Restaurant Buffets – For or Against?

buffetTo celebrate Father’s Day, our family got together yesterday for dinner. We were invited to a Japanese Sushi Buffet. The restaurant was clean and the food was piping hot, but I nearly filed a missing item report because what was missing was FLAVOR. Okay, so that might sound very critical, but let me explain. I “used to be” (the key word here is “used to be”) a fan of buffets – remember Ryan’s and Golden Corral? The endless salads, entrees, and desserts laid out on a ten feet of steel filled food warmers and heat lamps. That was great then, but now that I am a home cook, all the buffet food seems like a distant memory, until last night that is. This buffet had more than a handful of variety of sushi, tempura fried meats and vegetables, and ceviche (dishes made from fresh raw fish that’s been marinated in citrus). As I said, everything looked gorgeous. Here’s a kicker, I don’t eat sushi – long story – so I opted for a more safer route and got tempura shrimp, shrimp skewers, chicken skewers, white fish, crab cake, and pork dumplings. Aside from pork dumplings, everything else was pretty much tasteless. So tasteless that I could not distinguish chicken from shrimp and shrimp from crab cake. That’s not good! The greasy, overcooked food did not leave a lasting impression on me, and judging by other peoples’ opinion at our table, I would say the food was sub-par. But by whose standards are we critiquing the food? As a home cook, the first thing I look at is the quality of ingredients. If buffets offer dishes made from farmed fish that was purchased from Sam’s Club or Costco, now that’s a scary thought. And to say that buffets are cheap and those who cannot afford to buy expensive seafood dine there, is a big understatement. This sushi buffet was nearly $30 per person! I’d rather spend that money on a pound of wild-caught Alaskan Salmon and cook it at home. Wouldn’t you? But to anyone who enjoys the massive offerings and long lines of hungry diners vying for the last sushi roll, I bid you good eating!

What are your thoughts on restaurant buffets, friend or foe?

4 thoughts on “Restaurant Buffets – For or Against?

  1. Do All-You-Can-Eats count? I think it depends on the buffet culture. I found a stark difference between the quality of food when I was in the Hong Kong buffet circuit (muuuuch higher quality) compared to what they have to offer in the US and Canada. But then again, the price you pay for those Hong Kong buffets are much more expensive. If I want to gorge myself here (I’m currently in Toronto), I usually opt for AYCE. The thought of lukewarm mediocre food stewing under heat lamps with adults and children milling about screams ‘FOOD POISONING!!’ to me.

    • You bring up a good point….the health safety aspect of buffets…everyone touching the same spoon to pile on food on their plate, then you eat something with your hands. Can we say germs? Yuck!

      • I have seen people lick their fingers and touch all the pieces of bacon in a buffet tray. They then took only three of the pieces. It happens. It is one reason I stay away from buffets. If I have no choice to eat at one I stick to stuff that is in a box, or packaged in a way that limits public contact to the food. For example: cereal boxes. Or sometimes they have a dispenser for waffle batter that can be cooked in a waffle maker.

        One of the most often over looked “foods” at places is the ice. If it is in an automatic ice maker then it is probably safe, but otherwise I skip the ice.

        If I am going to spend the money to go out to eat, then I want someplace where I don’t have to get up and get my own food. They should have to bring it to me and take away the dirty dishes. There are local restaurants that charge less than the chain buffet restaurants. I stick to the local restaurant. Much friendlier, nicer atmosphere, helping the local economy, and great food.

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