Friday, April 07, 2017

A Dissappointing Birthday Dinner At DJ's International Buffet, Garden City, NY

D.J.'s International Buffet is a Long Island, NY buffet that is primarily Asian cuisine. It is one of the higher priced buffets in this area and that dinner price has recently gone up to $20.95 on Monday to Thursday and 27.95 on Friday to Sunday. There are often coupons in the local coupon saver books and mailings but there has not been one in some time. Their website is now calling this D.J.'s Seafood Buffet, but the sign outside still is International Buffet.  We had a birthday dinner to celebrate and not able to go out of state to one of the Lancaster buffets or up to Connecticut to one of the casino buffets, we decided on D.J.'s International Buffet nearby.

Maybe the change of name on the website should have been a clue because this buffet seems to have forgotten the "International" part that it once featured. Now, it is strictly Asian. It was not Asian that I had a taste for this night, but since it has had American and Italian dishes mixed into its Asian menu, we figured there would be enough of an assortment. As a side note, the only buffets in this area now for almost 70 miles are Asian - and getting off the Island to anywhere else means taking two expensive and constantly increasing in cost toll bridges and gas. If you are in this area and want to eat in a buffet it is going to be Asian.

So we went. This was a weeknight. There were a number of tables filled and both dining rooms were needed. Many tables were filled with Asian families. Even with large tables scattered around the second dining room that were empty, a large family came in just after we did and they were seated at a large table located right behind us and added a high chair to the end of the table that came almost up against ours. We both wondered why this group was not sat one table over which was of equal size and with more room all around for they and us to get up and back down from the table. OK.

So, when we got into the restaurant there was another couple waiting for a table and the four of us were taken into the dining room together. Now, as that table was being seated, the woman in the couple left the man and went to the buffet, while he was seated. We were seated behind them - fine - but I was curious as to why she had to run to the buffet before they even got to their table. We settled into our table and then got up to go off to the buffet. As I was heading toward the buffet tables, the woman passes me with a plate filled and overflowing with snow crab legs. As I soon discovered, she has emptied the steam tray of snow crab. This set the way the rest of the nigh went when it came to snow crab. That tray remained empty for almost an hour. It evidently got refilled some time between our third and fourth trip back up to the buffet but with that fourth trip back the tray was empty again - all except one small leg and one claw at the bottom of the hot water in the tray. They were soon gone as well. No other snow crab went into the tray until we were going up for dessert. One of the reasons for the price being what it is here is the hot snow crab legs. I never got any.

The quality of the food here and assortment of dishes is what does set this, now Asian, buffet from the other Asian buffets left here. However, there are problems here that were not here in the past. Some entree dishes that I took were not properly hot in temperature. Some were dried out. Signage at the buffet leaves a lot to be desired - some trays have different items in them with signs identifying them as the same - far from the same. Some items were obviously labeled incorrectly. Some are not labeled at all. At the sushi bar - which is extensive - and if you like sushi this surpasses the rest - except for a Japanese and sushi buffet not far from here that is even more expensive. And I saw something that I have heard about being in some Asian buffets, but never before have I been in one that said this - if you take sushi that has rice and do not eat the rice, you will be charged a surcharge! I can't eat the rice - I like sushi. They do have a platter out just with the raw fish and that is what I took - but there were some interesting looking - yet totally unidentified things on the sushi bar that I might have tried and pushed off the rice. I did not dare.

There was one item at the grill appetizer section that seemed to be a dumpling of some sort. It was a soft round, tan ball. I took one to try. I cut into it and discovered large chunks of octopus. It would have been nice to know this before I took it. A beef dish that should not have been spicy - was spicy.

This is not the first time that we have been here. I have written about it before - the last time in 2015. It was pretty good then - and in the past there have been various unusual things - always clearly identified - that were intriguing to try. Maybe I am Asian buffeted out, but I just had a hard time with what I was going to eat and what I was picking had issues. There was a good steamed halibut in ginger which had the advantage over other steamed fish in other Asian buffets, that this is not a "flat" fish, like flounder - and the section of bones easily separated whole from the fish preventing finding an unwanted sharp bone in your mouth eating the fish. There is fresh mozzarella cheese sliced with tomatoes on the salad bar - the last of the International selections - not counting pizza and mac and cheese which are now standards in most Asian buffets. The cheese is fresh mozzarella.  They also have a nice olive assortment with Greek olives on the salad bar.

There is a sign over the grill area that says ask for a steak from our grill. There was no one around to ask for a steak. There is a section that makes dessert crepes. There was no one around to make crepes when we went up for dessert. In fact, there was no one behind any counter at that point at all. The restaurant is open according to the sign on the door until 10:00 pm and on the blackboard in the lobby the buffet is seated until 9:30 pm. The staff were cleaning behind the grill and sushi areas at 8:00 pm and were gone before 8:30.

So I got no snow crab legs, no steak, and no dessert crepe. When the check came which after tax and tip was over $50 for two (no beverage, just water or the price would have been a lot more), we figured out that had it not been for circumstances that we could get not get out of town, we could have driven to New Jersey (a long drive) and gone to Golden Corral (with the emailed free buffet birthday coupon) - including price of dinner, gas and tolls for less.  We shall keep this in mind from now on.

D.J.'s International Buffet is located at 1100 Stewart Avenue in Garden City, New York. There is a website, linked at the side in the right column. Beware that when you open the website it plays annoying music, which can be turned off, but if you turn it off and go to another page (except the price page) the music starts again.