Friday, May 16, 2014

Flaming Grill and Supreme Buffet, Baldwin, New York

This is a new buffet that we found in a way by happy accident. One of our regular readers emailed to let me know of the reopening of an Asian buffet in Baldwin, New York. The buffet that he told me about was renamed Island Buffet. I put that tip in the back of my head. A short time later in the local newspaper there were coupons for the grand opening of a new Asian buffet in Baldwin, NY. I just assumed that this was the buffet that our reader had told me about and we clipped the coupon and decided that we would give it a try when we had the opportunity. That opportunity came and with coupon in hand we went out on a Friday evening for dinner at the new buffet. We arrived at the location of the buffet that we knew and it seemed that the address on the restaurant that we passed quickly driving down a busy road to get to the parking lot on the next street that was behind the restaurant was wrong. We parked and walked around to the front and the address did not match the coupon that we had. The name of the restaurant that we could now clearly see did not match either. We were standing in front of Island Buffet. The ad and coupons were for Flaming Grill Buffet. At the time I did not remember the name that our reader had told me and we decided that this unknown buffet might be fine, we had no idea about the price and we set out looking for the address on the ad for Flaming Grill Buffet.  As it turned out we had passed that about two streets down in a strip shopping center.

When we arrived at the parking lot for Flaming Grill Buffet there were large banners announcing its grand opening. We walked up to the restaurant and the windows in the front were blacked out. We could not see inside. There were people coming out and we went in. Inside was far more impressive than the plain storefront appearance of the outside. There was a very large and nicely decorated restaurant behind those blacked out windows. There was a short line to get in. Like the chain buffets you pay as you enter this buffet. The price is $10.99. There are two children's prices according to age. The lunch buffet is $7.99. Soft drinks (Pepsi products) with unlimited refills are $1.69. We had a coupon for $9.49 each. We paid at one of the two cash registers. When you pay you are asked what drink you are having and that is put down on your receipt. You then walk a few feet down to the host who you show your receipt to and you are seated. Everyone was extremely pleasant.

The buffet was crowded and at this excellent price it is no wonder. I am always skeptical in this area if a price seems too low, but this buffet proved to be both good in value and food. There is a dining room along the right side of the building with a view of the buffet and a narrower dining room on the left side of the building walled off from the buffet. There is also a party room in the rear. We were asked if we preferred a table or a booth and I asked for a table. We were escorted to the dining room on the right side. As we entered the dining room and were shown to our table I was uncertain. The room was on the dark side - though very nicely decorated but not as bright as the larger dining room on the other side. It looked as if the kitchen was located in the middle of this dining room but as it turned out it was just a large service area for drinks and a place for the servers to bring the used dishes. As I saw later on the rear side of that service area was another section of this same dining room. We went right up to the buffet to get started.

The buffet servers are numerous. There are eight large buffet servers all together in addition to a hibachi grill area and a large rectangle buffet server open in the middle with one side with sushi, a short side with oriental cold prepared salads, and the other long side with a large dessert buffet including full size layer cakes and a chocolate fountain. This chocolate fountain was encircled in a see through plexiglass case with a door that was open for access to the hot, flowing chocolate. There were employees in the middle, some preparing sushi and others putting out the cakes. The other short side had plates. We counted five hot buffet servers and three cold buffet servers in addition to the grill and sushi/dessert island. Almost a third of this large restaurant is the buffet. I should add that not only were the hot buffet tables steam tables but over each tray was a heating lamp. This kept everything at just the correct temperature.

We walked around the entire buffet before we found the soup which shared a hot server with other hot foods. There were four soups - wonton with the wontons in the soup and not in a steam server on their own, egg drop, hot and sour, and miso. I scooped a wonton out of the wonton soup, put it in my bowl and filled my bowl with egg drop soup. The soup was very good and the wonton was what a wonton should be - light, full of meat and tasting just like the wontons taste in a menu Chinese restaurant. This was the best wonton that I have had at a buffet. I bit into it and smiled. It was not what I expected. It was - in my opinion - a properly cooked, real Chinese restaurant wonton. This meal started off well!

I next went up for sushi - and my picky eater wife went up for dumplings. There were many different types of sushi rolls and there were four types of nigiri - raw fish on rice. I took salmon nigiri and tuna nigiri. There were two other types of fish - one with the skin on - that I did not recognize. The sushi bar did not have labels. Everything else in the buffet did. I went over to where there were other cold fish items and I saw that the cold, raw oysters were being refilled. A woman was emptying a tray of oysters onto a bed of ice. I am hesitant about eating raw oysters at a buffet unless I see that they are moist and fresh looking, that they have not been sitting, and that they are on a good layer of ice. These looked just that way and I took three. At the side was a server with cocktail sauce and I added a dollop to each. The sashimi was good - not fancy Japanese buffet good but fresh and good. The oysters were cold, wet, and fresh but each had some remnants of shell - not what a well opened oyster should have. I had to be very careful as I scooped the oyster into my mouth to find the bits of shell and not chew or swallow them. The oysters tasted good, but beware of the shell. Despite the shell this buffet was still going strong!

My wife had chosen a selection of the dumplings that they had, and on my next plate that is what I went for. There was a meat filled shu mai, a pan fried mixed meat and vegetable dumpling, and a steamed pork bun. There was dumpling sauce next to the pan fried dumplings. Shu mai is my least favorite dumpling and I usually do not take it. I wanted to see how this one stacked up against the dry ones I have often had at Chinese buffets. This one was light and moist. The meat may have been chicken, perhaps mixed with pork. The meat was light in color and very nice tasting. I was glad that I tried it. I then tasted the pan fried dumpling which had a mixture of pork and chopped greens inside. The dumping was light, thin and not doughy or chewy. It had a nice flavor. I saved the pork bun for last. This is a steamed round mound of light dough filled with chopped pork in the center. The dough was thick but properly cooked in the steamer and the pork center was tasty. Another very pleasing course!

I am not going to try to list all that was on the buffet. Things will certainly change from night to night. There was a lot of dishes. There were many hot appetizers, Asian entrees, vegetable dishes, seafood dishes, and  side dishes. I will share what I had.

On my trip around the buffet looking at all that there was to choose from, I spotted a tray of spare ribs. These were not Chinese spareribs but more country spareribs. They were covered in a brown barbecue sauce that was not overly sweet or overwhelming. They were laid out on the tray in sections of three meaty ribs and there was a carving knife out to cut less if you did not want three. The ribs were moist and meaty. These are similar to other "country" style ribs that I have had at SOME other Asian buffets. They were good. Do not expect smoker ribs or real country ribs. But they tasted good, the meat came off the bone with little effort, and there was a lot of meat on each rib.

I tried stuffed scallops which were scallop shells halves filled with fresh tasting chopped scallops, some mayonnaise, and melted cheese cooked under a broiler. The taste was distinctly scallops - which is good. They were a pleasant change from the usual stuffed clams which in other buffets are all breading. There was little - if any breading in these. (They had stuffed clams as well but I did not try those.) I also tried half a stuffed blue crab. This was a half blue crab cooked in its shell with legs and claw. There was a very light breaded coating on the outside of the shell. There was little meat in the half crab but it was tasty. (There are on crab legs here.) There were also small, fried crab cakes which they called crab pastries. These were deep fried with a light crab and breadcrumb mixture inside. They were tasty. There was also fried talapia - thick chunks of talapia deep fried and breaded. That was tasty as well. I also tried shrimp and vegetables which was shrimp in a light white sauce with slices of carrots and chunks of zucchini. It was very good - the zucchini tasted very fresh. There was a light buttery taste to the sauce. My wife liked this also and took more when she went back.

In addition to egg rolls and spring rolls, they had a "house special" roll. This was a long thin rolled wrapper around chopped pork and vegetable and deep fried. This was a cross between a spring roll and an egg roll but longer than either of those. It was a little greasy but good.

There were many meat dishes all over the buffet. I tried chicken with black pepper which was good. I tried hibachi beef - not from the grill but from the buffet - which was very good. On one buffet there was a tray of a whole baked ham in pineapple sauce. Next to that was a tray of slices of roast beef. There was also steamed whole talapia in ginger sauce that was cut into pieces including the whole head if you cared to take that. I have never seen a whole talapia fish before. I like talapia, but talapia is a fish that gets bad write ups as far as being one of the least healthy fishes. I will not go into that here and if you want to learn more just Google talapia.

It was easy to find something to eat on any one of the five hot buffet servers. There is also the hibachi grill - with a line of about eight or so people most of this night. I was not sure if I wanted to keep sampling the buffet selections or go to the hibachi grill and create a plate. If I did I knew that there would be no room for anything else. I saved this for the end and before I was too full to enjoy it. There are a number of things on the hibachi cold selection to put on your plate to give to the chef at the grill to cook for you. There were some things that you don't often see - at least at buffets here - one of those was whole eggs in the shell. I have only seen this in Asian buffets in Virginia and at one of those I tried it. The egg is cracked and mixed into all the rest that you select when it goes on the grill. No one here that I saw tried this. I did not either - I might on a return trip as I liked it when I had it in Virginia. Anyway, there was also white rice to add to your mix. This made hibachi rice on the grill mixed into your other selections. (There is also ready made hibachi rice on the buffet.)  There were peeled raw shrimp and Krab (not real crab). All of the meats were frozen - as they are at many Asian buffets. The chicken was in big pieces not thin slices. There were pieces of pork. There were also fairly large, but not thick steaks. As usual, you fill your plate with cold items and when it is your turn the grill chef takes it and cooks it on the solid grill. People were getting up to the chef who was asking them for their plate. As they handed it him they were giving him very detailed instructions - make it medium well, I want a lot of teriyaki sauce, do this, do that. He seemed to be half listening and cooking things as he wanted to. I purposely did not give him any instructions and he cooked everything just about the same. Some asked directly as they were watching theirs cooked to put more sauce on or add garlic or add hot pepper - which he did. But for the most part he cooked the meat well and added teriyaki sauce unless you told him not to. He cooked mine and scooped it onto a clean plate when it was ready and handed it to me. I choose a steak, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and zucchini. It tasted good. The steak was very tough. As in most of the Chinese buffets with hibachi grills in this price range what looks like steak is usually thick sliced beef cut into steaks (which is what steaks are) but these are not steak cuts of meat. The steak was cooked on the grill and laid whole over the vegetables when it was all done. I cut it up myself when I got back to the table and mixed it together. It was fine.

Dessert. There was an excellent assortment of desserts here - and not the little sheet cakes cut into squares. There were three whole layer cakes - slice yourself a slice - big or small. My wife tried the chocolate cake - all chocolate and it was good. There were a number of puddings, etc. and a lot of types of fresh fruits, as well as canned fruits. There was a freezer chest with ice cream bars, cups, and the like. There were lots of desserts here - and they looked and were good. Enough said.

The service was excellent. Everyone who worked here was Asian - they all spoke perfect English. Everyone was pleasant. Our server took dishes away as soon as they were finished. She came over several times to ask if we wanted drink refills - and got them quickly. She was at a nearby table talking to a couple and answering questions about dishes - and suggesting things to try. She was concerned that an older man was OK when he seemed a little unsteady. She also was taking pictures of the people at the table next to us with their phone - making sure to take two to get a good shot. This was way beyond any server at an Asian buffet that I have experienced. When she sees that you are done with the meal - and never rushed us or anyone - she came with a tip tray and fortune cookies. This is a gentle reminder that the tip is not included in the price - a problem often encountered by servers when one pays when entering. She deserved a tip and got one!

We will definitely go back. I have been getting tired of the local Asian buffets and we go often. This buffet will be on our list of go tos! I recommend that you try it.

The Flaming Grill and Supreme Buffet is located at 1773 Grand Avenue, Baldwin, New York 11510. The phone number is 516-544-2222. When I went looking for a website I found another buffet with the same name and an identical website located in East Rutherford, New Jersey. I assume - but do not know for certain that they are owned together. The website for the Baldwin buffet is linked at the side of this page. The hours are Sunday to Thursday from 11 am to 10 pm. On Friday and Saturday the hours are from 11 am to 10:30 pm. The price is the same for dinner every night. Sunday is dinner price all day.


Art said...

Just a minor correction - sashimi is raw fish, by itself. Fish on top of rice is still considered to be sushi, but is called "nigiri sushi". The fish with the skin still on it was most likely mackerel, which can be excellent if prepared properly. Unfortunately, most of it is not, and ends up tasting pickled, like something from a Jewish deli. Not bad, but when you've had it as it's supposed to be prepared, the pickled version isn't the same. When done right, mackerel (also known as saba) is one of my favorite fish.

Our new Golden Corral in Freehold, NJ is supposedly going to open around Memorial Day weekend.. I can't wait. Hopefully I will be invited to a soft opening!

Oh, but wait.. I am supposed to be on a diet then. hmmm... I have 3 weeks to lose weight so I can fit into my suit or I have to buy a new one for a wedding we have to attend. :)

Writer said...

Thank you, Art. It has been corrected!

ML said...

Yes this is a nice surprise, I recommended Island Buffet and Grill, not knowing anything about this new FlamingGrill and being so close to each other gives one choices, I remember when I told you about of the Island Grill you were skeptical and I didn't blame you.

I do like the fact that the new Flaming Grill you pay at the door before your meal. The Island Buffet does something which doesn't sit right with me, and that is they give you your check without asking for it.
It's as if to say "you've had enough!" I really don't appreciate it especially when they're not waiting for tables.

Anonymous said...

Went on 6/20 & was quite pleased. Service was wonderful-place deservedly busy. I sampled many items and found some I would definitely like a larger portion of next visit & others I didn't care for at all. The hibachi grill is a nice feature but the "steak" used was inedible-my wife stuck with the shrimp & imitation crab & had a better experience. I think it's great that like some Chinese buffets down south crablegs are not included unless you pay extra. Here you may buy a pound for a reasonable price & they are brought tableside-this way one doesn't subsidize those who feast on a buffet's crablegs. While there was a charge for a pot of tea it was nominal.