, some Eastern European. Still there were the great potato and onion perogies served next to a cold serving dish of sour cream to add to your liking. There, again, were chicken francaise, sauteed and grilled vegetables, pork spare ribs in barbecue sauce, penne with vodka sauce, kielbasa and fried white fish. This time the fried white fish was cut and fried in small pieces - not the almost whole fish pieces that were here on our first visit. I know that this buffet has read my first article (they now link us to their site for all to read my review). Perhaps my suggestion in that article that the portions of this fish were served too large resulted in this great change. This time I tried the fried whitefish and it was great.

There was more but I will get to that in a moment. As the last time there is a small carving station and this time there was a roast beef to carve and serve yourself, with au jus gravy in a hot server next to the meat. The last time we were here there was a loin of pork roast at the carving board.

Back to the hot foods - I am going to tell you what was not there on this night that we had the first time and then I will tell you what replaced it. Variety is the spice of life and it is good that the menu on the buffet here is varied. In fact, there were regulars here that as they went around the buffet were vocally noting what was different from other nights - and just as delighted with what they found. Gone was the poached fish, the cheese blintzes, the Swedish meatballs, the mashed potatoes (though a sign on the buffet top glass said mashed potatoes), and the stuffed cabbage. Taking the place of these dishes were spagetti alfredo, sliced roast pork, Italian meatballs in tomato sauce, sauteed mushrooms, and rice pilaf. Each of these new found dishes were as good as those that they replaced (though I did miss those wonderful Swedish meatballs that I went on about in my first article). The Italian meatballs were small round meatballs that were about the same size of the Swedish meatballs but they were seasoned differently - Italian - and the tomato sauce that they were in was just right.

I only briefly mentioned the ribs in my first article. I paid a little more attention to them on this night and found them to be nicely meaty without a lot of fat in a pleasant tomato based barbecue sauce. They were fall off the bone tender and good. These are small pieces of ribs served in the sauce. I enjoyed the ribs, but I focused my meal - after tasting everything - more on the European dishes that one does not find at other buffets.

This time I tasted a little of everything - and everything was excellent - as I expected it would be. The problem with eating at a buffet where everything is SO GOOD is that you want to eat more and that was definately happening on this night. I have learned not to stuff myself beyond comfort and I had to hold myself back and not go up for more perogies, which I wanted so much to do. But I am glad that I left a little room because I came upon a dessert that was wonderful.

We went up to the dessert corner and in addition to the variety of pastries and cakes that were here on our first visit there was a tray this night of what definately was Tiramisu. Perhaps the cake I saw and thought was this on our first visit was another cake. This was it. I have never had Tiramisu before. Now I know what all of the fuss is about. It was equisite! It is a yellow cream - very creamy and light with two thin layers of yellow cake inside the cream - and on top a baked, dark brown crust. Often in Italian desserts there is a taste of cheese or liquour. There was none here - which is good. This was just so light and creamy. I stopped myself from getting a second piece because I knew, despite how light it was, it would put me over the top of how much I could eat.

The service, as it was on the first visit, was exceptional. The restaurant is spotless. Every dish is cleared away quickly. As tables are emptied they are washed and sanitized and set for the next guests. The buffet is well tended. Nothing goes empty for any longer than it takes to carry out a new tray of hot food to refill it. And all of this done by these same two people - and mostly by the very nice lady who is so well handling the whole dining room on her own!

There seemed to be several regulars dining here this evening. I am happy that there is a small following. I want to see this buffet get more business. These people deserve it for their efforts! I said this in my first article about Europa Buffet - this buffet is looking more and more to becoming our Best Buffet Restauant of 2009. Watch this site in early January 2010 to find out!

Again, as I recommended in March- you must go to Europa Buffet. I highly recommend it. This is worth a trip. The food - all of the food - is way beyond what you will get in most other buffets. Some say "home cooking" - this is really and truly European home cooking. Everything is fresh. Everything is as you would expect in what are considered "fine dining restaurants". This is so much more than a cut above the usual mass-cooked buffet food that is served at so many other buffets.

Buffet Europa is located at 1000 Arron Road, North Brunswick, New Jersey 08902. Their telephone number is 732-940-1122. They do have a website and the link is listed at the side of this page. Remember that they close at 9:00 pm and they are not opened on Sundays (unless you want to book the whole restaurant for a party).


Anonymous said...

My husband and friends also went on a friday to the Buffet and love it. We called tonight to see if they were opened and noone was there. Do you know if they are still open. I really hope they are since the food was excellent and the owners were very nice.

Robert A said...

I certainly hope that they are still open. Their website is still up. They do close on Sundays and I believe that they close between the lunch and dinner hours - as they are both cooking. This may be why they did not answer the phone. It is also possible that they are on vacation (???).

This is the BEST small buffet that I have ever found and that it is totally run by just two people is amazing!