Friday, August 19, 2011

Coming Back to Golden Buffet, Centereach, New York

It has been about two years since I last went to the Golden Buffet in the village of Centereach on Long Island in the state of New York. Chinese/Asian buffets on Long Island are becoming scarce. There are just a handful left. This one is a distance from me but we had nothing special to do on a Saturday night, had been shopping during the day near to this buffet and we decided to go back.

When I last wrote about Golden Buffet in 2009, I gave it a mixed review. Read that article if you would like to see how I felt then. That had been my second visit and my first review in 2006 had been better. Things were better on this visit.

One thing that is different (though not really better) is that the price has gone up (haven't they all?). Dinner on the weekend is now $14.99 - that is $2 per adult more. The weeknight dinner price is now $12.99 - a dollar increase. I actually hesitated before walking in at that price. Not that it is particularly high, but I was not sure the dinner here was worth that price from my recollection of my last visit. This price is pretty much ball park for other Chinese buffets on the weekend around here, as long as the meal is good. I decided what the heck and we went in.

As I have described before this restaurant is located inside an indoor strip mall that is mostly vacant of businesses. There is an eye glass store across the way inside from the restaurants doors. There does not seem to be anything else open inside. This is exactly as this has been since I first went to this restaurant in 2006. Business is not good for indoor strip malls out there. The outside of the entire restaurant is visible from the parking lot and you see the sign and the windows for this restaurant outside in the parking lot. The entrance door is just inside the empty mall.

The restaurant is a large, bright, airy room with nice decor. My wife commented on how nice the large, brass chandeliers are. This is a large restaurant and there is a party room at the back that is in a separate room, closed off from the rest of the restaurant by a door. There was a birthday party going on in there on this night. For a Saturday night in the summer the restaurant was crowded - which is always a good thing. I noticed that there were a number of Asian people eating at the restaurant which is a very good sign when it comes to an Chinese/Asian restaurant. I noted this in 2009 as well. While there were plenty of people dining, we were taken to a table immediately when we went in and there was no crowd to fight at the buffet servers.

I will not describe the layout of the buffet again. You can read my earlier articles for that. It remains exactly the same. We gave the server our drink orders - lately we have been having just ice water at some of the buffets that we go to. It saves a little money and we can have soft drinks at home. We went up to the buffet.

As usual for us, we start with soup. My wife took the wonton soup and I made a mix of the hot and sour soup and the egg drop soup. There was also a chicken soup with vegetables. I tend to mix the hot and sour soup with either broth from the wonton soup or egg drop soup as I prefer my hot and sour soup mildly spiced. This one was not overwhelmingly spiced hot and probably would have been fine as it is. It had a nice blend of the correct vegetables mixed in with plenty of tofu and whole petals - I don't really know what these are but they appear to be flower petals and they very well may be - and they are always good. Before I mixed it, the hot and sour soup was a light brown in color rather than the more common deep red/brown. I enjoyed this hot and sour soup more than I have others that I have had recently at other Chinese buffets.

After the soup, my wife went for dumplings - there were two types - a steamed meat dumpling and a steamed "dim sum" cup filled with dense, chopped meat. I took one each of those later and they were both good, and I usually don't care much for the "dim sum" cup style dumpling as they tend to be too intense in flavor. Here this was very nice. I went first for the sushi bar.

And entire wall is filled with a sushi bar. There was a sushi chef there refilling plates of rolls and sushi as their contents were taken. There was a good variety of slices of rolls and four different types of fish on top of rice. At the side there was a tray of soy sauce, a tray of wasabi, and a tray of spicy mayo. I like spicy mayo and have had it served on the side at only one other Chinese buffet. This one was slightly milder than what I have had before, but that was good as it did not overwhelm the fish. On this plate I also took some peel and eat shrimp. They were good size, cold, and fresh. There was a tray of raw clams on the half shell and raw oysters. There was another tray of cold mussels. I went to take some oysters and there were none left when i went up. These were not replaced during the meal while we were there. Hot crab legs were out on the hot server and these went quickly. They were not replaced as quickly as they might have been - but the man at the table behind us made a comment to the server that there were no crab legs and a dish of them was brought out to him at his table.

It appeared to me that everything was refilled other than the oysters and the delay in the crab legs- and when those did come out they were not snow crab any longer but rock crab claws. It may have just been a busy day for crab legs. One tray that was labeled roast pork was empty and later was replaced with roast beef. That is an equal substitute and fine.

One of the problems on my last visit was that some of the dishes were left to dry out. Nothing here on this night was drying out. Everything was, as I say, "well tended". Most things were gone and replaced so regularly that they could not dry out. While we were there the steamed flounder was replaced twice.

This brings me to the steamed flounder. I wrote about this before and it is worth repeating. This is the best Chinese buffet steamed flounder that I have had. This is a thick fillet of flounder - NO bones. It is steamed and served in a brown, light ginger sauce. The fish is tasty. The sauce is tasty - spoon some from the serving tray on top of what you take. And there are no bones! There also is no fish skin which some may like, but I don't enjoy. I took this on two trips up to the buffet server.

This is nothing to do with this particular Chinese buffet but the dishes need to vary a bit at Chinese buffets. There seem to be the same standards at everyone that I go to - chicken with broccoli, beef with broccoli (or peppers - same sauce), General Tso chicken, crab in cheese sauce, and so on. Yes, those were all here. There was one dish labeled Shrimp with Zucchini which seemed like a pleasant diversion and I took some of that - but while there was shrimp (and some fake crab legs) in a nice, thick sauce with small pieces of red and green peppers and some onion - there was no zucchini. My wife and I were both enticed to try this - and both of us commented that there was no zucchini, but we both agreed that it was good - and different - any way. I also took a shrimp that had a stuffing mounded on top and baked and that was good - and not overly greasy as other similar that I have had at other buffets. I took some lo mein and that was very good as well. My wife tried the fried rice and she said it was good.

In my last article I commented on the egg roll. I tried one here again and it was better. It is still small - the usual Chinese buffet sized egg roll, but it was nicely filled and the shredded vegetables inside had a nice taste. I thought that I was tasting mustard - and I had the thought as I was eating it that it tasted like good egg rolls that I have had in the past. That mustard taste may have been mustard greens shredded into the filling - and it gave this egg roll just the right taste. Now, these are nothing to run right out and try - but they are better than they were in 2009.

Overall the food was very good. I was a bit concerned that there may have been more sugar/sweetener used in some of the dishes than was necessary. Nothing was overly sweet but several things tended toward the sweet side of taste. As it was, it all turned out to be not too sweet.

For our dessert lovers, there was nothing special here. There were two of the usual small Chinese buffet little pieces of cake. One with a sugar icing and another a sliced roll with sugar cream filling. There was a lot of fresh fruit - orange wedges, watermelon (it is the season), cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and pieces of fresh mango. There was red and green jello. There was chocolate pudding. There was marshmallows mixed with fruit salad - salad. There was also a soft serve machine with vanilla ice cream. With your check you get a fortune cookie.

Now. Was everything wonderful? Well, not everything. The service was not up to what it had been on my last two visits. There were a number of women taking care of the tables. When we would get up to get another plate of food, the used plates on our table would not be there when we returned. All good. But no one ever came to our table to ask if we would like more water. My glass was empty and my wife's glass was less than half full. It was water with ice - nothing that costs them anything to bring - but no one was coming to refill the glasses. And they were running around to other tables - such that you could not even get their attention - and refilling soda and drinks at those other tables. So this tells me something - we did not order and pay extra for soft drinks. We were not getting any attention in regard to refilling our glasses. This annoyed me and it was reflected in the tip that I left. As I said at the beginning - we have ordered water at other Chinese/Asian buffets and we have always had servers come and ask to fill the glasses or just take the glasses and fill them. When we were done eating and she came by to take the plate that was in front of me, she asked THEN - would you like more water. By then it was too late. Not to end on a sour note but the dinner cost enough to pay full attention to every table regardless of what extras are ordered.

Would I go back to Golden Buffet? Yes. Do I recommend that you go there if you are in this area? Yes. The food was good. There was plenty to choose from and after my initial hesitation going in about the price, there was value for what you are getting. Try it.

Golden Buffet is located at 1973 Middle Country Road in Centereach, NY. This is in the same shopping center on Route 25 as Walmart so it is not hard to find. There is no website. The phone number is 631-588-5188.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The workers here RUINED my baby shower!!! My "host" got a personal phone call on his cell phone and started to scream in Chinese so loudly we could all hear here over the music in the private party room. He scared the little kids that attended my shower and they did nothing about it. My GUESTS had to go up to him several times to ask him to take it somewhere else. My guests and I had to ask him several times to bring drinks and he kept forgetting several people. I was just going to let all of this go until he did the most bizarre thing I have ever seen. While I was opening my gifts (I still had an hour left of the party at this point and was half way through them) he decides to HELP ME open MY gifts!! While all my guests are seated around me watching, taking videos and photographs. So now I have this guy in my photos opening my gifts! What a great keepsake to look back on! At the end of the party when they presented me my bill I saw that the "gratuity" was added to it. I then went up to the front to ask for a manager or owner. When I had told her the circumstances of her employee and the things he had done she told me she spoke to him about the phone call and told him not to do that anymore. I couldn't believe it! So I am supposed to be satisfied that he was spoken to like a child?! I also mentioned how I felt I was being rushed out and was very upset about him unwrapping my gifts. Her response was that he was trying to help me to be nice and if I didn't want the help I should have told him to go away. I should have told him to go away?! I felt like I was at a daycare center not my baby shower!!! If he doesn't know how to behave he shouldn't be working!!! I told her I wanted his tip back because I did not feel he deserved it and she refused. She also started smirking and laughing at me because I was crying. I'm 8 months pregnant, my shower was ruined by this guy, and obviously I am super emotional! I couldn't help but cry! At that point I lost my cool and called her a b**** and walked away. My best friend then said to her this is not right the way she is being treated she is a high risk pregnancy and has a heart condition, you can cause her to go into early labor! You should really apologize and give her his tip back. She then says to her in a nasty attitude she is lucky I even allowed her to have her party, she was supposed to have 35 people and she is 2 short. UNBELIEVABLE! My friends mother has cancer and got very ill that morning so last minute they were not able to make it! So I was 2 people short. Does she know this or care to even ask?! NOPE! They money they "lost" from the two less people was $24, less than his undeserved $30 tip! IF none of this would have happened I would have even paid for the 2 that were absent! But with the way I was treated I did not even want to pay my entire bill let alone 2 people!!! In the end she offered me half his tip and I turned it down. I wanted his whole tip because he did NOTHING to earn it! I will never go back here again and I suggest everyone else does the same!!! WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE!!!!!