Friday, September 03, 2010

FRENCH QUARTER BUFFET- Showboat Casino, Atlantic City, NJ - PART 2

Part 2

As I had said in Part 1, the entrees and side dishes were scattered all along the various stations and mixed into each other without much regard for type of cuisine. I went for the crab legs next. These were located, not with the seafood but at the far end of the buffet next to the fried chicken. Ok. There was a large tray of crab legs and these were full clusters. I took two large clusters and went back to the table. I need to comment here about the climate in the room. This was not a very hot day despite the month of July - and we had been having some scorchers at that time. But this was a fairly pleasant day in temperature. The air conditioning in the restaurant was cranked up all the way to high. It was not uncomfortable to sit there but it made everything on one's plate cold in no time at all. The crab legs may have been hot or at least warm when I took them but by the time I got back to the table and started on the first leg of a cluster they were rapidly cooling down to cold. Perhaps they were not hot enough to start with. The problem is that when crab legs get cold they become a struggle to get the meat out of the shell. A properly hot crab leg only requires a snap in the middle and the section of crab meat slides out whole. Once the crab cools off, that same piece of meat breaks with the shell and the pieces need to be dug out - if they come out at all. So what should have been very nice crab legs were not worth the struggle. The tops of the clusters that should have nuggets of meat in them were pretty much empty too. So that was enough for the crab legs to not bother going back for more.

My wife - as those of you who read this site regularly know - does not eat seafood except for shrimp and while there was a variety of shrimp she was having a problem finding anything else to take. She resorted to eating salad and string beans (one of the vegetables for the night) and not much else. Besides the money, I felt bad that she was not finding much to eat. She had tried several dishes that she said were too highly spiced for her - and indeed, just about everything served had some seasoning and spice. There really was nothing plain. I thought that I would not have the same problem but I too was walking back and forth trying to find something that was worth eating.

One of the things that I had heard about being served at this buffet was good steak. I had been led to believe that it was cooked to order but it was not. There was steak - flat iron steak. It was served in a serving tray pre-cooked. I picked around the steaks until I found one that appeared that it might be at least medium rare - and it was when I cut into it. The steak had a crust of seasonings on it. I have had flat iron steak before but it had not been like this. This was nicely charred outside and then as I say crusted with seasoning. Inside the steak was red to pink which is how I like it. So what was wrong? The side of the steak was grizzle from end to end. You had to be careful cutting around it or you were chewing and chewing on something that was not going down easily. The taste was fine but for this money compared to other Atlantic City casino buffet steaks I have had (at less money) it should have been a better cut of meat.

In addition to the steak there was beef tri tip at the carving station. Tri tip is a cut of meat used for smoking barbecue but this not smoked. It looked like it had been baked or broiled and was not very inviting. It looked more like roast beef sliced at a deli counter than a fine beef meant for carving. It may be a fancy cut of meat but they did not do it justice here. I passed on that and I passed on the baked salmon that was also at the carving station.

None of the dishes that appeared to be "regular" dishes were "regular". There were meatballs - but not beef meatballs - they were beef and chicken meatballs. These were in a spiced tomato sauce. There was Italian sausage with peppers and onions. The sausage was off in taste - nothing wrong with it but an unusual seasoning. One of the dishes that people seemed to be lining up for was grilled skewered shrimp. There were four large shrimp with the shell split on a wooden skewer. I did not at first notice what the sign above them said and went back to the table with a skewer to try. The shrimp were not well cooked for grilled shrimp - moist but they could have been grilled more to give that grilled flavor. They tasted like they were seasoned with butter and lemon - which if that was the case would have been fine. But when I went back up to the counter the next time I read the sign and these grilled shrimp were Pineapple Chile grilled shrimp. Ok, but there was no taste of pineapple (or was that the lemon taste) and certainly no taste of chile - so now what should have been seasoned wasn't. Also up by the shrimp was fried codfish. I took a piece and it was fine. Nothing special but it was nicely batter breaded fish.

At the Italian area there was a large selection of pizzas. There was pepperoni, cheese, what looked like sausage, white pizza, and white pizza with broccoli. I took a slice of the cheese. The slice was about half the width of a street slice of NY pizza - thin but also a thin crust. The crust was disappointing. The pizza, itself, was nice. I know for a fact that Atlantic City knows what NY pizza is - the Boardwalk outside the casino is full of pizza stands selling real NY pizza. The crust on this pizza was flat. There was also a thick pizza. And when I went back I took a small square of that to try. This one was very dissappointing and perhaps was what they want to call Foccachia now instead of pizza. There was cheese and sauce on top but the dough was dried out - nothing like thick pizza that I have had anyplace before. I was sorry that I took that and not another slice of the thin pizza. Also at the Italian area was a pasta dish that looked like Penne ala Vodka. It was called penne something else. It tasted like penne ala vodka but without the vodka taste. There was also plain penne with a butter over it to keep it moist and a tray of Italian red sauce. There was another dish at the Italian area. It was macaroni and cheese with lobster and crab. I am not sure what this was doing in the Italian area but maybe because it was macaroni it some how fit. It was basic American mac and cheese with some lobster and crab meat chopped in - enough to stop any kid from taking their favorite mac and cheese.

The Chinese dishes consisted of General Tso's Chicken, Shrimp with Soy Beans, Shrimp Fried Rice, and Lo Mein. I tried the Lo Mein and it was not very good - not anywhere near what is found at every Asian buffet or restaurant. There was a large bowl of steamed dumplings and one sign above this single bowl that said Chicken Dumplings on top and then under that it said Fish Dumplings. All of the dumplings in the bowl looked the same - so which was which - and my wife who takes no chances on eating fish took none because she could not know if they were chicken or fish.

There was a desert bar behind the salad bar in the middle of the buffet area. There was hard ice cream scooped for you with a sundae bar. There was a very nice assortment of cakes and tarts and puddings. There was also a sugar free section at one end.

Our server was quick to take away our dirty plates and empty the shell bowl that was on each table - nicely providing shell crackers and cocktail fish forks along with a good supply of wet-naps. The server brings your drinks and she promptly took our soft drink order when we sat down and brought the drinks right away. But through the meal when my wife had emptied her soda glass, the server came and went and never refilled it. Several times with us sitting there she looked directly at the empty glass and before we could say anything was off somewhere else. It was not until the end of our meal when I finished my ice tea did she come over and ask me if I would like another - still ignoring my wife's empty soda glass. I had to tell her to bring both another soda and an ice tea or my wife would never have gotten a refill. You have to wonder about this and my wife later heard another diner complaining about this server to the manager.

Had this dinner cost the $20 that most other Atlantic City buffets cost would I have been so put off? Probably not, and it is not the extra money as long as you get value and a decent meal for that value. I have had better meals at Golden Corral and for under $10. After dinner we took a walk to a few other casino's to check out the prices of the buffets. All Friday night buffets and this was the highest priced. At what I consider still to be the best AC Casino Buffet - the buffet at Bally's Wild Wild West, the price was $20.99 and they too had a special feature which was Prime Rib. Plus there you get all of the international stations and the steaks. Value and the quality of the food means a lot. This was what was lacking here. With the sales tax and tip you are putting down almost $70 for a meal for two that offered little more than most $14.99 Chinese buffets that offer a raw bar and crab legs and lower priced chain restaurants.

I was so hoping to recommend this buffet to you all. I wish that I could but I can't.

The French Quarter Buffet is located on the Atlantic City Boardwalk in the Showboat/House of Blues Casino Hotel.Their website is listed at the side of this page. Parking at the casino is an additional $10 per day - one price no matter how long you stay in the garage for the day. If you have a casino comp card the parking is $5.00.

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