Friday, August 16, 2013

Return to Ruby Buffet, Massapequa, New York

On my first visit to Ruby Buffet - a new buffet that had opened in Massapequa, New York on Long Island in the winter of 2013 I was disappointed. I had decided that I was not going back again. It took a $2.00 off coupon to get us to go back and try all of these months later. Our second experience there was much better than our first.

The buffet dinner here is priced at $14.99 per person with soda at $1.99. As I said in my first article this is in the upper price range of mid-priced buffets in this area and there are larger buffets with lower prices. The big issue last February was taste and value. And when I left I felt that I had gotten neither.

When we saw the coupon in a mailed coupon collection from various local businesses we discussed going back. We both felt that we should give it another chance as they have now had many months to break in, so to speak. This is part of a chain of Ruby Buffets and they are located in various parts of the US. A chain should not need any real break in period as it should be a turn key operation with recipes and selections already established in the other locations. This one has shown that over time it could improve and it did.

We went on a Friday night and it was fairly crowded. There was no wait to come in but the dining room was full and we were seated in a small dining room off to the side that has about six tables. I was not thrilled to be set off from the main dining room as one can often get lost and not receive the attention of the wait staff that you want in a buffet. I have to say that the service on this second visit was fine - it could have been better especially had we ordered soft drinks other than water as while dishes were cleared promptly, no one ever offered to refill our water glasses and I was seeing the same thing happen at tables around us who were paying for soft drinks. Refills are included in the $2 price for the soda.

I am going to list what we found on the main buffet servers - mostly focusing on the main entrees and accompanying dishes. There were the same four soups that we found on our first visit. There was wonton, egg drop, hot and sour, and seafood bisque. I took the seafood bisque and while it had a heavy pepper under taste, it was thick and rich. It was an orange red color and there were pieces of some type of fish, some small pieces of shrimp, and what must have been pieces of Krab legs (not real crab legs but the fish formed into Krab legs type). There were some small bits of shell in the soup and it took some picking out.  The soup was good and throughout the meal I thought about getting more - which I did do at the end of the meal.

On the salad bar there was a seafood salad with lemon olive oil, crabmeat salad (that may have been real crabmeat), edame (soy beans), a cucumber and tomato salad with light Italian dressing on top, and lettuce with dressings. There was cold peel and eat shrimp, raw oysters, raw clams, and raw mussels.

The sushi bar had a good assortment of sushi and this was beyond the usual Chinese buffet sushi bar. Different from our first visit, this time the dishes were full of sushi and they kept replenishing them. If you like sushi and like more than the usual salmon and tuna, you will like this sushi bar. In addition to sushi on the sushi bar there was seaweed salad. My wife likes this and she said it was good. One thing that did concern her was that the tongs that were placed on plates as they are at most sushi bars along the counter, were getting soiled from one item and carrying that into other items on the bar - particularly the seaweed salad. To the credit of the restaurant, when the soiled tongs were seen they were taken away and replaced.

The hot buffet servers are a mix of Chinese appetizers, Chinese side dishes, and entrees. Over on the hot buffet there was steamed dim sum, steamed stuffed buns, steamed red bean buns, egg rolls, spring rolls, fried shrimp, chicken on a stick, ribs, chicken wings, curly fries, pizza, chicken teriyaki, New York Steak with a sauce on the side, crab legs, sweet and sour chicken, vegetable lo mein, vegetable fried rice, white rice, sauteed green beans, cabbage with hot red peppers, shrimp stuffed with crab, crab cakes, chicken with broccoli, pepper steak, fried wonton with cheese and crab, baby clams with black bean sauce, spicy shrimp and scallops with honey, seafood scampi, corn on the cob, stuffed seafood in clam shell with pork, shrimp, and vegetable, sweet cheese pie puffs, garlic bread, steak with teriyaki sauce, General Tso chicken, honey chicken, crispy duck, chicken and shrimp with black bean sauce, Texas fried fish, red snapper with fruit and dill, seafood cheese pasta, plantains, fried donuts, bourbon chicken, and boneless ribs.

I took a small amount of several things to try and some dishes stood out as particularly good. Of all things, the chicken in the chicken with broccoli was very good. It was lightly battered and the sauce for the dish was very light in flavor which made for a delicate taste and texture of this chicken. I did go back for more of this. The red snapper with fruit and dill was very good also. This was a white fish (red snapper) in a light clear sauce that was not sweet. There was no whole fruit of any kind but the fruit was in the sauce. This dish had a good flavor.

Of course, I had to try the ribs again that I had found so disappointing on the first visit. These are not in any way Chinese restaurant spare ribs or even Chinese buffet spare ribs. These are in a type of barbecue spareribs. They are sauced with a brown barbecue sauce. I first took two ribs on my plate. The first was meaty and soft. The taste was pretty good. The second rib that I took was overdone. More ribs came out and I took two more. These both were overdone. Before the end of the meal I took two more and these were like the first rib that I had - meaty and not overdone. So the ribs are hit and miss. The ones that were not so well done that they were almost just bone and char, were not good at all, but trays did come out with ribs that tasted good and ate well. So for pseudo-BBQ ribs they were OK.

Some of the dishes do not appear to be hot and spicy until you look closely for the peppers. The vegetable lo mein was a little on the greasy side. The fried rice was light and very good. I tried the seafood in clam shell with pork, shrimp, and vegetable. This looked like a stuffed baked clam and I am sure that if someone ignored the sign would think that they were taking stuffed baked clams. There was no clam in this other than the shell. The filling was dry and dense with little taste of pork, shrimp, or vegetables. The shrimp stuffed with crab on the other hand was very good - a broiled shrimp wrapped around clam and bread stuffing.

I went over to the raw shell fish and looked at the oysters. I hesitated because the oysters look slightly dry on the surface. With raw shell fish you want it to be continually being taken and replenished right there on the spot - so that it is absolutely fresh when you eat it. When it is stacked in advance on a bed of ice you have no idea how long it may have been sitting out. I found three small oysters that looked the freshest and that were moist all around. The first two had a good taste, the last was slightly off from the rest. I started to wonder if I had made a mistake that I was going to regret. I was fine later on - but I am not sure I would take the oysters again under the same conditions. The oyster was also not cut all the way from the shell which is not how they should be served. The shucking knife should go all around and break the muscle that holds the oyster to the shell. The raw shell fish is off to one end of the salad bar and it would have been much better if they were at the sushi bar where they could have been shucked on the spot.

There were two steak dishes - teriyaki steak and steak with teriyaki sauce on the side. Both dishes seemed to be using the same cut of steak and it was very, very tough - to the point of hard to chew. The sauce that was on the side was A1 sauce.  The crab cakes has more crab in them this time and they were much better. The crab legs depended on how fast you got to the tray when they were brought out. People just fill their plates with crab legs and what is left are the small broken legs that are left behind. The crab legs were properly served at the correct temperature. They came out of the shells easily. What they are serving are two leg clusters with parts of the tops.

Desserts were your standard Chinese buffet desserts with the little squares cakes, almond cookies, soft serve ice cream with a few toppings and cones, assorted puddings, jellos, fresh fruit, and banana pudding.I tried the soft serve ice cream and it was not bad. It was not icy in texture though it was the type of soft serve that one would usually get icy. This may not have had a chance to get icy as it was popularly being taken by many on this hot night.

Items on the buffet never went empty. As soon as a tray was getting down to the bottom a new tray was brought out to replace it. The food was also served at all of the correct temperatures which is very important.

Service was just OK. All of our plates were gone almost each time that we went up for another plate and returned.  It would have been nice if we were offered to refill our water glasses. They put a large wood bowl on the table for your crab leg shells and also a nut cracker. This bowl was never emptied and my shells remained with us for the rest of the meal in the bowl.

We had no problem in finding things to eat here on this visit and a lot has improved. I am glad that they put out this coupon as it enticed me to come back and try this buffet again. If another coupon comes we will go back again. At $14.99 I have to decide to come here or go to another $14.99 Chinese buffet that is further east on Long Island but has some particularly good selections. This buffet is not out of the running however - and it is likely we will come back.

I can recommend this buffet now. If you are on or are visiting Long Island, come and try Ruby Buffet in Massapequa on the outside of the mall building next to the food court of the Sunrise Mall shopping center.

Ruby Buffet is located at Westfield's Sunrise Mall in Massapequa, New York off of Sunrise Highway. The address is 1 Sunrise Mall Suite 2152, Massapequa, NY 11758. The phone number is (516) 882 - 0300. There is a website and it is linked at the side of this page. I have no idea if my meal at this location is any indication of the food at the other Ruby Buffet locations.


We went back to Ruby a couple of weeks later (again with a coupon) and the experience was the same. This time we were seated in the main dining room and the service was better. They have also given the seaweed salad its own set of tongs. The same items that were good the first time were good the next and those that were not so good have not changed - the two steak dishes are still extremely tough and I did not finish either of the two because it was not worth the chewing. I would still go back again. I am sure there will be more mailers with coupons.

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