Friday, December 31, 2010

Closing out 2010

Reflecting back on 2010 in the world of buffet restaurants, I can say that there have been some great meals and some not so great meals. For awhile this year I was finding more not so great buffets than really good ones. I was beginning to think that all of you would start looking at me as the "buffet killer" with not such good things to say about the restaurants I was reporting on. I would go into a restaurant with high hopes and come out with a list of things that were wrong. It got to the point that I was desperate to find good things about a restaurant to write - even if the experience at the restaurant was not totally good. We would come out after dinner and I would say - "Oh boy, now I am writing another critical article." Well, I tell it as I experience it and it would not be fair to all of you who are plunking down your hard earned - and hard to come by - cash for a meal or an experience that is not good. Happily, as the year progressed the restaurants got better and the articles became positive again - as I would like them to be (if the restaurant measures up).

This past year saw the closing of a very promising buffet - Buffet Europa in New Jersey. This was a small, couple owned and operated buffet that was exceptionally excellent. All of my readers who went to try it agreed. The food was excellent. The value was very good. So what went wrong? Why did this little gem go out of business? There was never anyone there. The dining room was very small and at that was never filled. At best, when I would be there, there would be maybe five tables filled. It was not because of the food. The most likely explanation is the location. This restaurant was just off a main highway but back enough in a tiny shopping center that it blended in with the several take out restaurants that were next door. There was no way to know that this restaurant was there from the main road. I know that the owners tried. They had a good website and made an effort to advertise, but this was not enough - at least in this economy - and they did not get the people that they needed to stay in business. What a shame! I understand that the owners moved to another part of New Jersey and maybe someday in a much better location they will open another restaurant like Buffet Europa.

Thinking back on my best new find this year - at least new to me - I have to say that the Festival Buffet at Foxwoods Casino/Resort in Connecticut is the meal I am most looking to go back for. This was a fine meal and I am eager to try it on a non-weekend night to see how the meal compares to the one that I had there on a Friday night (when the emphasis was on seafood). If only a bridge would be built across Long Island Sound, I would become a regular at this buffet. In a straight line the buffet is maybe forty or less miles from me - but because of a large body of water between us, it is necessary to drive west and around New York City and then north to Connecticut and then parallel back east to where this buffet is located. A trip of several hours each way and with a ridiculous cost in tolls. I will be going back - and it cannot be too soon! (And as I have mentioned before - I don't gamble. I go to casinos to eat at buffets.)

I would like to wish all of my readers a very Happy New Year! I look forward to some new buffet adventures in 2011. And I hope that you will keep coming back to this site to come along with me!

Our Best Buffet of 2010 will appear next week.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Time for the Rules - Again

Every so often we need to bring the Rules of The Buffet back into the forefront. Partly for those who may not have looked back on the site and partly for those who just seem to forget. I have often thought of putting these on a small enough card to carry around and when in a buffet and seeing some of the most blatant offenses plopping it down on the table and saying - "Here you really need to read this."

Well, for those of you who follow these, accept this as just a reminder. For those who have never seen these before, perhaps you will be enlightened. As has been said before - most of these are just common sense and common manners. But oh how surprising it is to find the lack of common sense and proper manners when at a buffet.


1. All you can eat is not a challenge. It is an offer!

2. There is no limit to the number of times that you can go up and get food.

3. Take your food in courses - as you would be served if ordering from a menu.

4. Everyone must pay!

5. No food is permitted to be taken out of the restaurant.

6. Take only what you will eat - do not waste food.

7. For a more social meal, it is polite to wait for the others at the table to finish their plates and then go up together to get more.

8. Take a clean plate every time that you go up to the buffet tables.

9. If you put it on your plate, leave it there. Never return food to the serving tray.

10. Never eat at the buffet tables!

11. Children under 12 should not be going up to the buffet tables alone.

12. The buffet table is not a cafeteria line.

13. Tip the server.

14. Never take a serving piece from one item and use it for another item.

15. Never place your dirty plates on someone else's table.

16. Never use your silverware to serve yourself from the buffet trays.

17. Once you have gotten what you want, don't stand around the buffet tables. Move on back to your table.

18. Children should remain seated through the meal.

19. Do not fill community plates for the "table". Each should take their own plate of what they wish to eat.

20. If you cough or sneeze into your hand, please do not use that hand to pick up the serving utensils.

21. In the buffet, as in any restaurant, children (and adults) should use their inside voices.

22. Don't talk on your cell phone while you are getting your food at the buffet tables.

23. Never bring an animal into the buffet. (this is not referring to medical guide dogs)

24. Never put your hands into a serving tray.

25. Tell your children not to put their hands into a serving tray - and make sure that they do not!

26. Do not carry on a conversation throughout dinner with the people at the tables around you.

27. Do not put anything back into a serving tray that has dropped onto the serving counter - and never put anything back into a serving tray (whether from the counter or your dish) with your fingers.

28. Never put the serving utensil, whether it a spoon, fork, or tongs, up to your nose to smell the food that you have taken out of the serving tray.

29. Do not eat while walking with your plate back to your table.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Asian Buffet, Hicksville, NY - New Weekday Price

For a number of years I dined regularly at the Asian Buffet in Hicksville, New York. The buffet while I was going there had a change in owners and the price gradually increased to a point that it was simply not worth going there any longer. The last time that I wrote about Asian Buffet was in February, 2008. And it is possible that was the last time I was there as we had seen an ad that the price had even gone higher. A short while ago one of my readers left a comment on my original article on the Asian Buffet and said that the adult dinner price was now $8.99. I could not believe this and I called the restaurant. The dinner price - MONDAY to THURSDAY - is, in fact, $8.99. BUT Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the dinner price is $18.99. Yes, ten dollars more. I was told that on those nights they have lobster - and they always did and that was one of the reasons that the price had gone beyond reach. I really should get into this current review, but I need to say that the lobster should not tempt anyone at that price as you will need to rush before anyone else beats you to the tray for the small amount put out and you will not see lobster again brought out for an hour. This is as it always was at this buffet on nights that there is lobster.

Now, let's get to what you do get now for $8.99 as I have recently had dinner at Asian Buffet during a weeknight.

We went at about 7 pm on a Wednesday night. There were a number of people in the dining room. Several larger groups and a few couples. The tables have been changed in the dining room since my last visit and gone are the long, rectangular tables in the center of the dining room and they have been replaced by large round tables - that will seat six to eight. Smaller groups are seated in booths that have been here since this restaurant became a Chinese buffet two owners ago and many years back. The booths have cushions that have been worn down to nothing and sitting down I sunk in to the point that my chin was practically on the table - I am not tall but this is just about the worst booth cushion that I have sat on. As soon as I sat down I recalled that this was just like it had been in years past in other booths at this same restaurant. So despite the price reduction they really need to get some new foam upholstery in their booths.

On the side of the building there was a light up sign that said weekday dinners are $8.99. This sign appeared to be permanent. On the front door window there was a handwritten sign in marker that said "Special Tenth Anniversary Celebration Monday to Thursday, Dinner $8.99". That sign was not so permanent and the implication was neither was this price. Interestingly, the check that came out of the computer at the end of our meal was wrung up for two lunch buffets at $8.99. If they have not changed the computer to include this dinner price, is that another indication that this price is not long to remain?

We did not order beverages so I can not say what the price of soft drinks are. Water was fine for us. We started with the soup and there were three soups - wonton, egg drop, and hot and sour. I took the hot and sour and it was not too peppery but spicy which is good. Later during the meal I also tried the broth from the wonton soup and this was very good. Not salty and very nicely flavored.

There are several prepared Asian salads including two with octopus on the cold serving table, along with a tray of mixed greens and salad dressings, prepared deli-style salads, fruits, cold mussels, peel and eat shrimp, and sushi that was mostly salmon and a few vegetable sushi rolls.

At the hot buffet servers there was a broad variety of dishes and hot appetizers including dim sum, steamed shrimp dumplings, deep fried vegetable dumplings, pan friend dumplings, and a deep fried meat dumpling. The usual egg rolls and spring rolls were out on another server. There were also fried cheese wontons, chicken wings, hot dog pieces wrapped in roll dough, overly sweet sauced spare ribs and boneless ribs, and other oriental appetizers.

There was a large number of dishes containing chicken, shrimp, and beef. The problem that we had - BUT YOU WON'T HAVE - is that they are all in some form of sweet sauce. Everything was sweet and contained sugar. This is a problem for my low carb, Diabetic diet. I eat in Chinese buffets weekly and I have not had this problem anyplace. I had a hard time choosing what to eat as all was either in a sweet sauce or was fried with a heavy coating of flour. As I say, this would not be a problem for anyone not on any restricted diet - BUT if you are on a diet then you are going to have the same difficulty that I had (and I saw the resulting blood sugar reading later on after dinner). The food was very good and if I had not restrictions on what I could eat I would have gone to town here and really enjoyed this meal. There was plenty to choose from if you can eat sweet things or high carbohydrates. As it was I refrained from taking some of the carbs that I would usually take at a Chinese buffet such as a sampling of noodles because I knew that I was over doing it with the things that had a lot of sugar in the sauce that it was cooked in. I tried a crispy flounder - covered in a thick sweet sauce and the fish was very good. There was a steamed fish in ginger sauce - the fish was "Skate". I did not try this as the whole time that we were there only the bottom of the three pieces of fish that were in the tray was left, and when I have tried the bottom of steamed fish in the past I have not liked the texture. There was a "triple delight and vegetables" that was not sweet and very good but when I got to the tray there were plenty of vegetables but only one piece of chicken and two shrimp remaining in the tray. As the vegetables remained, they did not replace this dish in the hour and half that we were there. They did bring out more Lemon Chicken - lemon chicken is friend pieces of chicken with a sweet lemon sauce on the side. We both took the chicken and put no sauce on it. The chicken was thickly breaded and overcooked to the point that the chicken was hard. Perhaps with the sauce it would have softened. There were Chinese meatballs that were very good - but again they had a thin sweet sauce on them. There was orange beef, honey chicken, "Italian" chicken, General Tso chicken, sesame chicken, chicken and broccoli (also with a thin, sweet sauce), eggplant in garlic sauce, sauteed string beans, sauteed bokchoy, two dishes with calamari, fried shrimp, salt and pepper shrimp (with the heads on), fried rice, lo mein, and mei fun noodles. There were other dishes as well like scallion pancake and pizza. There was also an American section with a carve yourself turkey breast, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, fried whole fish, salmon, and baked clams. I had thought to myself that I would take the turkey breast and solve the sweet sauce problem but the turkey looked dry - even sliced into and I skipped that as well. I picked and choose and did not go home hungry, but concerned that I really over did the sugar in this meal (as did my wife). Again, something most would not even think about. (And I don't have much concern about in 99% of the buffets that I go to and you know that I go to a lot of buffets - to the point that in all of my articles until this one I don't even mention that I have restrictions to what I can eat.)

There is the same dessert section that there always has been - small squares of commercial cakes, cookies, and a soft serve ice cream machine.

For $8.99 - if you can eat sweet things - you cannot go wrong here. The food is good and there is plenty of it. As I said in the beginning of this article, the weekend price at ten dollars more is adding a taste of lobster (if you are lucky) and crab legs. This is certainly not worth $18.99. If you want a very inexpensive meal that is good, try this on a Monday to Thursday night.

Asian Buffet is located at 276 Old Country Road, Hicksville, New York. The phone number is (516) 433-6688. There is still no website.

Friday, December 10, 2010


This past June I published an article on this site about the Sunburst Buffet at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. What has made Mohegan Sun stand apart from most non-Las Vegas casinos is that it has had two buffet restaurants - Sunburst Buffet and Seasons Buffet. Before I go further let me say that since my visit this past summer, the Sunburst Buffet has closed. There is now only one buffet at Mohegan Sun and from what we could learn while there, the Sunburst Buffet will remain closed. It is no more...

While this was a surprise, it was not a disappointment, as you will understand if you read that article here from last June. We were heading for Connecticut again and the plan this trip was to have dinner at the Seasons Buffet at Mohegan Sun. Many of you must wonder why, when I place so much on value at buffets - do I go to so many casinos. Well, it is not for the gambling. I do not gamble. It is for the food - specifically for the buffet. Seasons has been at Mohegan Sun since the casino/resort complex first opened. It was always considered the lower priced buffet. It was considered the more basic buffet. Now that this is the only buffet at Mohegan Sun, it has borrowed a little of what had been at the Sunburst Buffet- a sample selection of items from the various menu restaurants in the complex. Let me start from the beginning so that you get the full flavor of this buffet.

The buffet is located just off of the floor of the Wolf Den casino - there are several casinos in the complex that closely resembles what a Native American theme park for adults would look like. You pay at the entrance way. The price of the buffet is $16.99 every day for lunch and dinner. There is also a breakfast buffet. Once you have paid you are directed down a short corridor where you are greeted by a hostess who escorts you to your table. The dinner room is large and the buffet serving area fills around the rear wall. The buffet is set up with two sides - both a mirror image of the other and when in full operation both sides serving the same things to accommodate the crowd. Since we were there in November on a weeknight, only half was in operation with the exception of the dessert area which was doubled (and serving the same desserts on both sides.

As always we start with soup and there were two soups. One was Manhattan Clam Chowder (the red clam chowder and interestingly unusual to find in a New England state). The other was something labeled Persian Meatball soup. Of course, I had to try that. As I was ladling it into my cup it looked very much like mushroom barley soup. When I got it back to the table and really could get a good look at it, it looked even more like mushroom barley soup. And that is exactly what it was. No meatballs - nothing Persian. I was minor-ly disappointed, but I do like mushroom barley soup and this one was good. I also went back for a cup of the clam chowder. The clam chowder was full of clam pieces with potatoes and peppers and onions in a thin red broth. The soup was spicy to the taste - the proper Manhattan Clam Chowder spices and herbs but perhaps a bit more seasoned than necessary - yet, again it was good even if my lips burned a bit.

We moved on to the salad bar. The salad bar was small, both in size and what it had to offer. It is split in half by a new cook to order pasta station in the middle of the two salad bar sides. There were three types of lettuce/greens. There were several toppings. The dressings were not labeled except for the Ranch and that was with a serving spoon that said "Ranch" on it. You could guess what the others were - orange color equals French, but then there were several cream color ones and one that may or may not have been creamy Caesar. My intention had been to create a Caesar Salad - but I was taking no chances and the only one to ask was the pasta chef who was very involved with a skillet making pasta dishes to order. So I took the Ranch and moved on. The other side of the pasta station, the salad bar continued with a few prepared salads which included cole slaw, pasta salad, and a very good mozzarella cheese salad with Mediterranean olives. I took some of the cheese and olive salad. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Greek black olives were pitted. The cheese consisted of small braided balls of mozzarella and were nicely fresh. I came back for more of that later on.

Before selecting my first entrees I took a walk along the buffet servers to see what there was. The first server was a flat grill and there were hotdogs cooking. A sign said Nathan's hot dogs. Those from the Northeast - and others with these hot dogs now sold in supermarkets - know that Nathan's Famous is the original Coney Island hot dog. It made the hot dog famous. The hot dogs being grilled at this buffet were the commercial variety of Nathans - in other words - what you find in the supermarkets - which are slightly different than the "real" Nathans sold at their restaurants. For $17, many do not want to eat hot dogs but I was not the only person getting a hot dog - complete with toppings for you to add yourself and served on a bun. I skipped the bun - I like hot dogs. During the meal I had two. Along the line there were buffalo wings, a carving station with roast loin of pork, a large steamship round of beef, and turkey breast, an area with Chinese dishes including sweet and sour chicken, shrimp and vegetable lo mein, and fried rice, an area with two large, square, thick pizzas - one cheese pizza and a white and spinach pizza, and then there were a row of hot chafing servers. Here there was garlic mashed potatoes, a Sicilian vegetable stew, fish Florentine, Pasta Carbonara, vegetables, macaroni and cheese, and more. Along the way there were baked beans, sauteed onions, and sauteed mushrooms. There was also an area with a variety of gravies to top the carvings. Of course, as mentioned, there was also the Pasta Station where you select the type of pasta and sauce and could add a variety of meats such as chicken and ham to your pasta dish. A chef was there cooking to your order. As everything here was made to your specification there was a short line leading up to the chef. On a crowded night this line could be much longer - though there is a second pasta station when the whole buffet serving area is open.

There was plenty to eat and it was good, solid food to choose from. At first it did not give the appearance that there was a lot to choose from. In fact I heard several people when first walking through make a comment that there was not a lot being offered for $17.00, but really there was and what is more - and what I could not say about the former Sunburst Buffet - the food was really good.

I always do a tasting selection - a little of everything of what I like and then go back for more of what I really enjoyed. The steamship round of beef is a large roast beef that has been cooked to offer a variety of doneness to the beef. I wanted rare and the carver carved me a slice from a section that was rare. Others asked for well done and medium and that was there too. The portions were generous and my wife had to tell the carver to give her less turkey than he was offering.

I tried the fish Florentine - what must have been flounder in a cream sauce with spinach garnish. The fish was a bit dry and while the sauce was tasty it did not add enough to the fish. This was the only dish that I passed up on when I returned. I also tried the Pasta Carbonara which was good. This is Pasta coal miners style. When I have had it in the past it usually is pasta in tomato sauce with bacon tossed with beaten eggs and cheese. Here it was not bacon but a chopped meat finding its way into the ear-shaped pasta in a thickened red sauce which did have cheese mixed in and I am sure beaten egg as well. The taste was good and it tempted me back for more.

The one dish that both my picky eater wife and I enjoyed a lot was the Sicilian Vegetable Stew. What looked like chunks of potatoes were actually yellow squash. There was also green squash, onions, and peppers in a spicy red sauce. The sauce was wonderful and we kept trying to guess what was in it (my wife thought she would like to try making this at home - it was that good). We both enjoyed this dish very much.

Over at the dessert area there were also biscuits and rolls to have with your meal. The dessert area was extensive and there was also a section with sugar free cakes, pies, and muffins. Of the regular desserts there were fresh strawberries with whipped cream near by to mound on top, puddings, bread pudding, jello, cakes, pies, cheesecake, and vanilla and chocolate soft-serve frozen yogurt. Over by the salad bar there were also trays of fresh fruits. Everything was tempting.

We both had a filling and satisfying meal. There was nothing that I would say that was missing from this buffet. It was not "fancy" as some casino buffets try to be, nor was it plain.

The meal includes soft drinks (which are refilled by your server) and you are offered coffee or tea with dessert (or more soft drinks if you prefer). We had a very good server who cleared dishes each time we left the table to get more and she offered refills of our drinks without our looking for her to ask for them. This was very different from our server at Sunburst.

What we were able to learn is that Sunburst will not reopen BUT this buffet - Seasons - will temporarily move into the space that Sunburst had been in - along with all of the Seasons staff, menu, and chefs, while the Seasons room gets some renovation, particularly the addition of rest rooms inside the dining room (now you have to leave the restaurant and use the restrooms near the casino. Once complete, Seasons Buffet will move back to where it is now. We could not find out when this will happen other than "soon".

It is important to note for those with children that there is a children's price - $9.43 - and that this casino complex is laid out so that children can move around all of the complex without entering a casino area. There is no problem bringing a child to get to the buffet. The complex includes a shopping mall and a children's game area. (Plus a crystal glass mountain and waterfall, and a wall of water.

I very much recommend Seasons Buffet at the Mohegan Sun Casino/Resort in Uncasville, Connecticut. Go and enjoy. If you gamble, you will enjoy that too - and there are FREE concerts in the middle of the Wolf Den casino with some big names on Friday and Saturday nights. There are free concerts every night but the names were not as big.

There is a web page listed at the side of this page for Seasons Buffet.

Friday, December 03, 2010

D.J.'s International Buffet - One more time...

It has been almost a year since I have written about D.J.'s International Buffet in Garden City, New York. I have been there several times since my last article but I thought that I would come back now and let you know how things are.

The rebirth of this buffet had a bumpy start several years ago when it closed for renovations and reopened sometime later as much less of its former self. It had been a favorite of many. It took a few years to get it back to speed and now it is close to its former glory.

This is a large Asian buffet with a mix of foods from Asian to Italian. The price is not inexpensive - $24.99 per adult on the weekend (Friday through Sunday) with an additional $1.25 for unlimited fountain soft drinks. Monday through Thursday dinner is $17.99. This is one of the most expensive Asian buffets in the area. The meal is extensive and the food is good so the price is justified - NOW - for what you are paying. But for some of us, this is not something that is affordable every week, and I reserve this for dinners when I want something special.

The sushi bar is now extensive. There is a long sushi bar with sushi chefs standing behind the bar and preparing fresh sushi as needed. I have seen people request special rolls and sushi and it has been made for them. There is a large assortment already out and there is a nice variety of raw fish just on its own without rice or in a roll. I like their seared tuna. I like many of the sushi that they have to offer and some of it is labeled as to what it is. The chefs will tell you what something is if you don't recognize it.

There are several soups. The lobster bisque is good but it varies - it should be thick. It has been thick and thin. The taste is there regardless and there are small pieces of lobster in the salmon color red broth. Of course, there are the usual Chinese soups, clam chowder, and on this night, Italian Wedding Soup.

The salad bar is sparse. There is a little assortment, but if you want to fix a green salad there is enough there. There is also a crock of mixed black and green Mediterranean olives. These fit in with the international fare.

The dumpling selection varies but there are several to choose from and away from the steam table and on the nearest hot buffet table there are fried dumplings as well. Next to the dumplings there are grilled meats on skewers - nicely seasoned chicken and also nicely seasoned beef. There are also shrimp and sausage sticks.

There is also an assortment of cold seafood including shrimp, salmon, clams on the half shell, raw oysters, and half cold crabs. Some may recall the large, already peeled shrimp from the old days - now the shrimp is in the shell. There have also been on occasion cold crab legs here - in addition to the hot crab legs on the buffet server.

They have entrees that range from American to Italian, to Chinese - with a little bit of mix in between. The are often some unusual dishes included and each time I come there are a few changing and different dishes. This night there was beef stew, small chicken pot pies, and a Chinese sausage and tofu dish. I tried the beef stew which was tasty but grizzly and the Chinese sausage and tofu. There were no longer pieces of sausage left in the serving bowl. There were two pieces of tofu which I found turning the contents over several times with the serving spoon. They came up from the bottom and I took one of them. The rest of the dish was bean pods, sliced water chestnuts, sliced carrots, and onion. It was in a mild and thin brown sauce. The taste was very good. I really wanted to try Chinese sausage but the serving bowl remained the same for the rest of the evening - half full but with all of the sausage and the tofu taken out. There was plenty more to take so other than a minor disappointment of not finding what was a surprise to find in the first place, it did not matter much.

One of the big draws here are the crab legs served every night and the lobster in ginger sauce which is served only on the weekend dinners. The lobster is cut up into chunks. Depending on who is dining and the crowd you will get lobster easily or you will stand in a line waiting for a new tray to come out which will be descended upon by those in line and if you are lucky there will be pieces worth taking when you get up to your turn. They do regularly refill the lobster so it is likely that if you keep an eye on that part of the buffet you may just get to be the first on line. There are also nights without much of a crowd - or later on any one of the nights - where you can walk right up to the tray and take your pick. I find it interesting that the most meaty part of the lobster - the tails - are not always taken first, and if you move the pieces around in the tray with the serving tongs you will find sections of tail with large chunks of lobster meat.

If you feel that you would like even more then there are two carvings - Peking duck and Prime Rib of Beef. These are over by the grill and the dumplings.

Dessert offers an interesting assortment of fresh fruit, puddings, a large flan full of custard and covered in melted sugar, hard ice cream that you serve yourself from a freezer chest, and a large assortment of the little cake squares that are found at most Asian buffets. I call these "Little Debbie" cakes because they are the size and quality of the cakes by that name found in supermarkets in the snack cake aisle. Just in case you want something different for dessert they now are making - over at the grill - made to order hot crepes filled with your choice of filling and covered in gobs of whipped cream.

There is enough to eat. The food is good. Something I did not say when they first reopened. If you don't mind spending a little more then this is a good choice. I know readers that have traveled several states to come here - mostly for the lobster - that is a lot of gas to use and pay for to get lobsters. But, nevertheless, they have come and come back.

D.J.'s International Buffet is located at 1100 Stewart Avenue in Garden City, New York. Their phone number is 516-227-2472. The hours of the restaurant are Lunch Monday to Friday, 11:00am to 3:00pm;Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11:30am to 3:00pm; Dinner Monday to Thursday, 4:00pm to 10:00pm, Friday to Sunday, 4:00pm to 10:00pm. There is still no website.