Friday, January 14, 2011

Minado Japanese Seafood Buffet, Carle Place, NY and Other Locations

It was time for our annual Office Christmas Party for Two once again and as we have for the past two years, the local Minado Japanese Seafood Buffet was at the top of the list. This year I was a little hesitant about going back - not because the restaurant is not wonderful - IT IS - but because with my recent diet restrictions I was not sure that I would enjoy this buffet as much if I could not indulge in many of my favorites. Silly me! While I am writing this, a good two hours since we finished this great meal I am still feeling stuffed. I had no problem at all at Minado finding things to fill my plate over and over again.

As those of you who are regular readers know, I have eaten in a lot of buffet restaurants. I have eaten in many really great buffet restaurants. The meals that I have had a Minado - and all together there have only been three including this one - are the ones that I have perhaps enjoyed the most. The reason for this is that they are the most unusual meals that I have eaten at buffets. The fact that I can only really afford to eat here once a year for a special occasion may also lend to that enjoyment. Of course, the excellence of the food adds to it too. Let's face it - most buffets - no matter how good - are basically serving the same types of things. Foods that have become "American" foods - even at specialized buffets such as Italian and Chinese. At least for me, the foods found are not "that" unusual. But at Minado, the food is Japanese, and judging by the numbers of Japanese or Asian people that fill this restaurant's tables, the food must be pretty close to authentic.

The first thing to be aware of is that Minado is expensive. Monday to Thursday dinner is $28.99. Weekends the dinner is $30.95. This price has gone up one dollar since two years ago when I first came. The weekend dinner actually went down one dollar. Lunch is less and $16.95 and $20.95 and I know several people who go for lunch and tell me that the meal is just the same. We save this restaurant for this "special" party for two. When I started working at home, sharing a home business office with my wife several years back she suggested that just because I no longer worked in a corporate environment did not mean that I could not enjoy a "company Christmas party" every year. We would go and have our own Office Christmas Party at someplace special. Three years ago we decided upon Minado and now it has become part of this tradition. So we splurge. Now I know that many of you can well afford this meal and do not see these prices as expensive - but I also know that many of my readers would. (If I still worked for the corporation, I might think this expensive either - but when each dollar earned is hard earned this is on the higher end of a meal price.) This is also the type of meal that you want to keep special.

So what is so special about Minado. It is the food and the variety of it. Of course, it is Japanese. There is an abundance of sushi and raw fish. There are Japanese prepared cold dishes and salads. There is a large assortment of Japanese hot entrees. There is a soup station including made to order udon noodle soup. There is an hibachi grill. There are hot appetizers off a chargrill. There is cold seafood including cold crab legs (there are also hot crab legs). There is a dessert bar. And there is a hot crepe station. And with all of this - there is a lot of it.

I eat things here that I do not eat anyplace else - that are not served anywhere else that I go. On this night I had the raw beef again - thin slices of raw beef marinated. Surprisingly it is very good - well, I like my steak rare anyway. The raw fish here is exceptionally fresh. The best raw tuna that I have ever had I have had here - and each time that I have come.

There are sushi chefs working behind the buffet server constantly making sushi and replacing the platters that are on ice as they empty. Interestingly - and I am not sure how to see this - the sushi chefs seem to be the only actually Japanese chefs that are out at the servers preparing food. Those at the grills and the soup station are Hispanic. Never the less, they are Hispanics who have been well taught to cook Japanese. Regardless, no matter who is cooking here, the food is great and as I say, there are a lot of Japanese people eating here.

Each platter or serving tray that is out is clearly labeled to what it is and what the ingredients in the dish are. This is excellent- especially with so many unfamiliar foods. Knowing what is in the dish makes taking something that you have never seen before or heard of much easier and with confidence that it will not be something that you will not care for. And you know to avoid things that for whatever reason you cannot eat.

Last year I commented that the food was spicier than the year before. I did not find that this year. Things that were supposed to be spicy were, but many things were just right to my palate.

At most buffets - including this one - I take a little of whatever I take to taste and if I want to get more of the same I do or continue taking different things on return trips up to the buffet tables. At this meal I took a little and went back for something different. As it turns out - I am stuffed. I must confess that there were a few things that I went back and took a little more of - the raw tuna, the raw tuna seared on the outside, the raw beef, and smoked salmon.

I waited toward the end of the meal to go to the Hibachi grill. Some of you may be familiar with the Japanese restaurants where the chef cooks at your table and grills meats and vegetable while tossing knives up in the air. This grill is just like that - without the knife tossing. You have a choice of beef, shrimp, or chicken (or all three or any combination) and you are asked if you would also like vegetables - onion, zucchini, and mushrooms. The meat is put on the grill to begin to cook. The vegetables are put on the grill alongside. The onion is a large, whole slice of onion. The chef turns the meat - I had beef (I always have beef) which was a good size steak - and as it cooks he begins to cut it into strips with one of those same ultra sharp and pointed knives that I have seen tossed and juggled in those other Japanese restaurants. The vegetables are cut up on the grill as well. All of this is seasoned and then a bit of soy sauce and a quantity of butter is put on top of the food. The food is tossed on the grill for the seasonings and the butter to mix thoroughly through. You are then asked for your plate and it is all scooped up from the grill and placed on your plate. You get it all and it overfills your plate. This alone would make a dinner meal in regular Japanese restaurants perhaps with some fried rice and/or noodles on the side - and for a price equivalent to this whole buffet meal. Here it is just another of your selections as you go through the buffet taking what you like. And, of course, you can go back to the Hibachi and start all over again. This is what filled me up. This entire plate of steak and vegetables was a lot to eat. It would have even been a lot had it been shared by two. I must say that I did not stop with the plate of Hibachi steak. Perhaps I should have, but I went back for some more sushi and raw fish - oh, and a half bowl of miso soup (just to taste it - nice). Yes, I broke one of the rules - and I ate too much. I knew it before that last plate and I went up for more anyway. When I walked out of the restaurant after the meal, I gave a groan - I ate too much!

There is a nice dessert bar with a variety of little cakes though these are better than the little cakes that are usually found at Asian buffets. There are also fresh fruits and jello. There is a soft serve machine with both vanilla ice cream and green tea ice cream. The green tea ice cream is much in demand here and everyone seems to have a large bowl full. Even though we both should not have eaten any - we each had a very small cup full. It is very refreshing.

For others like myself and my wife who eat a low carb diet due to Diabetes, there was no problem selecting things to eat. We did perhaps eat a bit more carbs than usual but after the meal our blood glucose test numbers were within proper range (my wife's better than mine). There was no problem getting the same raw fish with out rice that is used in the sushi rolls. I took several rolls and fish on rice and left over the rice and nothing was said about it. Some of the marinades may have sugar in them - some are sweeter than others but there was nothing that was not manageable. Anyone should have no problem finding something they will enjoy here - this is called a seafood buffet and the only seafood my wife will eat is shrimp - and she had no problem selecting things and she only had a little shrimp.

Service here is excellent. The server was continually walking up and down the aisle taking care of his tables, removing dishes, and asking if there was anything needed.

If you would like to read my two past reviews of this buffet - with more detail on the dishes that you will typically find - they do change from time to time - but are selected from a master menu- the start with this article. That article will have a link to the prior year's article which has the most detail in it.

Minado has five locations. One in New York (this one), one in Massachusetts, two in New Jersey, and one in Pennsylvania. They also run restaurants under the name Nori. The buffet that I have written about is located at 219 Glen Cove Rd, Carle Place, New York. Their telephone number is 516-294-9541. There is a website and the link is at the side of this page. Hours may always vary from location to location so check on the website before you go. On the website you will find details for all of the locations.

I highly recommend this buffet. If you want, save it for a special occasion as we do.

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