Friday, December 11, 2009

A Return to the New Grand Buffet, Islandia, NY

Sometimes you start out for the evening with one destination in mind and when you get there you find a not so great surprise. It was the night after Thanksgiving and we drove the distance to Good Taste Buffet in Commack, NY. When we pulled into the parking lot, my wife said to me that the restaurant looked dark. We drove across to the front of the restaurant and sure enough, it was closed, as was the Italian restaurant next door. The window of the Italian restaurant was boarded over. Both restaurants had signs stuck up - "Reopening Soon". We surmise that there was a fire in the Italian restaurant and it spread through the wall to Good Taste Buffet next door. Oh my! Good Taste has become my local favorite. My first thought was were are we heading right now - as it was getting close to 8:00 pm and my second thought was that I hoped that when it re-opens they don't decide to change anything. I thought this because around here when things change or are redone, it is rarely for the better. So anyway, we thought about what was not too far away and with the help of a cell phone Internet browser located the Wal-Mart in Islandia and got directions to get there - as in that same shopping plaza is New Grand Buffet.

I wrote about New Grand Buffet in March, 2008. At the time I liked the restaurant and have thought about going back again, but have not. At that time I recommended it. Read on as I have some reservations now.

We arrived just about 8:10 pm which in this area is not late for dinner out on a Friday night. There were people in the restaurant but it was not overwhelmingly crowded. My wife feels that many do not eat out on the night after Thanksgiving. I am not so sure, as many have had their fill of turkey and are saving the left overs (if there are any) for a night the following week. The layout of the buffet and restaurant have not changed. The prices have increased by $1.00 for both adults and children making the adult price now $13.99 every night and the children's price $7.99 for children up to five feet tall. (My wife commented that if she was just two inches shorter she could get in for the children's price - I told her that I didn't think so.) We were seated and went up to the buffet.

If I had known I was coming before I started out on this evening I would have read through my article on the restaurant to see what I should look for and what was especially good. As it was I was going on a distant memory. We started, as we always do, with soup. I was in the mood for Hot and Sour Soup and went to the tureen. The soup's color was redder than I expected and looked loaded with hot pepper. I decided not to take that and took the wonton soup instead. Last time around - I find out now - the Hot and Sour soup was on the mild side and the better of the two soups. I was not complimentary of the wontons last March - but I must say that tonight the wontons were fine.

There were several more sushi selections tonight than last year - but the salmon on rice did not look as it should. One piece I took was fine. I took two pieces and when I was back at the table with the dish and I could see better in the light, I saw that the second piece had a dark area on the front of one side. I cut this away before I tried it but the fish had a dry and off taste - and I did not eat it. Ok - so every so often an off piece can get through. With sushi it is always, the diner be careful. A piece of tuna on rice that I took was fine. Large peel and eat shrimp that were kept well cold on a bed of ice were good.

My next course was dumplings. My wife had take some before I did and warned me that the steamed shrimp dumplings were overdone, dried out, and tough. I took one to try and took two fried pork dumplings. She was right, of course, the steamed shrimp dumplings were just as she described. Had I not taken the fried pork dumplings, this review would have had a much different outcome. These dumplings looked great. I cut one in half and put it in my mouth. I started to chew and heard a crack. My thought was a piece of pork bone and I hope I did not break a tooth. I felt something sharp in my mouth. I quickly went in with my fingers and brought out this. It was too dark in the restaurant to really see what it is. It turns out to be pieces of shard of a shell - from the color, probably a clam shell. The pieces, as you can see are sharp and pointed. As they say, in time all things must pass, but if that thing is sharp and pointed it can do considerable damage as it makes its way out. This is not a good thing. This is the worse thing that I have encountered in any buffet. Some may say, lucky you, as it is not uncommon for things like bone and such found in food served in almost every restaurant. Had I been eating stuffed clams, I might expect a piece of wayward shell. This was pork dumplings - and no where near were there any clams. In fact, I looked around the buffet suspecting that it was some type of shell and saw no clams at all. I stopped and took check of myself - bleeding in my mouth - no, pain anywhere - no, feel cut in my throat - no. I pushed the dumplings aside and went on. Did I call over the waitress? I have found that unless there is some damage that you can show and prove, you are not going to get too far - and while these young ladies should all speak perfect English, you never get the impression that they understand what you are telling them, especially when it is a complaint. At best there is an apology, at worst it is taken and ignored. I am lucky that I caught this in my mouth before I swallowed. A child would have been in trouble. We had started out fairly well. This now put an edge to the rest of the dinner.

A number of the dishes on the hot buffet table and at the barbecue appetizer area were not hot. They were warm, but not at the serving temperature that they should be. There really is no reason or excuse for this. The buffet tables are steam tables and the temperature can be controlled. Heating elements heat water below the serving trays. This water should be boiling and the resultant steam and heat should keep every dish hot. This is wet heat through the steam and thus the food should remain fairly moist and not dry out. In addition, several dishes that I tried were overdone- kept out too long in the heat. As I said, this restaurant was far from empty. There were people in each of the dining areas and a steady flow of people up at the buffet servers. Despite the time, there were people still coming in right through the time that we were finished and left.

Dishes offered were pretty much the same as those that I wrote about in March and I will not repeat them here. While there are a lot of dishes out, there felt to be a limited selection. The best of what I tried this time was a stuffed flounder - a thin strip of flounder stuffed with a crab stuffing and baked. The stuffing was very good, the flounder was tough and dry. I had blue crabs in ginger sauce and they were tasty, though they could have been hotter. Mixed in with the blue crabs were a few snow crab cluster tops. This was better than than the blue crab as there is a considerable amount of meat over the limited meat found in the side of a small blue crab.

As I pointed out last March, crab legs are a big thing here and they did keep bringing out more and filling up the serving tray. I actually went up to get some and looked for something to put a bit of the butter sauce in, which was there near the tray of crab legs. There were not little dishes. That was the point that I passed the crab legs by and went for the ginger crab. Later, when I did not want any crab legs there was a stack of little dishes next to the tray. The crab legs now are not served as clusters, as they were a year ago, but now they are individual legs. Full cluster legs cook better and become less water-logged. Even if they are cooked as clustered and pulled apart when put out, while they are in the steam tray they take on more water than full cluster legs do.

My feeling of the limit of choice is overcome by a real Mongolian grill. There is a large selection of vegetables and noodles to add to chicken, pork, or beef. The meats at this type of server should be kept frozen, but here they were not - and I made this same observation last year. This is one of the real round heavy iron grills and the chef walks around the grill with a paddle moving your selections around on the grill as they cook. You choose what you want your dish to consist of and you, yourself, put the ingredients, as much as you would like, on a plate and then add sauces and seasonings to your liking. With this you can always create yourself a hot entree to your liking.

Service was fine. Dishes were picked up. Glasses for beverages are huge and there are refills on top of that. We were seated at a table next to one of the large glass window walls that looks out to the parking lot. The white metal framework of the window on the inside should have been much cleaner. Similar to my note last time about the walls.

I am now reluctant to recommend New Grand Buffet. Had the shell or whatever not been inside the dumpling I would say that the food needs to be warmer but it is ok. With my luck of getting that one in a thousand dumpling that had something inside, we need to be forewarned. Yes, it could happen anywhere. But unless it happens to you, you don't think about it. Now, here, I would be thinking and looking through what I am eating. So, maybe not, a good choice for a relaxing night out.

The location is 704 Veteran's Highway in Islandia, New York. It is just south of US 495 at exit 57 in the Islandia Shopping Center where the Wal-Mart is. The phone number is (631) 582-3888. There is no website.

1 comment:

Eating The Road said...

Well glad to hear it did not cause serious pain or injury...that really could have been bad.