Friday, July 15, 2011

Pan Seared Seafood at Golden Corral - New Feature

I was near Philadelphia, PA on business and decided that I would go back to the Golden Corral in Bensalem, PA and look closely over the dessert selections so that I could tell the readers who were disappointed in my last Golden Corral article that I did not make a big deal about the dessert selections there all about what you will find at Golden Corral for dessert. I also was looking forward to enjoying their rib feature again. It is very rare that I am somewhere that has a Golden Corral restaurant.

We got to the Golden Corral and to my surprise - and at first, disappointment that the rib feature had ended - and this was the first day of a new feature - Pan Seared Seafood - made to order at the grill. Interesting... Well, I would have more to write about.

I am not going to go into the details of this buffet or the location. I did that in my last article just a short time ago. You can read all about it there. What I do want to tell you about is this new feature - and like all other features at Golden Corral it is only at the restaurants for a limited time. And this feature is with dinner only. It is not available at lunch. This is an unusual feature as it is based completely at the grill and each dish is made to order for you. There are nine choices - and here is how it works (according to the sign at the grill). First, you select your fish - shrimp, scallops, or talapia fish. Next you select your "base" - what the fish will sit upon. You have a choice of white rice, linguine, or mixed sauteed vegetables. Finally, you select your sauce - and there are three of those - scampi sauce, spicy Alfredo sauce, or lemon picata. You step up to the grill - where the steaks are cooked and tell the chef your choices. The chef has three pans of seafood bubbling away next to him on the grill - shrimp, scallops, and talapia. The chef then takes a scoop of ONE of the seafood - shrimp, scallops, or talapia - BUT NOT a combination of them - "ONLY ONE" - and places it into another dry fry pan on the griddle and adds a bit of liquid butter or butter like sauce. The chef then lets your order saute. There are places for two pans to cook at the same time - so expect a bit of a wait if there is a crowd. While your seafood is "pan searing" you are asked what base and what sauce. You can leave any of these out if you wish. Why did I emphasize above ONLY ONE - because I made the mistake of asking for shrimp and scallops and was told rather firmly that you can have only one at a time and if you want more you need to come back. Again, this was the first day and the two chefs who were alternately working this new feature at the grill were both commenting that this was all new to them and they were not quite getting the process easily down yet. So perhaps, this only one business was just the rule of this chef to avoid his confusion - and then again, maybe not.

I went up to see what I would like to try on this new feature. I had decided on shrimp and scallops and as you see, that idea was shot down pretty quickly so I said that I wanted scallops. I did not want linguine right then. I have a problem eating rice. And when I looked at the tray of sauteed vegetables they looked extremely oily in the pan. I decided at that point that I would pass on those. I had thought that I would put my own sauce on top. The rice, linguine, mixed vegetables, and all three sauces are in the serving trays that face out to the public on the serving counter next to the grill and have serving utensils like all of the other buffet trays. In fact I was surprised that the chef had to assemble this all for you as I figured that you could get the seafood and assemble it yourself - BUT NO - the chef, here at least on this first night, had to do it all for you. I had thought that I would take my own sauce and try the lemon picata, but I had already had been handed the plate with several "seared" scallops and I did not dare touch the sauce spoon. :) By this time the spicy Alfredo sauce had run out - it must have been very popular as our server at our table had recommended that we try it. My first thought as I walked away from the grill with my plate was "Too many rules with this feature". What is the difference if you have one or all three seafood selections at the same time - it is a buffet and you will take more anyway. What is the difference if you take the "base" or sauce yourself- it is easily accessible from the front of the counter in serving trays situated to serve yourself as with all of the other buffet trays.

I got a few other things from the buffet to add to the scallops and went back to the table. They were fine. What had gone into the pan as scallops a little bigger than the size of a nickel came out smaller than the size of a dime. There were maybe nine or ten. They were not the best scallops that I have ever had but they were not bad.

Later, I went back to try the shrimp. As I walked up to the grill I decided that I would try it this time all the way - shrimp, sauteed vegetables - oily and all, and lemon picata sauce. When it was my turn to order, the same chef said to me "I know you only want the seafood - nothing else." I told him that this time I would try it all and he seemed delighted. He seared a pan of about eight small shrimp, scooped some of the mixed vegetables onto my plate and then spooned the lemon picata sauce on top of the vegetables. This was what he did with all of the sauces - they went on before the seafood despite the pictures on the wall showing the seafood and the "base" covered in sauce. I took my plate back to the table.

I have to tell you that this combination was very good. The lemon picata sauce had capers in it. The mixed vegetables were artichoke heart leaves, red peppers, and zucchini. All together they blended in a great tasting dish. I was impressed. This was probably one of the better tasting seafood dishes that I have had at any buffet. I went back again to do the same thing all over again but this time with scallops.

OK - for those who keep saying how can I eat so much - I don't eat so much. The serving size of these featured dishes are about the size of a typical side dish serving. You are not getting a plateful with this. When I eat at buffets, I eat a sampling of things - not whole portions. This feature is portioned out by the chef and he is not filling your plate. You can always go back for more.

Anyway, the scallops were just as good with the vegetable and lemon picata sauce as the shrimp - perhaps even better! I did not try the scampi sauce - it is garlic and butter and not different from any other scampi sauce. There was no more spicy Alfredo sauce. And I did not try the talapia. I have to tell you a little that I know about talapia. It is popular in restaurants because it is a mild tasting white flaky fish that is a less expensive substitute for flounder. What I have read - and don't debate me on this if you think differently - is that FARM raised talapia does not have the same omega health benefits as other fish and what it does have for some reason, some how takes away the benefits from you that other healthy types of fish give you. I like talapia. I used to order it a lot. I don't order it often any longer because of what I have read about it. Here is just one such article. I did not write it - I am just passing the information along.

Before I go on to the desserts, I give the new feature at Golden Corral a BIG thumbs up!

Now, the desserts. I wish that I could tell you that they had wonderful desserts at Golden Corral, but there really was nothing here worth boasting about. The best of the desserts was the soft ice cream and sundae bar and if you are into sundaes or ice cream cones, then there is a nice selection of four flavors (two machines) and a lot of sauces and toppings. As to cakes - there were two cakes - carrot cake and what they called German chocolate cake. German Chocolate cake usually has a light chocolate frosting - theirs had a hard dark chocolate frosting. There was also a sugar free Mocha cake. There was blueberry pie and the sign said apple pie but no apple pie was to be seen. There were chocolate covered macaroons. There was a fruit filled cookie bar and a chocolate filled cookie bar. There was diet chocolate pudding and diet jello. There were three different hot fruit cobblers and one overly gooey chocolate cobbler - the fruit cobblers were more appealing. There was a sign that said vanilla cupcakes and I have had Golden Corral's cupcakes in the past and they generally are good. There was also a banana pudding. Nothing looked wonderful- except the ice cream.

I went over to the salad bar to look for fresh fruit. Behind the salad bar is a whole display of fresh oranges, lemons, and watermelons. There were no oranges on the buffet server and the watermelon server was empty. A young boy came up looking for watermelon and asked the man behind the counter for some. One piece was placed into the serving bowl for him - and that was it. Others came up looking for it, now found no one to ask, and walked away.

A few don't believe me when I say that so often the desserts are not worth telling you about - and when there are great desserts you hear it from me. If you go to Golden Corral for the desserts you are going to be disappointed.

Before I close, I want to comment about the choices at Golden Corral and I like Golden Corral very much - it may just be the best of the remaining chain buffet restaurants. There is not a lot of choices at Golden Corral if you want to eat plain or low fat. Most vegetables are seasoned or are in some form of sauce. The meats are beef, pork, or chicken - and only the rotisserie chicken and the cold chicken breast strips on the salad bar are not fried or highly seasoned. There are no carvings. There were at one time but not any more. This is a high fat selection buffet. My wife does not like Golden Corral because it is hard for her to choose what to eat there. She does eat low fat and likes plain things. She winds up eating the cold chicken from the salad bar and salad selections for most of her meal. So if you are not a meat eater and you are one who wants to eat lower fat foods this is not the place for you. Even this new feature has butter in everything and the seafood was cooked twice in butter (or some type of butter sauce).

So - pan seared seafood feature - Yeah!
Desserts - hardly worth the calories.


Antoinetta said...

Great article. We really appreciate the dessert descriptions as we really are attracted to the dessert selections, and even if they are not so good or mediocre, we want to know about it before (or if) we go. That way we know what to expect, or not go at all. My husband and brother-in-law are restricted as to eating meat or shellfish. Thank you!

A R Hawkins said...

Clearly all GC's are created differently. Here in Atlanta, all of our GC's have a ton of great desserts and many have a separate cake/pie cooler with more. I'm planning on going there tonight but fear about the wait I may have to endure. I don't think made to order was the way to go. It may keep cost down but I see a lot of unhappy patrons.