Friday, November 27, 2009

Tomokazu Japanese Restaurant, Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)

I came across this restaurant through a video and I am going to share that video with you as we go along. The Tomokazu Japanese Restaurant located in Vancouver, British Columbia on the west coast of Canada offers, in addition to menu offerings, an all you can eat or should I say all you care to eat menu. The uniqueness of this is that it is served to you by waitresses who - as you will see - bring a large variety and quantity of Japanese foods - with an emphasis on sushi - to your table.

Now, as always when I have not been to a restaurant myself - and it is unlikely that I am ever going to get to British Columbia - I am writing without first hand experience of the restaurant, but I have been able to get a number of opinions about this restaurant and I will share those also as we go along.

The restaurant offers the all you can eat meal from Monday through Sunday for lunch from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm and for dinner from 5:00 pm to Midnight. The price is what is most notable here. Dinner for adults is $22.95 (CD) and lunch for adults is $9.95 (CD). Weekends and holidays add another dollar to the price. Now, if you like to eat late night go after 9:30 pm and the adult price drops to $12.95. There are children's prices as well. Now, these prices are exceptionally good for a Japanese all you can eat restaurant. Please be aware that the late night offerings and the lunch offerings are much limited from the dinner offerings. The price is less, but so is the selection.

Ordering is done off a menu and by number. You tell the server what you want and she brings it. The only soup is Miso soup and there are a few salads to select, but you are not coming here for the soup or the salad. You are coming here for the sushi, sashimi, cones, rolls and maki. Again, you select the what you would like the waitress to bring and it is brought to you. In addition to the raw fish, there is also udon, teriyaki, tempura, dumplings, fried rolls, bbq, and motoyaki. Desert is limited to jello and mango pudding.

The best way to know what you will get at this restaurant is to see it and for the first time I offer this video, courtesy of you-tube. Hopefully, this link will survive. You can see first hand the layout of the restaurant, the appearance of the food and what some of the selections are. There does not look like there is enough room on the table for all that is brought and keeps on coming.

So how is the food? The majority of opinions on the food here is that it is very good. Many say that they go regularly and first-timers say that they cannot wait to go back.

There are a few complaints that need noting. Not all of the waitresses speak English well and communication with some can be a problem - though this seems to be managed. Some say that the service is slow and I must say that if that is the case in an all you can eat situation where the servers bring your food that can be a problem - and again, others say no problem getting what they wanted. Cleanliness of the restrooms was questionable for some, but no comments that there was any problem in the dining room.

This looks really interesting. While I have been to Japanese buffets where the food is served traditional buffet-style, I would like to try one where the food is brought out like this. Another Japanese restaurant that I have written about in Hawaii does this type of serving as well. It always looks intriguing. But as I have said a number of times in the past - the experience is only as good as the serving staff who must be attentive to your wants and needs in this type of restaurant.

There is a second location of this restaurant in Richmond, British Columbia. At this location only there is a lite all you can eat menu called the Hot Pot. There is a note at the Richmond location that all food ordered must be eaten or menu prices will be charged for each dish that is left over. I am not certain that this applies to both locations - but it would not surprise me. There is also a note that there is a two hour dinner time limit per table.

The Tomokazu Japanese Restaurant is located at #201-1128 West Broadway, Vancouver BC V6H 1G5. Their phone number is (604) 677-0434. They do take reservations. There is also a website and that is linked at the side of this page.

If you have been to Tomokazu please leave a comment and share how you liked it and help out our readers! Thanks!

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Wild Night at a Buffet

There was no full moon out, but there should have been. It was just wild on this particular night at the buffet. I am not going to say what buffet. The restaurant, itself, had nothing to do with what was going on. It was the customers.

This was a night that I wished I had the "Rules" written out and could just hand them around. It started at the beginning of dinner with a woman walking around the buffet servers putting food in her plate and then as she walked around from server to server was eating with a fork from her plate as if she was at a cocktail party. This went on for a while. I thought to myself to go over to her and say, "Excuse me, madame, but didn't you get a table. You know they have tables here to sit at while you eat." Deciding not to get into a fracas, I just shook my head and went back to my table - watching her as she continued this until she has put all that she wanted on her plate and went off.

A little latter a group of six came in - two men, three older teen boys and a teen girl. At first they were going to squeeze around a table for four until one of them decided that they actually could put two tables together and fit. Ok. This is fine. It happens all of the time and putting two tables together when possible is always the better alternative. What happened later was the problem. This was an entire table of people who did not know or did not care that you need to take a new plate each time you go up. They would just pick up their plates with sides still on them and walk back to the buffet servers to refill, with serving spoons from the trays plunking down into their dirty dishes.

I had figured I had seen it all for the night, but no these were only the beginning. Over at the carving station a man decides not to wait for the woman who was carving and serving and sticks his own fork into a piece of meat and takes it. The serving fork was right there - but no, he had a fork in his hand and he was going to use it - not to mention that there were others waiting in a line for the woman to come over to carve and serve.

Looking back over toward the buffet servers from our table, now there were several people walking around with forks and plates of food eating from their plates - also as if they were at a party. Strolling and eating. I couldn't believe I had seen one earlier. Now there was a group - and seemingly having nothing to do with the first one.

So what more - well, there were two ladies who had to be having the take out buffet - though they had three styrofoam bowls rather than the usual styrofoam clam-shell box that is usually given out for take out here. I wondered if these were bowls given for the salad bar take out. They had filled each to the brim - and not with salad but with food from the buffet servers. The lid of the last bowl would not go down. This woman kept pushing and compressing, but the bowl was simply just two full. The second woman - perhaps her daughter came over. I though that she was going to try - but no, she picked up the bowl and went with it back to the buffet server. She took several servings of salmon and plopped them on the top of the bowl that already would not close. She put the bowl back down on the counter where the other woman was standing and then they together squeezed everything inside beyond recognition to force the cover on. Off they went out the door with their meal. I actually was surprised that they did not go over to the dessert bar to spoon on some cake or pudding over their dinner.

That was not too different from another woman who continued to spoon items one on top of the other on her plate. What I could see - but there was more underneath was a mound of cabbage, spoonful after spoonful of macaroni and cheese mounded next to that. At this point the plate was filled over six inches high. And just when you would think this was enough until the next trip up, she went over to the serving tray of pot roast. She spooned a mound of pot roast and gravy on top of what was already on her plate. But now the worst part. This plate was so overfull with wet items that when she hovered the plate over the pot roast serving tray, she spilled a large quantity of liquid from the bottom of her plate into the pot roast's serving tray and all over the pot roast. This was her cue to go back to her table - without saying anything ab0ut her spill into the food to anyone.

What a night! At last there had to be one more - this one not so bad. This one was a dangler. He served himself spaghetti from the serving tray and there were two long strands of spaghetti hanging down from his plate - maybe eight or nine inches down. We watched to see if he noticed. He actually did scoop up one of the strands, but for some reason left the other to dangle, as he continued his way around the buffet server.

So there you have it - mostly for your amusement - all true. As I have said before you could not make this stuff up and have anyone find it plausible. My wife said to me that I really should have cards to leave on tables that would direct people to this site and the rules. For the most part, I hope, that those who read this site have the common sense and the manners that would not require "Rules of the Buffet". But oh, there are so many other that need them desperately.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Custy's International, North Stoneington, CT - Another LOBSTER Buffet

Custy's International restaurant has in its logo that it is "The World's Most Famous Buffet". Well, I had not heard of them and I am only a state away- actually by water I am only about forty five minutes away - but as there is no bridge or tunnel, that forty five minutes by highway becomes almost three hours. Anyway. I just learned about Crusty's International. My first thought was that this was an absolute trip to be taken - until I saw the details about Crusty's.

Now I am not saying anything against this restaurant. It looks wonderful and I am sure that the food is as good as the presentation. But this is one of the most expensive buffet restaurants that I have encountered. When I looked first at their website, my attention was caught by the Children's Price list which is prominently displayed. The top price is for children 10 years old to 12 years old and it is $39.99. I looked again, thinking that there obviously is a mistake and this must also be the adult price. Next to the children's prices is a description of pricing - in small text and there in the description is the adult price - $69.99!

For what you are getting this may be a fair price. Primarily what you are getting is what most buffet goers are seeking - ALL THE LOBSTER YOU CAN EAT. At Crusty's International that is exactly what you are going to get and you are going to get boiled live lobsters, baked stuffed lobsters, lobster thermidor, and lobster newburg. This is all served from the "Lobster Pit" and you are going to get all you want and as much as you want.

Lobster, as I have written before, seems to be the Holy Grail of buffet diners. They seek wheere to get all they can eat of this ugly, but succulent creature. I have heard from readers that travel six hundred miles just for cut up lobster in ginger sauce served at a buffet. Here at Crusty's (as at several New Jersey restaurants) you will get all that you desire.

So, we proceed on the understanding that I have not been to Crusty's and I have not heard yet from anyone who has been to Crusty's. I have searched for reviews and did find that two who had dined there felt that the food was excellent and the buffet was more than one could hope for. (Both commented on the expensive price.)

So if you go to Crusty's what will you find? This is a buffet and menu service restaurant. The appearance is that of a typical seafood house on the outside. The hours of the restaurant are a bit unusual - the restaurant is only opened three days per week, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. They are also open on Valentine's Day. They are closed all other days and on Christmas eve and Christmas day - weekend or not. The hours change in the summer - so the summer hours are Friday: 5pm - 10pm, Saturday: 3pm - 10pm, and Sunday: 1pm - 7pm. Summer here is from June 29, 2009 - Sept 6, 2009. All other times of the year they are open Friday: 5pm - 9pm, Saturday: 4pm - 9pm, and Sunday: 1pm - 7pm. They will open for private parties, bus tours of 85 to 150 people, or events on any day. There is mention of reservations, so if you are planning on dining at Crusty's call to see if you need to make a reservation in advance.

If you are eating at Crusty's everyone at your table must be eating either the buffet or from the menu - not both. So if you decide that you want the buffet and others in your party want to order from the somewhat less expensive menu, you are out of luck - unless you convince everyone else to buffet it.

When you dine on the buffet there are three specialty sections. There is the Lobster Pit which serves boiled live lobsters, baked stuffed lobsters, lobster thermidor, lobster newburg, lobster bisque, New England Clam Chowder, and a Soup of The Day. There is the Steak Pit where you will get cooked to order New York Sirloin, Marinated Filet Mignon Tips or Boneless Prime Rib. Steaks are served with your choice of peppers, mushrooms, onions, or any combination of those. There is also an elaborate seafood display which includes Colossal Ocean Tiger Cocktail Shrimp, which they claim are a trademark of the restaurant. In this serving area you will also find Giant snow crab legs fom New Foundland, steamed or chilled, baked stuffed shrimp, Cajun shrimp on a skewer, Coconut Shrimp and jumbo Fried Shrimp, Steamers, Shrip Scampi, Baked Stuffed Clams, Baked Southern-style Spare Ribs, Baked Stuffed Mushrooms, Fried Calamari, Custys Sweet Wings, Crispy Chicken Tenders, Fried Chicken ,Chef Specialty Chicken Roll Ups, Fish of the Day - baked or fried, Spaghetti & Meatballs, and Baked Italian Specialties.

There is also a sixty foot serving line that includes salads and appetizers including steamers, sweet corn, boiled potatoes, baked stuffed clams, baked stuffed mushrooms, chicken fingers, fried shrimp, coconut shrimp, cajun shrimp, scallops and bacon, Custy's own sweet wings, Italian-style calamari in a spicy marinara sauce and awesome barbequed ribs.

Entrees include baked chicken, barbequed chicken, baked Italian specialties such as Veal Marsala with freshly sautéed mushrooms, manicotti, meatballs, etc. There are also fresh baked grouper and baked stuffed shrimp with lobster meat stuffing.

Of course, for a buffet of this magnitude there has got to be a dessert bar to compliment it and there seems to be just that. Desserts include New York Style Cheesecake Chocolate Cheesecake Turtle Cheesecake, Tiramisu, fresh baked pies, assorted pastries, fudge and cookies, sugar-free desserts, Creme Brulee, seasonal fresh fruits including strawberries, pineapples, watermelons, honey dews, cantaloups, peaches, plums and more. In another section of the buffet you will find strawberries bananas, pineapples and cherries dipped in milk or white chocolate with or without coconut.

Beverages are included in the buffet price and you can get coffee, tea, soda, juice and milk.

I must say this is A LOT to eat and A LOT to get. There is no doubt that the price is high. It all sounds wonderful. Sadly, though it is within my traveling distance, I cannot fit a meal for two at $140.00 plus tax and gratuity into my budget. I am sure that there are many who can, and if you are seeking lobster - and steak cooked to order - this is the place to go.

Crusty's International is located at 138 Norwich - Westerly Road, North Stonington, CT 06359. The phone number is 860-599-1551. You can email them at They are located six and a half miles past Foxwoods Casino, so after dinner you might want to do a some gambling. There is a website and that is listed on the side of this page.

If you have ever been to Crusty's please leave a comment with this article and let us know how it was!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Spy Story

It is the early 1990's. The Cold War has come to an end; the Berlin Wall is no more. But espionage still lurks at a most unlikely place - a buffet!

This is an old story - not recent news by any means, but I just came across it. It is unusual and will be of interest to you all. Back in the early 1990's, a couple in Spokane, Washington decided to go into the buffet business. They wanted to guarantee their success so they infiltrated Old Country Buffet. They went into this big time. They found an unscrupulous secretary who worked for the chain and paid the secretary to transcribe all of the Old Country Buffet recipes. Recipes in a restaurant are considered trade secrets. In a successful restaurant those recipes are the heart of the restaurant's business. These recipes had been developed and tested by Old Country Buffet's founders. Fifty two recipes were taken.

Now it did not end there. The couple had a son. They sent this son to apply for and receive a job in Old Country Buffet management. They were going all out to get every secret possible. It was his job to work "undercover" and report back all of Old Country Buffet's unique management procedures - also developed by the Old Country Buffet founders.

The new buffet restaurant opened as Granny's Buffets in Washington state. Eventually a chain of Granny's Buffets developed and were located in Washington state, Montana, and Idaho. And with OCB's recipes and management processes in place.

Eventually, this was all discovered. It had to be obvious to anyone who dined at this new restaurant. Buffets, Inc., the owner of Old Country Buffet, brought legal proceedings against Granny's Buffets in 1992 to shut the location down and to stop a second location from opening. They also sought compensation in taking all of Granny's Buffets' profits of $3.8 million in the first year of operation. The court battle went on for two years and in 1994 a Federal Court judge rules AGAINST Buffets, Inc. stating that recipes as "lists of ingredients" cannot be copyrighted - different from a published cookbook where the recipes published in the cookbook are held under the book's copyright. It was also found that Buffets, Inc. and Old Country Buffet did not take the legal steps necessary to protect themselves by having employees sign confidentiality agreements, printing their recipes in a book with clear copyright notices on each recipe, and issuing management materials on a "need to know" basis only.

So Buffets, Inc. and Old Country Buffet lost the fight. BUT, in the end they had the last laugh. In December 1999, Buffets, Inc. bought out all of the six Granny's Buffet locations. Some were closed when the bankruptcy occurred a few years back. Some remain - some have had there name changed to Granny's Old Country Buffet. Searching for a current review or comment on a Granny's I find nothing more recent than 2008. I can only assume they are still out there - there is no mention of Granny's on the Buffets, Inc. website.

James Bond at the buffet... quietly in and out with the secrets!