Friday, March 16, 2012

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

Minado Japanese Seafood Buffet is one of the buffets that we go to once a year for a particular special and fun occasion. It would be nice to go more often but the price - for us - prohibits that. And the price like everything else, keeps going up. We were last there a year ago in December. You can read the article about that visit here. Even though this recent visit was a weeknight - after the holidays - the restaurant was crowded. A large part of the clientele of this buffet is Asian.

The price now at Minado is $29.95 for weeknights and $31.95 Friday to Sunday. These prices do not include beverages. We go on a weeknight. The buffet is Japanese and it is not all seafood. There are six serving sections at this buffet.

The main attraction is sushi and there is an extensive cold section of sushi continually being made and put out. The variety of the sushi rivals that of any Japanese restaurant or sushi bar. It is far beyond what you will find in the usual Asian buffets. The sushi is good. I do have to note, however, that prior to this trip, the tuna, especially, stood out in taste - very different than what I have had, but on this trip the tuna was not different at all - there was nothing wrong with it, but it was not what I remembered. I wondered if it was just this particular fish or if they have lowered the standard of the tuna they are using. I don't know. Again, there was nothing wrong with it - it was good - but just not as good.

Moving around the buffet, there is a cold seafood section with cold snow crab legs, shrimp, raw shellfish, and pieces of sushi fish without rice. Here also I had the thought that they have cut back some, as the types of fish put out were fewer than years past in this section. Again, all good.

The buffet server turns a corner and there is a long section of Japanese prepared salads, some with fish or meat, some just vegetables, some spicy and some not. There are some very different and tasty salads to try here and while at some buffets the salad section is just an after-thought, here it is popular and a nice part of the meal. This section is as long as the sushi section and all is on ice. This buffet clearly labels everything that is out and also includes the primary ingredients in each dish. There is no guessing what is in something. My picky eater wife is very happy to see that when we come here. She knows exactly what she will like to take and what to avoid because it has something in it that she does not like. It would be great if all buffets followed this simple idea and clearly labeled things - especially when the name does not give any clue to what something is - or the name is in another language - like Japanese or Chinese.

The next part of the buffet that you come to is the grill area and here you will find an hibachi grill, a hot dessert griddle for crepes, hot grilled appetizers on skewers, and a udon soup station. The hibachi is your choice of chicken, shrimp, or beef. The udon soup is made to your order and the chef will include or leave out any of the ingredients that he has in front of him to create the soup.

The buffet turns a corner and the hot entrees start. There is a variety of Japanese dishes that are meat, fish, or vegetable. The expected chicken teriyaki and beef teriyaki are here along with tempura. The variety can include any of these: B.B.Q. Pork Ribs, Baked Stuffed Mushrooms, Beef Teriyaki, Blue Crab in Oyster Sauce, Breaded Crab Sticks, Calamari in Wispy Lemon Sauce, Calamari Rings w/ Paprika Sauce, Chicken Teriyaki, Calamari w/ Carrot Sauce, Chicken Teriyaki, Corn Crab Cake, Crab Cake Ball, Crab Soup w/ Seaweed, Deep Fried Fluke w/ Wasabi Sauce, Dynamite (Seafood Medley), Egg White Fish w/ Kabayaki Sauce, Fried Rice, Fried Rice w/ Soy Bean & Seasoned Seaweed, Fried White Fish w/ Asian Sauce, Grilled Butter Fish w/ Ginger, Grilled Salmon w/ Asian sauce, Grilled Scallops, Grilled Seafood Cake, Grilled Shrimp on Skewer, Grilled Sword Fish w/ Teriyaki Sauce, Japanese BBQ Chicken, Japanese Pork BBQ, Mahi-Mahi, Miso Soup, Oden, Pork Gyoza Dumplings, Pork Loin w/ Gravy Sauce, Prime Rib, Red Snapper w/ Masago Sauce, Salmon Roll w/ Grain Mustard sauce, Shrimp Shumai, Shrimp Soup, Spicy Shrimp, Steamed Clams, Steamed Green Mussels, Stuffed Jumbo Shrimp, Tempura Shrimp w/ Sweet Sauce, Tofu w/ Shitake Sauce, Tonkatsu, Turbot w/ Fried Tofu, Udon Noodles, Vegetable Shrimp Tempura, Vegetable Tempura, White Fish w/ Marinated Shrimp, Yakisoba w/ Vegetables, and Yakitori. Do not expect to find all of these dishes at any one time. These are the dishes that the restaurant selects from and only puts out several of them. There will be plenty to eat.

Going back to the opposite side of the room where the sushi bar is located is where you will find the dessert area against the wall. There is not an extensive dessert area but there is a nice selection of little cakes, fresh fruit, and jello. The soft serve machine always has Green Tea ice cream and this is something special to try if you have never had it. It is unique in taste, creamy, and refreshing. For dessert you can also return to the grill area where you will find hot crepes being made with fillings of syrup and fruit, covered with whipped cream.

On this particular night there was a problem that took place at the hibachi grill. There was a woman customer who on her turn stepped up to the grill with a line of people behind her and ordered her plate to be made. When that was done and handed to her, she ordered another one. When she started doing this a third time the people behind her became angry - and rightly so. Two men came from the line and started to complain to the chef who clearly did not want a problem but started on making the third plate for this woman. They got loud and stormed off. A short while later - with this same woman still at the grill - a manager came over and instructed the chef that he was only to cook for those people who were actually waiting on line and there was to be one plate to a person - at a time. The woman insisted that friends had been on the line and had to get off and she was "just" getting their orders made for them. I had been on the line for awhile and there had been no one with her, but she was a table with several other women. She took her three plates and went back to her table to join her friends. What the manager did was the correct thing to do and it is not fair for someone to take up so much time when there is a line behind them.

The chefs preparing the sushi are all Japanese (or at least Asian). The people who are cooking at the grills are Hispanic. It seems odd that a restaurant that goes out of its way to present itself as authentic cuisine would not have Japanese chefs - at least in all visible cooking areas. Would Japanese chefs cook what is being made any differently? I really can't say. One thing I will say is that there was more of a language problem with the non-Japanese chefs on this night that we were there. When you are at a grill and need to order and make what you want known, it helps to be understood and not be certain what exactly the non-understandable response was from the chef.

The food is good. The service is fine. The price is high. At the time that we had this meal, we had just been to Chen's buffet which I have written about several times. It also has an hibachi grill and, as I have written, in the first couple of weeks of opening, Chen's was doing hibachi right. The hibachi that I had at Chen's at that time was tastier and better than the hibachi that I had on this night at Minado - and the dinner price at Chen's is ONE THIRD the price of Minado. Things have changed at the hibachi grill at Chen's now so I would not say the same is still true - not in regard to the difference in price.

If you want a different type of buffet, you are an adventurous eater, and you can afford it try Minado Japanese Seafood Buffet. It is less expensive at lunch but not that much less expensive at $17.75 to $21.75. Those are lunch prices way beyond me.

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 Road, 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.

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