Friday, January 17, 2014

Yummy China Buffet and Sushi Restaurant, East Meadow, New York

For years there has been an Asian buffet in East Meadow, NY, that my wife and I refereed to as "the little Asian buffet". I have written about it a number of times. It went from fair to poor to terrible and back to almost fair over the years. It never had much business and we always wondered how they could stay in business, especially with the competition near by. It finally closed - at least it looked like it was closed and then a sign went into the window that it was under renovation, and then opened with the same name which shortly was changed with the addition of Yummy at the beginning of the name. We wondered if it was different. At the time we first walked in to the newly reopened buffet we knew nothing about it. There had been no advertising at that point, no sign saying "Under New Management" or "Under New Ownership", or if it was just the same place as it always had been with a temporary closing. We went in one night and walked right back out. Nothing looked different inside from what we could see standing at the reception desk. I asked the price and was told $19.99! Wow! This had been a risky dinner when it was $11.99. There was no way that we were going to spend $40 for the two of us on a weeknight. We turned around and walked out.

I had not written about this at the time. I decided that it would not be fair of me to do so without actually knowing for certain what was going on inside for this price. One of our readers wrote during the past year and told me that she had been there for lunch and that it was OK but not worth the $9.99 charged every day for lunch. Then we started getting ad circulars for the restaurant stuck into the newspaper. There were coupons for 10% off but even at that, this was not a buffet to try for still as much as it came out to be with the 10% off. Then just after New Years Day we saw a moving marquee sign outside that seemed to say "Dinner $15.99". I called to make sure and yes, the price "for the Holidays" was $15.99 and a free beverage. At that price, we would give it a try.

We went in on a Friday night and there were four tables in the entire restaurant filled. This was just too reminiscent of this buffet before. I did not recognize any of the people working as having been there before. I had found a small review on a local community paper that talked about the new owners and staff as being a family running and working at this restaurant. We went in. The room was the same but with improvements that had been much needed. The ceiling was replaced and no longer looked like it was about to fall in where it had leaked. The tables and booths were arranged the same but the tables were new - with, for some reason, a large straw sun umbrella in the middle of each one going up to the ceiling. The booths looked the same but had been reupholstered and perhaps the tables had been replaced in them as well. Across the ceiling were hung colorful Chinese paper lanterns.  The room was brighter. The buffet tables and counter were exactly the same. The area that had been a grill in the rear is now a small sushi bar with a sushi chef standing behind (more about this later). We sat down and a very pleasant young lady came over to ask what we would like to drink. We both ordered Diet Coke. What came was not Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi. It must be an off brand of soda with an odd taste. Their circular says "Coke" and "Diet Coke" - it is was the real thing it was not mixing properly in the machine.

We always start with soup and there were four soups - Wonton, Egg Drop, Hot and Sour, and Miso. Nothing special about the soup but the soup was good. We tried the wonton soup and the egg drop soup and both were good.

In an Asian buffet I usually go up for sushi next, when they have it. Since this buffet is being billed as a sushi buffet in its name, I expected to see a lot of sushi. I walked up to the counter and there were a few pieces of an unknown sushi roll on a serving board. OK. I looked for a sign - "ask the chef", whatever, but saw none. There was a menu of sushi rolls on the counter in very small print. Do I ask for the chef to make me these?  I had no idea. (I have to add here that I saw a review on the Web about this restaurant and the comment was that a sushi roll was ordered and an extra charge appeared on the bill. This discouraged me from asking for anything of the sushi chef. It was too bad that I saw that review because this is not the case here now at all. One problem when looking up reviews for this buffet is that reviews are mixed up with those about this location and the old owners.) Latter while we were there, someone asked for a sushi roll to be made and it was made to order. This is a nice idea but so very different from most other sushi buffets - especially in this area - that it is not a good idea. Also, I would not want all of one sushi roll but would rather pick and choose different slices of roll - and I don't eat the rice. When we come back to this buffet and we will likely do that, I will ask for just fish and seaweed rolls with no rice and see what response I get. So, if you are into whole sushi rolls, this is the place to come. At the sushi counter there also was cold seaweed salad which was very good.

I just joined my wife who was picking appetizers from the buffet. I will tell you what there was out that night and items do change from a list of items from night to night (and the lunch buffet will not have as many items and will not have certain "special" dinner items). There were pork egg rolls that were good and tasted the way a pork egg roll should take which is not always the case at buffets. There were Spring Rolls, Fried Shrimp, Chicken Wings, Pan Fried Dumplings, Cheese Wontons, Chicken on a Stick, Yummy Meatballs, BBQ Spare Ribs, and Boneless Spare Ribs. On the salad bar there were cold crayfish, cold shrimp in the shell, cold baby clams, cold mussels, Edamame, Crabmeat salad (not real crab), half hard boiled eggs, and the fixings for a lettuce salad. The dumplings were good. There were also hot steamed crab legs. These were single legs and not clusters. The BBQ Spare Ribs were in a sweet sauce but not the usual overwhelmingly sweet red sauce usually found. The dumplings were also good. The Yummy Meatballs were interesting and tasty though I could not tell if they were beef, pork, or chicken or any combination.The appetizers were mixed into the general hot buffet so walk around the whole buffet server to see everything before you decide what to take.

Main courses were interesting. There were somethings here different from other buffets and some things much the same as you find at most Asian buffets. Again, these change night to night. There are things on the list that the restaurant sends out about what is on the buffet that were there the night we were there and other things that were not. There was Chicken and Broccoli, Sweet and Sour Chicken (add the sauce yourself), Sesame Chicken, General Tso's Chicken, Chicken with Garlic Sauce, Taiwan Chicken (just very slightly sweet), Teriyaki Chicken, Vegetable Egg Foo Young, Sauteed String Beans, Shrimp with Lobster Sauce (missing the pork but one of the best buffet shrimp with lobster sauce I have had and no Krab mixed in - just nice size shrimp), Yummy Salmon, Yummy Scallop - a mix of scallop and cheese baked on a large scallop shell and nice), hot steamed clams, Salt and Pepper Shrimp, Baby Clams in Asian BBQ Sauce, Mushrooms, Corn on the Cob, French Fries, Fried Plantains, Vegetable Lo Mein, Vegetable Fried Rice, White Rice, Brown Rice, and Garlic Bread. I have saved the best for last and the most different thing from other Chinese/Asian buffets - House Special Roast Pork. This was a large serving of what could have been a side of a whole pig. This had the skin that was roasted crisp and meat that just fell apart as you picked it up off of the serving tray. It was delicious and I went back more than once for more. This is only served at dinner and hopefully is served every night at dinner. There was a good assortment of dishes to choose from
but you may notice what is not here - beef. There were not beef dishes served on this night (unless the meatballs were beef). There are beef dishes on their list. What also is not here and for some who may have been here when the price was $19.99 is lobster. The Lobster Cantonese is not part of the regular buffet any longer. More about this later.

All of the food that I have listed and that we tried was high quality, fresh, and properly cooked and served. The food was much higher quality than most buffets. It was clear while we were eating that this is a family restaurant and I suspect that the lady who kept coming out from the kitchen with more trays to refill the buffet is the mother of the family - and she is cooking as she does for her family. There was a lot of attention paid to make sure that nothing was drying out and nothing was missing for any length of time. The cooking is good. The food was good.

Dessert is more or less the usual Asian buffet assortment of desserts. There is hard ice cream and also soft serve ice cream. There were cakes, cookies, puddings, and fruit. They had one of the best almond cookies and it seemed as if these were baked in the kitchen. They were full of almonds and had a nice texture. There was also a chocolate fountain.

Service was very good. It was clear that the young lady who was taking care of us at our table was also a member of the family and she was attentive. 

So - for $15.99 with the soda included this was a good meal at a fair price. At $19.99, no. I asked before we left if the price was going to stay at $15.99. I was told that it would stay there for awhile and that they were trying out this price and to get the price to $15.99 they eliminated the lobster from the dinner. The lobster is still available if ordered for $5 extra. I hope that they decide to keep the price at $15.99 including the soft drinks. At that price I will go back. At $19.99 I would not - even with the Lobster Cantonese. From the look of the poor attendance of diners at this restaurant that night, a lot more people need to know about this price change, and more will come. They said that their new newspaper circulars will show the new price - though it has been a couple of weeks and there has been no new ad yet. I will be looking for it. If you are going to try this buffet, call first and ask about the price.

The Yummy China Buffet and Sushi Restaurant is located at 398 Merrick Avenue, East Meadow, New York 11554. The telephone number is 516-486-2525. There is no website. The restaurant is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30 am to 10:00 pm. Prices are the same for weekdays and weekends. The lunch price is less. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.


Art said...

I went out with my wife tonight. We were supposed to go to Panera Bread. I said I really wasn't in the mood for a salad (which is about all I can eat there). She said,"Oh, I thought you'd want to go to Freehold Grand Buffet." Well, she made my night and said we could go. This is my FAVORITE buffet. The price for a Friday night is $15.49 and drinks are extra. Kind of high, it seems, but believe me, it's worth it. Mainly because they have a dedicated sushi bar, and the sushi chefs are putting out excellent quality fish. A lot of rolls, but also salmon and eel nigiris and quite a bit of sashimi. I got my money's worth. I think they made a profit off my wife, though. She always eats the same things: egg roll, crab rangoons, chicken & broccoli w/white rice, and a little fried rice on the side.
There was also lobster. What really surprised me was.. the restaurant was crowded, but no one was hovering over the lobster or making pigs of themselves. I got to the lobster tray, and there were plenty of tail and claw pieces. I was amazed. Of course, there are also crab legs. I had a few of those, and they were excellent.. seasoned just right. (Sometimes crab legs are too salty.. and sometimes too bland). But the real draw for me is the sushi bar. Considering there is a sushi buffet about 2 miles north that charges $21.99 for dinner, FGB is a bargain. I also get to eat my favorite dessert there.. I'll admit this is a little weird, and sometimes I get some strange looks, but I don't care. I fill a cup with chocolate soft serve.. then they have this dish called "peanut butter chicken" which is really unique. Well, I scoop the peanut butter sauce onto the ice cream. Kind of like a Friendly's peanut butter sundae. They also had cheesecake tonight.. it was decent cheesecake, too. Not that half cake with a thin layer of cheesecake on top.. this was full-on cheesecake.

ML said...

I commented about Yummy China Buffet this past summer, and the food was good but the price for lunch was not.
However what irked me the most is that when I got my bill I noticed there was a 15 or maybe 20%? automatic gratuity added!
I questioned the person in the desk and he said he would take it off, I told him don't bother, but that turned me off from going there again.
Did you notice on your bill if the tip as added?

Writer said...

I recalled your comment about the tip when we went and I made a point to check the bill before we paid it to see if the tip was included. It was not - and there was actually a small sign on the table that said that the gratuity was not included. The final receipt was correct for the amount of dinner plus sales tax and no other charge.

ML said...

that's good I guess enough complaints made them remove it.
In that case we will try it again at the $16 price

Writer said...

Just be sure to call first to check that the price is still $15.99 including soda. He said he was putting a new circular into the newspaper with the new price but I have not seen it - and that was weeks ago.