Saturday, December 29, 2007

Asia Buffet - Buena Park

He was a wise man who said:
Choose from two, but only two below, for nothing exists that exhibits all three properties.

1. Good
2. Chinese
3. Buffet

It was with this nugget of wisdom that I cautiously approached Asia Buffet at a revitalized Buena Park Downtown. Nevermind that I've been burned by the likes of it before; Eateries seemingly named eponymously from the same phylum of restaurant. Replace "Asia" with the word "Grand", ""Dragon", "Phoenix", "China", or "Jade", and there's no doubt that you've seen one yourself.

No matter what it is called, there's a fatalistic certainty to it all. To walk into such a place is to expect gloppy, cornstarched-laden sauces, greasy fried rice, stock egg rolls, and enough MSG to send a giant into convulsions.

But I relented. Not only have I heard great things about the place, I was also being treated. So I ignored that other, well-known adage: "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

Sure there is.

And really, buffets are prime examples. There's a flat fee you pay before you enter ($13.98 for the "Sunday All Day Dinner", though prices are lower at other periods), but when you manage to consume your weight in shrimp and crab, it might as well be free. Of course, that's the whole point isn't it? The I'm-Going-To-Get-My-Money's-Worth mentality is what drives people to come.

And from what I observed at Asia Buffet, that's exactly the motive. I saw a guy -- who otherwise looked to be a sane man of reason -- grab bushels upon bushels of steamed crab legs from the trough. When he was done, his plate held a haul that reached from his belt to his neck. He had cleared out the inventory in a single swipe. And he did it without shame, without remorse.

Dutifully, someone came out from the kitchen to restock it. But within minutes, another man repeated the crime.

It was at that point that I wondered: What masochistic business person would open a buffet like this? It's a losing proposition to bet against human greed and gluttony.

As I saw Asia Buffet's profit margins dwindle, I became even more amazed at the variety of food they managed to offer. It was the kind of cuisine that blew away my "Panda Express" expectations and evaporated my prejudices.

There were deep fried frog legs with spicy salt, steamed crawfish, fried whole crab, crab meat with mayo baked in their shells, and sea snails. All of which were capably cooked and some, like the frog legs, quite tasty.

But that's not to say that there weren't items to please Joe-Buffet-Eater. There were mountains of peel-and-eat shrimp, dumped on a bed of ice. Next to it, a bucket of cocktail sauce. There was a whole section of fried things to keep cardiologists gainfully employed.

Wontons. Breaded shrimp. Battered shrimp. Chicken wings. Whole fried pieces of flounder. Sesame balls, oh my! That sound you hear? It's your arteries crying for mercy.

In round metal pots, three different kinds of soup simmered. One had floating fish balls bobbing in a clear chicken broth. It seemed to buzz with the yummy, lip-smackin' flavor of MSG.

Under a set of heat lamps, steamed fish fillets sat furtively, doused with oil, soy sauce, and scallions. Although it's far too pasty to be palatable, the thought was there.

And heaven forbid; there was sashimi, spicy tuna rolls, and unagi nigiri. But don't kid yourself into thinking that it's anywhere near sushi-joint quality. At buffets like this, sushi and sashimi aren't delicacies; they are commodities.

Asia Buffet's sashimi looked to be yellowtail and tuna, cut into chunks and piled in mounds. Some pieces are actually still frozen in the middle. But the lot is there for one purpose, and one purpose only: To serve as a challenge for the fearless soul who dares to eat raw fish from a buffet line.

I did. And I'm still alive. Although I didn't gorge on them as much as I did other items. I ate a half-dozen of the stuffed mushrooms, which oozed with a creamy filling of mayo, breadcrumbs and more crab. I pried out meat from my share of snow crab legs, and shucked a few of those iced shrimp. I went for seconds on the stuffed crab shells and even had room to pipe out a dessert of ice milk topped with a strawberry.

I enjoyed myself. And yes, I have to admit: Asia Buffet is a "Good Chinese Buffet"**.

Asia Buffet
(714) 828-5780
8360 La Palma Ave
Buena Park, CA 90620

**Note: I've only tried the buffet during the premiumly priced periods. Your mileage (and food selection) will vary if you try them during their discounted price periods.

25 Comments:

At 7:02 PM, Blogger Marvin said...

"$13.98 Sunday All Day Dinner"? That was enough for me. But then you say it's actually a good chinese buffet and now I will google directions to this place as soon as I'm done commenting here. I can't believe there's that much of a variety of food!

 
At 8:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have to eat there, the photos sell and so does the review.

 
At 8:44 PM, Blogger Delta Boy said...

Gotta try it when I get back to town from my Christmas Break in da South. Thanks for the heads up!

Happy Holidays!

-DB-

 
At 11:01 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Marvin,

In my opinion, it's as good as buffets get outside of Las Vegas. Of course, there are things to avoid, like the steamed fish (just too pasty), but that's the beauty of buffets; you can try a smidge of everything and go for seconds on the stuff that's actually good.

Anonymous,

I hope you like it. I do and I usually loathe buffets.

Delta Boy,

No problem! I'm sure there will still be plenty of those steamed crab legs when you get back.

 
At 8:56 AM, Anonymous EmilyK said...

I'm crossing my fingers for a GCB in Paris and in the meatime here's wishing you a Happy and Prosperous New Year, good friends, good food, and good fortune!

 
At 1:53 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Happy New Year and best wishes to you as well, Emily!

 
At 8:44 PM, Blogger Professor Salt said...

I knew I heard that quote somewhere before...

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/59992#316876

 
At 9:10 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Prof Salt,

Like I said: He *WAS* a wise man who said that.

I remembered hearing the quote on Chowhound on a Chinese buffet thread, but couldn't find the post, or who said it!

Of course, it was YOU!

 
At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Ann said...

I hail from Huntington Beach and really love your blog. I relied on it for dining tips when I was visiting my parents over Christmas. Loved the Dosa Place! I'm writing a city dining guide about SoCal on my blog -- do you mind if I link to you?

 
At 9:37 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Ann,

Link away! Expect to see a link to your food blog on my page as well.

 
At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Ann said...

Okay, I just posted my city eating guide to Orange County, with multiple references to this blog! Hope you have a chance to check it out. Thanks again!

 
At 8:39 PM, Blogger Katy said...

Hey Elmomonster,

I'm a newbie blogger to the food blogging world. But I've actually been reading different food blogs for quite awhile now. Anyways, just wanted to say hi and feel free to visit my page. There's not much posts on there right now but it's a start! Haha, ttyl!

http://yummytimes.blogspot.com/

-Katy

 
At 9:05 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

o_O! It's been too long since I've gone to a buffet of any sort! My favourite back in Hawaii was Todai...but Hawaii's Todai was much better than the Mainland ones...

...is it possible to CRAVE a buffet?! ;)

 
At 9:42 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Ann,

Love it all! Glad you liked Dosa Place. Too bad you didn't try Haveli just a block away. It's awesome. BTW, I linked you.

Katy,

Looking good! Keep it up. Hope to see more OC posts. I've linked you too.

Kathy,

It is possible, and perfectly normal! Why, I'm craving it right now. Except, I know my growing belly would do better in a regular restaurant.

 
At 1:27 PM, Anonymous justagthing said...

Took our Lemon Butter Club members here last night, on your recommendation. Everyone had a great time, there were 17 of us. Anyways, I was quite pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food. Really enjoyed the crab and the stuffed mushrooms and the kalbi too. Thanks elmo for a great review.

 
At 3:31 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

justagthing,

Thanks for the feedback! Glad to know that you liked it too. Although now I have to ask: What is a Lemon Butter Club?

 
At 4:35 PM, Anonymous justagthing said...

A bunch of my friends that like to get together to eat crab, all you can eat crab. Sometimes we go to Vegas or Pechanga, but since this place was so close, I was hoping it would be good so as to recruit more members (all friends are welcome). We gained 3 new members. :) Thanks for asking.

 
At 5:03 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

justagthing,

THUMBS UP on the Lemon Butter Club! Brilliant name, by the way.

 
At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

last friday we attended a wedding rehersal dinner at Asia Buffet. Expecting the mediocre food normally served at buffet. We went in with low expectations. We were nicely surprised the food was very good. Egg rolls are usually not something I rave about but these were light and crispy. The shrimp was very good and the selection was wonderful. Some family from hawaii had a chance to try Crawfish.Several people were happy to get to try things they'd never tried before frog legs, snails etc. We were all very happy when we left.( and very stuffed) We want to go again soon.

 
At 10:57 PM, Blogger Nguyen H. Tuan said...

One place serves all Asians, sounds good.

 
At 11:20 AM, Blogger ngobody said...

hi elmomonster, have you ever been to hokkaido buffet (long beach and newport beach). i think hokkaido is the best buffet, almost as good as vegas.

if you have been to hokkkaido, can you tell me how it is in comparison to asia buffet?

thanks!

 
At 4:55 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

ngobody,

Unfortunately, I haven't been to Hokkaido. So I can't compare. But I can tell you that I went to Asia Buffet two weeks ago and it was still great. They had king crab legs. I stuffed myself.

 
At 4:28 PM, Blogger trepach2 said...

Nicely written and all true!

Best place as price, quality and cleanliness I've ever been for Asian and seafood.

Too bad is so far away fromn the place I live

Trepko

 
At 7:23 PM, Blogger ngobody said...

i went to this place a few weeks ago and i really did not like it. there were not many selections at all. hokkaido buffet is way better, totally your money's worth!

 
At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent, un restaurant à ne pas rater lorsque vous vous rendez à Los angeles....

 

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