Friday, September 13, 2013

DJ's International Buffet, Carle Place, Long Island, New York

It has been about three years since I have been to D.J.'s International Buffet located in Carle Place on Long Island in New York. This primarily Asian buffet is local to me but it is a lot more expensive than other Chinese buffets in this area. We used to come here more regularly. Now, this is one of the buffets that we save for a special occasion. We had such an occasion recently and had dinner at D.J.'s International Buffet on a Monday night.

Had we come on Sunday which was the day of our special occasion it diner would have cost us $25 each. We decided to wait until Monday night when the price is $18.99 per person. Soda is an additional $2 each. It was supposed to be Coke products and came from a Coke dispenser but it did not taste like Diet Coke.

The restaurant has been well maintained. The dining room and the buffet area have been nicely kept up. There has been an effort to keep this restaurant nice. There are two dining rooms that sit behind the buffet area which can be seen from the dining room through large doorways and windows. There is also a party room in the restaurant. There is a separate section that has a bar and nightclub and when something is happening in there it can be heard in the dining room. On this Monday night there was nothing going on there. There also were not a lot of people here - and this was mid-August. There were a few large groups and a few couples at tables along with us. Monday nights are not very busy in most restaurants.

The emphasis on the food served on the buffet has become much less on International and much more focused on Asian and in particular, Chinese. Gone are the Italian dishes and American dishes. On the weeknights there are crab legs but no lobster. At one time there was lobster served on the buffet and at the grill on weekends - I do not know if that is still served. A lot of seafood is served on the buffet and there are a number of dishes that are not found at the less expensive buffets. While my wife does not eat seafood, she had no problem finding plenty of dishes to choose from that had no seafood.

There is a large sushi bar here and there are sushi chefs (two) behind the sushi bar continually replenishing dishes. The sushi here is a cut above the other Chinese/Asian buffets in this area. The fish seemed fresher and there was a broad variety of types of fish - similar in some ways to the large Japanese sushi buffets - one of which is this buffet's competition (though there you will pay a lot more for dinner).

I am not going to list everything that we found. There are six large buffet servers with hot and cold foods in addition to the sushi bar, a raw bar, a grill, a soup bar, a dessert bar and a dessert crepe station.  They still serve lobster bisque which is good. It has been thicker at times here in the long past when I have had it but the taste was just as pleasing on this visit.

I tried the raw oysters and even a raw clam on the half shell. They were very fresh, cold and had a clean taste with no sand or pieces of shell. There is also peel and eat shrimp. There is someone behind the raw bar counter who shucks and replenishes.

The grill has several trays of items such as overly sauced spare ribs, skewered grilled beef, skewered shrimp, lobster balls, and tempura. There was a sign on the grill that said, we have steaks, ask us to grill one to order for you.  I decided to wait until I had sampled some of the Asian dishes before I came back to try a steak. I never did try a steak and I will tell you why. This restaurant is open until 10:00 pm on weeknights and they were still seating people at 9:30 pm when we were finishing. At about 9:00 when I was thinking about going up for a steak, I looked from our table through to the grill and there was the grill chef with a wet broom/brush cleaning the overhead vents over the grill and then moved down to the wall right behind and over the grill. I got up to take a closer look and he had large basin of soapy water on the fry grill and was cleaning the wall with the soapy water on the broom behind the char-grill. Whatever was dripping down from the wall and the overhead vent was coming down on the grill. So much for asking for a steak cooked on that grill. Even if he would do it - I now did not want it considering what was dripping down from the greasy wall and vent onto and into the grill. The restaurant had people in it dining and it was at least an hour to closing. Maybe he wanted to get home early but what he was doing would certainly been frowned upon by the Board of Health.

I tried a variety. The steamed flounder in ginger sauce was very good. It was a huge whole flounder. The sauce was very light. I prefer the thin sauce with more taste, but the fish was good.  The bones just peeled away. Do be aware that these whole fish still have the bones in them. You scooped a section of fish out of the tray from the whole fish for yourself. There was a "King" seafood roll that was mostly crab meat though I am not sure if it was real crab or mock "Krab" and it was rolled in a batter with crumbs and fried. This was good. The stuffed crab - a section of a rock crab that was stuffed with crabmeat was good.There were steamed crab legs that could have been hotter. These were partial clusters. They could have been hotter and took mine from a recently put out tray so they were not sitting long. When a crab leg is no longer hot or warm, it is harder to open and the meat will not come out of the shell without a struggle. These were just that way. There were small crab cakes that were not real crab meat. They were too dense, chewy, and did not have the texture of real crab cakes. I tried two different beef dishes - one was Chinese Steak served from the hot buffet and the other was grilled beef on skewers served at the grill. With both dishes the beef was tough and difficult to bite and chew. No matter how good they might have been, it was not worth trying to chew them. A dish called "seafood hot pot" was a mixture of steamed seafood including shrimp and vegetables. My wife liked the shrimp from this but she likes very plain dishes. I felt that the same shrimp when I tried this were tasteless. There was a stuffed scallop shell - a large shell that was covered in melted cheese. Inside there was a sweet milky sauce with little bits of what must have been chopped scallops and undercooked corn.

While there were not many people dining in the restaurant, there were too many dishes that were drying out on the buffet. Some needed some attention from the staff and some just needed to be taken away and replaced - which, of course, they never did. After a while no one will take from them to eat in this condition. 

There was a lot of hidden sugar in the dishes that were served here. Some dishes were sweet that did not need to be and I found after the meal that my blood glucose level was much higher than this meal elsewhere should have put it - so if you need to watch your glucose level (and those of you who do know that you do) then beware of eating here.

Desserts are a slight step above the usual little squared of commercial cake. There are still little squares of cakes but they are not what you usually find. There is hard, scoop yourself ice cream. There is a large assortment of fresh fruits and also - still remaining from the old days at this buffet - creme caramel (egg custard with a thin caramel sauce). There are large signs at the dessert bar that say if you take any dessert out the door you will be charged for it at the per pound take out rate. The same sign was at the ice cream case and said if you walk out with an ice cream cone you will be charged $5 for it.

The meal was OK. The atmosphere was nice. The bill came to $50 for two including soda, tax and tip. This is a lot for a weeknight dinner at a buffet - particularly in this area. It is less than the big Japanese seafood buffet nearby. For us it is something that will be reserved for special occasions, but I have to admit that I have enjoyed much less expensive buffet meals a lot more - around here and in our travels. Perhaps on a busier night - which means a weekend night and another $6 per person coming to about $75 for the meal for two - the food may have been better tended and the selection may have included more. I have to say that many buffets push off Krab (fake crab) as real crabmeat but at this price that is really wrong. If I had a star system to rate buffets this would get a 3 out of 5, which is right in the middle - neither great or bad. They are missing a lot of what there was back in 2010 when I was last there.

D.J.'s International Buffet is located at 1100 Stewart Avenue in Garden City, New York. Their phone number is 516-227-2472. The hours of the restaurant are Lunch Monday to Friday, 11:00am to 3:00pm;Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11:30am to 3:00pm; Dinner Monday to Thursday, 4:00pm to 10:00pm, Friday to Sunday, 4:00pm to 10:00pm. There is no website.

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