Friday, October 05, 2012

Prime Buffet, Williamsburg, Virginia

In September 2011, I wrote about a Chinese buffet in Williamsburg, Virginia called Rainbow Buffet. We were in Williamsburg this August and we went to have dinner at Rainbow Buffet and discovered a new name on the front of the restaurant- Prime Buffet. Looking in through the window, everything looked exactly the same. We went in for dinner. We actually went to this buffet twice in one week and my article will reflect both visits.

I am not certain that this buffet is not run by the same people who ran Rainbow Buffet and have just changed the name. There are some differences and the price has been lowered. That is correct - the price at Rainbow Buffet for dinner was $9.50 which is extremely good. The price at Prime - all nights for dinner is $7.99! Unlimited soda is an additional $1.89. This is an exceptionally good price considering what you are getting at this buffet. In the local tourist give away magazines found at all of the hotels and gift shops, the advertisement for this buffet includes a coupon - 10% off! Imagine $7.99 to start with and then 10% off!  There is also a local app for your smartphone with restauant coupons and Prime is included on that app - all you do is show them the ad on your smartphone display at the cashier and get your 10% off.

I will tell you up front that gone are the snow crab legs (which were an additional $5.00). There are no crab legs. There is however a great deal to eat at this buffet.

Let's start with soup - there were the three basic Chinese restaurant soups - Wonton, Egg Drop, and Hot and Sour. I tried the egg drop and my wife had the wonton. She felt that the wontons were seasoned on the spicy side. The egg drop soup was standard with large pieces of egg in a semi-thick soup. The egg drop soup was good.

There is a salad bar but frankly most people skip the salad bar at a Chinese buffets and we did. It was the standard greens, toppings, and dressings. It all looked fresh and crisp.

There is a sushi bar and there was a man behind the sushi bar making sushi to put out. The selection was small and was mostly varieties of vegetable sushi. There were some tuna and salmon rolls with small pieces of fish in them. The sushi was fine, the selection was limited.

I am going to list the dishes that we found on one night and then tell you the different dishes that were there when we went back. Since going I have read internet reviews that criticize this buffet for having a limited selection. You judge that for yourself from this list. On the buffet were pan fried dumplings, steamed peach buns (they look like peaches - these are steamed dough with a sweet filling), fried cheese wontons, steamed founder, stuffed shrimp, egg rolls, wings, steamed small clams in the open shells, seafood delight served in a shell, sauteed mushrooms, vegetable mei fun (thin rice noodles with vegetables), American macaroni and cheese, fried crab cakes, shrimp with onions, peas, and carrots, tofu in a sweet sauce, cut up barbecue chicken pieces, chicken on a stick with teriyaki sauce, ground meat taco (this looked to me like pizza, but was labeled as a taco which was cut into wedges), Krab (not crab but the fish substitute that is common in almost every Chinese buffet that I go to), fried frogs legs, fried scallops, fried shrimp, chicken and broccoli, curry chicken, "vegetable delight", brown rice, white rice, fried rice, lo mien, honey chicken, pepper chicken, General Tso chicken, beef and broccoli, chicken in garlic sauce, beef in garlic sauce, barbecue spare ribs (the type in sweet red sauce), Mongolian pork, sesame balls, rib tips, fried potatoes with onions, sweet and sour chicken, half baked potatoes with cheese, Chinese green vegetable, yam slices, garlic bread, AND peel and eat shrimp. On the second night there was coconut ham, steamed crayfish, corn nuggets, chicken nuggets, and corn on the cob taking the place of five of the items that were there on the first night. Other than that everything on the second night was the same on the main buffet servers.

Now, if all of that is not enough, there was also an hibachi grill. This was a large counter grill next to the sushi bar, both of which took up a wall at the rear of the buffet area. The food for you to select for the grill was one of the cold buffet servers that was next to the grill. There was no one at the grill but there was a bell to ring. The kitchen door was next to the grill and there was no problem on either night for someone to come right away. The items to select for the grill were raw beef, raw chicken, raw pork, and fish. There were noodles to add to this along with vegetables like bean sprouts, onions, mushrooms, etc. There were two sauces to choose - garlic sauce and teriyaki sauce. I had the hibachi grill on both nights. The first night, the man at the sushi bar came over to cook for me. I had picked chicken and a variety of vegetables. I did not want garlic sauce or teriyaki sauce and I asked him to just put soy sauce on it while he cooked it. This was no problem for him. He cooked it and placed it on a plate and handed it to me and it was good. On the second night, a woman came out from the kitchen to cook for me. She was very pleasant and took my dish of the same things that I had chosen on the first night. I asked her for just soy sauce and this seemed to confuse her. I am not certain that there was a problem understanding English. That is fine - I would rather a real Chinese chef than someone who is not Chinese cooking at the Chinese hibachi grill. I tried to help her to understand but it was not getting very far - there were, after all two sauces on the sign - garlic sauce and teriyaki sauce. She was pleasant throughout. I just said, I will have it plain. This caused her concern - in a nice way. She understood this - she could not understand how I could eat it plain off the grill. She had to be a mom because that is how she reacted and kept asking me if I was sure. I said yes and tried my best to explain that I cannot eat the sweet teriyaki sauce and I don't care for garlic sauce. She seemed to understand that and proceeded to cook my grill plain. It too was good and I added my own soy sauce at the table. It really was not a problem. Sometimes you should just not stray from the menu.

There was an assortment of desserts - nothing elaborate, but more than adequate. There was fresh fruit, pudding and prepared desserts, tarts, home baked almond cookies, fried donuts, and hot apple pie served from a hot tray in the hot buffet server. There was also hand-dipped Hershey ice cream. On the second night there were also bananas in sweet red sauce.

The food was good. It was not the best Chinese buffet food that I have had, but it was cooked properly, well tended on the buffet - nothing was dried out, and it tasted good. It was no different in quality from most of the other Chinese buffets that I have been to all over. Food that needed replacing was replaced. If it had not been good we would not have gone back a second time!

The servers were pleasant and the plates from the table were removed promptly. Sodas were refilled, though on the second night, the table next to us with a rather unusual and large crowd kept the server so busy that at one point I did have to wait until she was finished making them happy before she could get back to us. She was not to blame.

One of the things that I look for in an ethnic restaurant and especially an ethnic buffet is to see if people of that culture and background are eating there. On both nights there were several tables of Asian people eating.

We almost went back a third time. We decided to give another buffet that we were uncertain about a try - which I will write about in another article.

If you are in this area and you want to eat very inexpensively in a decent Chinese buffet with a lot of choices, then try Prime Buffet. Prime Buffet is located at 3044 Richmond Road (Patriot Plaza), Williamsburg, Virginia 23185. The phone number is 757-220-1666 . There is no working website.

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