Friday, September 30, 2011


For many years until several years ago, the Williamsburg Lodge, a hotel owned and operated by Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia served a spectacular seafood buffet in its restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights. I wrote about missing this buffet once it was gone way back in 2006. I was very excited to learn that this buffet was brought back to the Lodge this year on Friday nights. When I made plans to return to this area after my own three year absence I was very excited to have this meal once again - and I looked forward to it with great anticipation. Sometimes, anticipation is much better than the actual event, and perhaps this one time spectacular meal should have been left as a memory.

The Williamsburg Lodge in the past few years was completely renovated. It appears as if the old building was taken down and a new building put up - but in actuality the renovations were done around the former building and some of the original building is there. We made reservations for the Seafood Feast when we arrived in the area. There was little that I was able to learn about it in advance other than the price and that it was "back". We arrived for dinner and searched through the "new" hotel looking for the restaurant. What we found was very different from the large dining room that we remembered.

Over the years everything changes. The room was certainly not the same. The once brightly lit, ballroom type dining room was now a dark, wood paneled room - still very fancy but in a more masculine style - I guess, this is the "Lodge" and woodsy lodge comes to mind to describe this new dining room. Instead of a large room at the rear hosting a buffet laid out in chaffing dishes and serving pieces on tables, there was now a counter built for serving that went around the rear of the dining room and along one side. We were seated at a table near the serving area and the woman who would be our server came over to greet us. She was quick to hand us two wine lists and describe the specials - which were wines and beers being served. She then left and did not return for awhile, never asking if we would like to order a beverage of any kind. We each had a small glass tumbler of ice water that was brought to the table as we sat down. I had intended to order an ice tea, but that never happened.

We went up to the serving area and over to the soup tureen. There was just one soup - the sign said it was Sweet Corn Chowder. This was a thin soup that was more like a broth than a chowder with corn in it. The soup was tasty, but not at all what I would have expected for corn chowder. One of Colonial Williamsburg's historic tavern restaurants serves a corn chowder that is nothing like this. That corn chowder is a thick cream corn chowder. I had expected when I saw the sign that this would be that -as way back in the past - this seafood buffet would serve several dishes that were featured in the Colonial Williamsburg tavern restaurants - but no, that is not so any longer, and this was a very different corn chowder. The soup was good - but not what was anticipated. It was also a surprise that this was not a fish soup to go along with the seafood theme of the buffet.

Anticipation played a very large role in my feelings for this meal. Yes, things change - but some things should not be presented as if they are the same - there are reasons that I say this - and then be very different.

Since my good wife does not eat corn for her own reasons, she passed the soup and went to the salad first - and then walked away from the salad area with an empty plate. She is the first to admit that she is a picky eater and she likes things plain. She does not like dressings and eats her salad plain. This should not be a problem as generally, salad greens and lettuce are put out for you to create a salad of your liking. Not here. There were two "green salads" - Caesar salad (which I had and it was very good) and a salad of mixed greens covered in balsamic vinegar dressing. There was also a black bean salad and an asparagus salad, both with dressing. No plain salad. There was nothing wrong with any of this - if you care for it. The problem is in a world full of allergies and preferences, there needs to be plain included with the fancy.

If I may return to the past for a moment, this buffet would feature an elaborate selection of appetizers including caviar, various pates, cold crab legs, and seafood. I had been able to try things that I would never have been able to try. There was a cold section along the line - actually, past the hot entrees and side dishes - and I went there to find cold shrimp which were already de-veined (which is a step above the usual), raw oysters on the half shell, cheese cubes of Swiss, cheddar and blue cheese, and grapes and strawberries. The shrimp were fine - but nothing special. The oysters were gritty with sand that had not been properly flushed out when they were shucked. Over next to the carving area there was also a small selection of sushi that was a bit odd in assortment and one could barely see a dot of fish in the middle of the rolls of rice. There certainly was no pate or caviar, not even the cold, thin slices of Virginia salt ham that I remembered from past buffet meals here. There was also a basket of dinner rolls that were oily, not buttery, but oily.

OK - maybe the entrees would make up for what has been lacking up to this point in the meal. There were several hot entrees and a single side dish that were on the counter between the salad and the cold shrimp. There was an unusual crab cake au gratin. This was a crab cake mixture with cheese and covered in bread crumbs in a casserole. It was baked into a pan rather than formed into crab cakes. There was broiled talapia in a vegetable mix and covered in a sauce. There was marinated chicken sliced thin with lemon and thyme with a mixture of green beans, bacon, onions, and cherry tomatoes sauteed together. There was "Five Spice" salmon cooked with roasted potatoes, both white and dark purple potatoes. There was sliced loin of pork with mustard sauce. The only side dish was garlic mashed potatoes. There were no other side dishes. The only vegetables were mixed into the entrees. If you wanted a vegetable you were scooping them out from around the entrees. There were also shot glasses sitting out with a hot yellow liquid in them. I could not figure what this was until I realized later that it was melted butter for

Remember my picky eater wife that does not eat things with sauces and likes things plain. So far she was not eating anything other than cold shrimp and some string beans that she managed to get out of the chicken dish as plain as she could.

There was a carving area also and they were carving a small round of prime rib of beef. The beef was very rare which was great for me but many people coming up to the carving station were asking for well done and that meant that the beef had to be taken to the kitchen where it would be cooked more. Those that I observed were not happy with that. There were three horseradish sauces on the table for the beef and the carver kept having to explain them. One was hot and spicy, one was just grated horseradish, and the other was pretty much oil. There was also a saute pan where scallops were being seared and served to order. (I had to wonder if they had been over to Golden Corral to get this idea.)

Now, there was this large ice display next to the carving station that had crab legs on the ice. There was no serving piece. I asked the carver for a serving piece and she said that she served the crab legs hot from a pot that was next to the ice display. She put a cluster on my plate. Crab legs cannot just be kept cooking. The crab shell was mushy and just crumbled when I tried to crack it. This was what those shot glasses of butter were for. If one had not noticed it over on the other serving table, you would not have had butter with your crab if you are so inclined. The crab was overcooked and not worth the effort to get it away from the rubbery shell - and it tasted water logged.

I tried a variety of thing. The beef was good, but I like rare beef. The loin of pork was dry. The chicken was OK. I do not like garlic mashed potatoes so I pulled the white and purple roast potatoes out of the salmon dish. I have never had purple potatoes before and they were interesting. The crab cake casserole was unusual and did not exactly taste like crab cakes but was differently nice. The talapia was fine - why do so many restaurants (and not just buffets) use talapia so often? (Guess - it is a lot cheaper than flounder. And an aside, as I have written before, it is NOT a heart healthy fish.)

Overall the food was good. If you found things that you like to eat. My wife did not. She ate very little. This was another of those infrequent meals that I felt very bad that she was not able to eat. Any picky eater would be in this same spot - and there was no kid-friendly food AT ALL here.

There was a dessert table that was laid out very finely with plates of very small pieces of cake and what can only be described as petite fours. There was traditional southern pecan pie, key lime pie, and small slices of cheesecake. The was a hot server with hot bread pudding. There was also the only colonial dish on the buffet here on the dessert table - Tipsy Triffle. This is a bowl of cake, strawberry syrup, and cream with liquor flavoring. I tried the key lime pie. It was good. If you like sweets there were good things to sample here. With the size of each thing out, you would be putting several on your plate to equal a usual sized dessert.

Service was fair. The server did show up when we were away from the table to take away the plates. She did come by a few times to ask if we wanted more water and with the small tumbler glasses that we had she filled them numerous times. Eventually, my glass accumulated so much ice from her pitcher that there was no more room for water.

We were both very disappointed. My wife was miserable. At least I was not hungry when we left. She barely ate anything.

This meal cost $32.00 per person. With the tax and tip this meal experience cost over $80 for the two of us. This meal - even if you like everything being served is NOT WORTH IT. There is no value here for what you are getting. I have had better meals at chain buffets at a third the price.

As I said, some memories are better left as memories. We will be back again - many times - to Colonial Williamsburg. We will not be going back to the Lodge for the Seafood Feast. I so much wish that I was writing otherwise. I so much miss that buffet that no longer exists.

The Williamsburg Lodge is located in Colonial Williamsburg at 310 South England Street
Williamsburg, Virginia. For details to to and look at dining and lodging.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Two Nights at a Golden Corral - Williamsburg, Virginia PART 2

Last week I wrote the first part of this article about a dinner that we had in the Golden Corral located in Williamsburg, Virginia. This week this article continues Part 2 with the second night.

We waited until Wednesday night to go back to the Golden Corral. It was still mid-August in the middle of tourist season and there were still thousands of tourists in the area. We just had to see if our experience on that past Saturday night at this same restaurant was going to be repeated on Wednesday night. There was little wait to get in - not much different than that first night but a slightly shorter wait. This night we were told to seat ourselves and we picked our own table - well away from the plate area. In fact, we sat ourselves in a different dining room. The room was still crowded - not overwhelmingly so, but there were people in at tables in every one of the dining room sections.

Right away things were better. We were able to go up to the soup area and not jostle to get a cup and take soup. Golden Corral has very good chicken noodle soup with thick, dumpling-like noodles. The soup was there also on the first night, but it not a hassle to get to it on this night. The salad bar was also easy to walk up to and there were items out this night on the salad bar that I had noticed were missing from the usual Golden Corral salad bar on the first night. Again, walk up to what you wanted and take what you wanted into your plate. Already, dinner was far more relaxing than it had been on Saturday night.

The physical layout of the food bars is exactly the same, but while there were people at them, there was less confusion and much more ability to walk up to what you wanted and take it without standing on the back of a line and walking through a cafeteria line. One of these days I am going to write about "scatter buffets" and how a buffet is not a cafeteria. The steak grill on this Wednesday night could only be accessed by the rope poles that directed guests into a line up to the grill where you tell the grill chef how you want your steak cooked and then he cuts a piece of a steak that is cooking that way for you. The line took a little time to go through but nothing that was different from any other grill or carving line.

Speaking of carvings - there had been no carvings out on the Saturday night - and there should have been. On this night they were carving ham. The carving was off to the side on one of the regular buffet areas and was not in the way of anyone going up for anything else.

The pan-seared seafood still had the same problem and the same chef was following the same procedure that he had on Saturday night - again, the custom created and cooked to your order just does not work in a buffet restaurant. I looked to see if there was still sauteed spinach being used instead of the sauteed mixed vegetables that the feature calls for and the spinach was still there. The lemon picata sauce did not look any better than it had the first night. I did not have the seafood feature on this night. I learned my lesson the hard way the first night.

Able to move around the buffet server much easier I saw things that had not been out on Saturday night. There were Kansas City Ribs. There were grilled slider cheeseburgers. Now these cheeseburgers are an odd thing - on Saturday night I saw them cooking them while I was at the grill waiting for steak. I never saw them go out on the buffet server. My wife said she saw a sign for them but each time I went to look there were none. On this second night, I tried one - they were over-cooked and dry. Steak at Golden Corral is very good and I did have some on Saturday and I had some again this second night. They do serve it to you as you ask for it - and rare is rare and well done is well done. It comes straight off the fire and there is no sitting in a pan as in some other chain buffet where it is allowed to overcook in the serving pan while it waits to be carved and served. No, here, you are getting a steak - or piece of steak, I should say, off the flame and right on to your plate.

The food was how I expected that it should be. The people on this night were also properly behaved and acted as adults should in a restaurant and a buffet. I was very glad that my wife had been the one to suggest coming back because this was the experience that I expected to have at any Golden Corral.

When I had written about the Golden Corral in Pennsylvania I had said that the desserts there were nothing very special. And while still not overly special here, they were presented much better and there was much more of a choice out here to select from. There were several cakes - and the chocolate cake was very tempting. There was plenty of fresh fruit out here to take. The soft serve ice cream was good and there were full containers of ice cream toppings to make a sundae or put on your ice cream cone. Presentation is important and here the desserts were presented properly and appealingly. Again, as I started the first article with - not all Golden Corrals are the same. And as I saw first-hand at this one - not every night is the same.

All of this said- as I have stated in other articles about Golden Corral - IF you do not eat meat or fried foods or side dishes cooked with fats - DO NOT go to a Golden Corral. This is a primarily meat oriented buffet and every side dish that they serve has something in it or on it. The string beans are cooked with ham. The carrots are cooked in butter or some butter like substance. And this holds true for just about everything on the hot servers. If you can manage with salads then there is a nice salad bar to create your meal from but if you eat non-fat or even just low fat you are going to have a real hard time finding hot things to eat. Just like most chain restaurants - buffet, fast food, or otherwise, they are not catering their menu to the health conscious eater and they do very good business not doing so.

I am glad that we went back because now I will go back again when I am in Williamsburg, Virginia (as I have in the past). Regular restaurants can be very expensive to eat in around there - and I have managed to find several buffets that make it possible to have an enjoyable vacation and stay to a budget that will not make you feel that you are on a budget.

Avoid this restaurant on a Saturday night. Go mid-week or if you are local, go when the tourists have all gone home.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Two Nights at a Golden Corral - Williamsburg, Virginia PART 1

On our trip in August we went to the Golden Corral in Williamsburg, Virginia. One of my readers commented that not all Golden Corral restaurants are the same - and that is very true. It is difficult to judge a large, national chain but one location or even a few. There is something different at each. Each takes on the personality of its management and its employees. Some things at chain restaurants are system wide - policies and procedures sent down by the corporate offices that the chain expects to be implemented at each location. Experiences on the first night at this Golden Corral were the result of both the specific location and corporate procedure.

It was a Saturday night in mid-August in a restaurant that is located in the middle of a heavily visited tourist area. I have been to this Golden Corral many times in year's past. It has had its share of ups and downs. This Saturday night was one of the downs - and not because there was anything wrong with the food. It was because of the crowd - and the inability of the restaurant to handle it.

Suffice it to say, the restaurant was packed. It did not appear this way from the line. We waited a relatively short time to get in and we had no wait to be taken to a table. Looking around the restaurant the crowd was not overwhelming, but once we went up to the buffet area, everything changed. What there was, was a mass of confusion by the people dining here. I am certain that some had never been in a buffet restaurant before. The layout of this buffet lends itself to the problem as the main food area is laid out in the shape of a small U. At the closed end of the U is the grill and each leg of the U is a food bar. The space around the legs of the U is narrow with short partition walls closing this area off from the cashier area and a dining room on the other side. Each food bar area had one way in and out - and people were insistent on lining up cafeteria style to move around the food bar, serving tray by serving tray from one end to the other. So if you wanted string beans that were located toward the end of the bar (nearer the closed end of the U) the crowd expected that you should wait at the end and move around the whole buffet server until you came to the string beans rather than walking in - when there was room to walk in and go up to the string bean tray and take some.

The grill at the closed end of the U was serving steaks off the char-grill, and at the end was serving the feature pan seared seafood. This end of the buffet was just opposite the salad bar and the aisle between these is also narrow. There was a rope set up to direct traffic into the grill and create its own line, but on this night, it was mostly ignored by the patrons and was made part of that looping cafeteria line that ever increased in length into the restaurant.

So, so far the problems encountered had to do with a poor physical layout and with patrons who so much wanted to relive the days of eating in a school cafeteria - "no cutting in line!". One of the biggest problems was the result of the pan-seared seafood feature. This feature was one of the worst thought out features ever to come to the mind of some corporate restaurant executive. You just cannot cook every dish to order at a buffet. I wrote about this feature a few months back when I went to it on the first night that the chain offered it at the Golden Corral in Bensalem, PA. I liked it that night - it was not crowded and the chef working the skillets had a way to ore-saute the fish selections to speed up the final, individualize preparation to order. Here what was happening was after waiting on a long line - yet a different line from the other that I have mentioned, when you finally got up to the window where he was cooking, you told him what fish you wanted and then he started started sauteing the raw fish in a frying pan on the griddle. (He would allow you to mix the seafood - scallops and shrimp, etc. if you would like which the chef in Pennsylvania would not do.) This process took several minutes on its own and THEN he moved that pan over to another grill in front of him to finish it for several more minutes before he plated the fish and then asked you what you wanted on it - pasta, rice, or vegetables and one of the special sauces. Without exaggeration each person's order was taking over six to eight minutes. I had decided to try it again - despite the crowd - and my wife who had returned to the table with her plate from the regular buffet wondered what had happened to me for so long while her plate went cold. In addition to the process, the finished dish was not nearly as good as it had been that night that I had it in Pennsylvania. The vegetables were different - sauteed spinach here instead of nicely sauteed mixed vegetables. The Lemon Picatta sauce was not good - as it so much had been. It was sharp in taste and very greasy. Later that night I regretted having it. A word for Golden Corral Buffet Corporate - forget the cooked to order in future features - put out the cooked fish, the sauces, and the base vegetables, pasta, and rice and let your customers come up and make their own combinations.

It was pretty obvious that the restaurant was filled with tourists and I cannot blame the restaurant for one of the big problems that night. We were seated at a table that backed on to one of the two cases where clean dishes and silverware are kept to be taken to use. This is new to Golden Corral - and generally a good thing - as in the past your server gave you clean plates when you needed them - and hopefully was around at those times. So our table was up against this on an end of the row. Unbelievably, people were leaning on our table, sitting in our booth, and stretching across our table to take plates and silverware from the stack. There was open access to the front of these stacks. All you needed to do was walk up to the front and take a plate and silverware. But for some reason, it was necessary for them to sit down with us to do so from the rear. This was just too much - and I have never seen this behavior at a buffet before. Again, this was not the restaurant's fault but the people who were eating there - and it was not kids, but adults. And they said nothing - they just did it and went on. I stopped it by making it very cluttered on the table where they were looking to lean - saying something had no effect - and it was not just one or two people but a number of them!

This night was an experience unlike so many others at buffets that I have had. If I never was in a Golden Corral before I would never go back. If I had never been in this Golden Corral before, I would never go back. But I have been to this one in the past - and other than the physical layout - there had never been a night like this one.

When we left, all I could say is "Wow!" and not in a good way. Now, believe it or not the next day, my wife - who is not a big fan of Golden Corral in the first place said to me, "Maybe we should go back another night to Golden Corral and see if that was a one night thing - or if it is like that every night." This really took me by surprise - I have written before about my picky eater wife and her inability to find things to eat at Golden Corral. But I agreed -maybe it was the night and the people. We waited a couple of days before we went back mid-week.

The story of the second night continues next week.

End of Part I.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Where the Locals Eat - Lancaster County, PA

I have been asked by readers over the years what buffet do the locals eat at in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In this area, locals could mean just people who live in the area or the Amish and the Mennonites - the Pennsylvania Dutch that have made this area an attraction for people from all over the country to visit. I generally answer more in terms of where the Pennsylvania Dutch eat rather than where the local folks eat - as local residents are going to eat everywhere that is local to them.

I have often said in my articles about buffets that specialize in ethnic foods, that if you see people of that ethnic background eating at a restaurant, that is a good indication that the food is fairly authentic in its preparation. There are many buffets in Lancaster County. There are just a few that you will see Amish and Old Order Mennonites eating at on a fairly consistent basis.

The one buffet that strikes me as most frequented by the Amish and other Pennsylvania Dutch people is The Family Cupboard located on Route 340 in the village of Bird-in-Hand. I recently wrote of a visit to this buffet with an updated review so I am not going to go into the details of the buffet and the food again. When we were there this past July, there was an Amish family dining there. When we were back again in mid-August, there was a large group of ten Amish eating there. In the rear of the restaurant's parking lot there is a stable shed to tie up horse and buggies. While this is common at many restaurants and businesses in Lancaster County, including Walmart, you do not always see them being used. Here at Family Cupboard, they are frequently in use.

Now, I am not saying that if you want to gawk at the Amish, go to Family Cupboard. These people are not an attraction for the amusement of the tourists. They are very hard working and devout people who have committed their entire way of life to their religious beliefs who are trying to go about their lives. They do, for the most part, understand what makes them a curiosity, and those I have met are very friendly as long as you are not rude - or staring. The point that I AM making here is that if you are looking to eat well prepared, local, Pennsylvania Dutch cooking you can be pretty certain of that if the Amish are eating there.

It actually surprises me a bit that they are here at this restaurant so frequently, as it does attract a good number of tourists as well. Mostly, the Amish, unless they have business to do, will avoid the tourist places. As I said in my recent article, you are not likely going to see Amish at Millers Smorgasbord, as it is heavily frequented by tourists. They do come to Family Cupboard however.

What other buffets do the Amish dine at? I have seen Amish at Dienners on Route 30. The couple who run Dienners are related by family to the couple who run Family Cupboard. The recipes are the same and often the same dishes are served at both. Dienners closes very early - around 6 every night except Fridays when they are open until 8, and this may be one reason why the Amish frequent here as well - most tourists are not going to dinner at a restaurant that closes at 6 pm. I have seen Amish (though not often) and more Mennonites at Bird-in-Hand Restaurant and Buffet, also on Route 340 in Bird-in-Hand. While Shady Maple attracts many local people - many local people - only occasionally will you see Amish eating there (though I have seen them there). More often you will see Mennonites there. Yoders is another buffet/restaurant that is mostly local people with few tourists, I have infrequently seen Amish there but I have seen Mennonites. There really is no "off-season" for tourists due to the large number of outlet malls in Lancaster County, but in the winter months you will see the Amish come out more to places that they tend to avoid during the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Rarely, will you see any of the locals - Amish, Mennonite, or just folks who live in the area - eating at the Family Style restaurants. I never say never - anything is possible.

So if you want to eat where the Amish eat, try Family Cupboard. If you don't see anyone, don't ask where they are. Again, they are not there for you. The restaurant does not arrange for them to be there. This is not Disney with a large mouse walking around to entertain you and when not seen, someone asks, "Hey, where's da Mouse? How come he ain't here? You know, I come to see da freakin' Mouse!" If they are there, they are looking to have a quiet and private meal without interruption. Politely, smile and go about your own business and enjoy your own good meal.

Friday, September 02, 2011

RAINBOW BUFFET, Williamsburg, Virginia

Chinese buffets can be found almost everywhere. On a recent trip to Williamsburg, Virginia I had two buffets to try that I had never been to before. Both were Chinese/Asian buffets and I had found them on an internet search. While we were driving through the area we came upon a third - the Rainbow Buffet. This one had not come up on any of the advanced searches that I had made of the area. A sign in the window said, "Now Open". I found out later that this location had been another Chinese buffet called the Red City Buffet. This is not the same restaurant but the same location.

The Rainbow Buffet is located in a small shopping center on a main road several miles outside of the historic area of Williamsburg, Virginia. In the same shopping center just a few doors down is a Cici's Pizza Buffet. We pulled into the parking lot, parked and looked through the large window of the double store location of this restaurant to make sure that all looked good before we went in. Everything looked fine and we went inside. We were pleasantly greeted by a young Chinese woman who showed us to our table in one of the two dining room areas of the restaurant - with the buffet area in the middle. The room is very nicely decorated and nicely lit - not dark and not glaringly bright. The decor is a mix of modern and classic.

Dinner costs $9.50 per person. Yes, I said, $9.50. If you want to add unlimited crab legs to your dinner the cost is $5.00 more. Lunch costs $6.99. The meal includes sushi, the buffet, and a Mongolian grill. Unlimited refilled soft drinks are $1.65. This is one of the most reasonable Chinese buffets that I have ever been to and the price is no indication of how good the food is because I will tell you up front, the meal was excellent.

Every so often I find a great buffet by chance and this was one of those occasions. There are four double sided buffet servers in the middle of the room and along the back wall is the Mongolian Grill. In the rear on the side is an ice cream freezer.

We started as usual with soup. There were four kinds - wonton, hot and sour, egg drop, and a shrimp soup. We both tried the wonton soup. This was the only disappointing part of the meal. The broth was much too salty and the wontons were mushy. Perhaps we should have tried the other soups. At this point I was wondering what was in store in this meal - would it all be too salty. I had nothing to be concerned about.

There were a variety of appetizer type items - as there usually are at Chinese buffets. There was peel and eat shrimp, raw oysters, fried chicken wings, grilled chicken on a stick, egg rolls, spring rolls and on and on. The shrimp were cold and firm. I don't usually eat chicken wings but these looked so appealing that I had to try one. It was thickly battered and coated and deep fried to a crunch. It was very good.

There was a variety of oriental dishes, several the usual staples of Chinese buffets - chicken and broccoli, pepper steak, General Tso's chicken, fried rice, lo mein, chicken and mushrooms, etc. But there were also a few not so usual dishes. One in particular that was very good was shrimp with leeks. Leeks are a type of large, leafy, green onion. Much of what is used of the plant are the leaves from the stalks. Leeks grow in sandy soil and if not cleaned properly before cooking and can be very gritty. These had no grit. The shrimp and leeks were stir friend together in a mild sauce. As I say, very good. There was something called Lover's Chicken. It was a sweet chicken in a sauce. There was broiled salmon. There was bourbon chicken, fried dumplings, sweet and sour chicken, fried shrimp, french fries, potato in butter sauce, and more.

I have had steamed flounder at Chinese buffets before, but they are frequently full of bones. Here there was steamed flounder fillets (no bones) in ginger sauce. The sauce was not too sweet and the flounder was perfectly steamed. This was the dish that I went back to get more - and more than once. This dish would have cost twice the price of the meal at a menu restaurant - and perhaps, would not have been this good. Another particularly good dish were thin rice noodles cooked in what seemed to be a saffron seasoning.

There were very good looking crab legs, but as I said, these cost $5 more if you took them. They were out on the buffet for you to take, but if they went on your plate the extra cost would go on your check. But if you want crab but did not want to go for the extra price, there were steamed, whole blue crabs included on the buffet. These were large steamed crabs turned red and ready to crack open and eat. Whole crabs take an effort to get the small amount of meat out, but for those who love crabs, here they were.

There was a small selection of sushi on the buffet - California Rolls, Tuna Rolls, and Salmon Rolls. They were being freshly made and replenished as needed.

If this was all that the buffet had to offer it would have been great, but in addition there was also a Mongolian grill. In this area, this is more common than it is at Chinese buffets back in New York. The Mongolian grill is a selection of raw meats, shrimp, and vegetables that you take on your plate in whatever combination you would like and then handed to a chef behind the counter who puts them on the hot grill with a splash of sauce of your choosing - garlic, red pepper sauce, or teriaki sauce and cooked while you watch. The chef here made sure that the chicken that I selected with the vegetable was cooked thoroughly on the side of the vegetables. Once the meat was cooked he mixed it all together and kept it moving and cooking. There was something very different offered with the meats, noodles, and vegetables on this Mongolian grill = whole, in the shell, raw eggs. If you put one of the eggs on your plate with your meat and vegetables, the chef would crack it open and cook it into the dish that you created. When I saw the eggs, I wondered what this was all about. A young Chinese man came up to make himself a plate to have cooked and he went right for the egg. As I say, I have never seen this before. I am sure it was good.

There was more than enough to choose from to eat. There was also one of the best looking pizzas that I have seen served in an Asian buffet (and they all serve some variation of Italian pizza. Here it was thick with cheese.

Dessert was typical of most Chinese buffets, though perhaps there was less of a selection than some. There was just one type of the little squares of sheet cake. Here it was an orange cake with a swirled orange cream in the middle. There were also little eclairs. There was jello, chocolate pudding, watermelon, orange wedges, and a few different canned fruits in syrup, In a freezer case were commercial cups of ice cream - in several flavors.

Service was as good as the meal. Everyone was pleasant. Drinks were offered to be refilled and plates were taken away as soon as you were finished with what was on it.

We went on a Sunday night, and while not crowded, there were people coming in the whole time we were there and there were a number of tables filled. I have often said that a sign of a good Oriental restaurant is if there are Oriental people eating there - and here there were several tables of Oriental people eating.

This was a great find - and when I return to this area, I will be eating here again. Simple and good Chinese food. Good service. A price that is excellent value. All of the elements of a great buffet. Is it a GREAT buffet? Let me just say it is a very good buffet. After I try it again, I will judge if it is great. In the meantime, I highly recommend it.

The Rainbow Buffet is located at 3044 Richmond Road, Williamsburg, Virginia 23185. The phone number is 757-258-0388. There is no website.