Monday, December 28, 2009

Special holiday message from yours truly



Hello everyone,

As 2009 dawns into a new decade, I have to say the 2000's were a time of discovery and fun for myself. While the world was apparently going to shit, I was taking a shit from eating way to many cinnamon egg rolls at the wonder wok. It makes me realize how truly lucky I really am to be alive, and to have been a resident of Victoria, B.C for so many wonderful, memorable years. Again, as we approach a new decade, change sets in. Personally, change comes in the form of location. For the foreseeable future I will be residing in Toronto, Ontario, and my status regarding buffet reviewing remains unchanged; however, this blog remains in the best of hands, and there is absolutely nobody other than Donald Kennedy who I trust more with taking the Buffet Blog into the next decade. As I sit in this rack shack cafe, stealing free internet and listening to a remix of "I cant go for that" by Hall and Oates, I reminisce and almost cry thinking about the times that are behind me. But as I look out the window, I know there is so much waiting for me. Take care my loves, and until next time, screw healthy eating.

-guy

Monday, December 21, 2009

La Tenampa Mexican Restaurant | Duncan, B.C. | 2A-5838 Trans Canada Highway | 250.701.0175


So I guess this is where I start off the review by making some joke about skids and rednecks and small town life in Duncan right? WRONG! I'm tired of all these lazy-ass fleece vest wearing writer types thinking they're some kind of Dave Barry because they made a no-teeth joke when writing about a small town. Friday Pizza Hut Buffet pretty much makes Duncan an oasis on this island, and I won't use its people to generate a few hacky hyucks.


Conveniently located across the parking lot from Pizza Hut in Duncan is Le Tenampa Mexican Restaurant: a good go-to buffet for when you've accidentally trekked up island on a Thursday instead of a Friday.

The buffet here is mostly filled with build-your-own taco/fajita/burrito fix-ins, but there are a few stand alone items as well. The "Mexican Lasagna", essentially beef mixed with Taco Time seasoning and topped with cheese, is absolutely perfect for piling on top of taco chips and making your own haystacks: we're talking pretty primo comfort food here. I didn't sample the pasta salad or the cornbread, but Auggie assured me that both were fairly top notch by buffet standards. A mild chili which consists mostly of beef and kidney beans is decent, but not good enough to make me choose it over the lasagna or other items.

Fajita vegetables, Mexican rice, re-fried beans, as well as shredded (and ground) beef and chicken are your main taco filler options here. The shredded beef is the definite winner as far as meat options go, while the re-fried beans and Mexican rice were both fresh and, though simple, tasted much better than offerings I have encountered at similar restaurants. The soft shell tacos at La Tenampa leave something to be desired, but the fajita shells are good, standard fare. To get the most out of this buffet though, you'd be well advised to ditch housing units all together as this will free up space in your stomach.


House made salsa and guacamole are available at the salad bar and both are decent. At the very least the guacamole beats Yucatan, and the salsa was the sort of simple mix you might make for yourself at home. Enchilada sauce is also available, but it's not exactly bursting with boldness and heat; I'd recommend sticking to sour cream and salsa.

Last, but not least, tater tots and mojo potatoes are a very welcome addition to this buffet. Although I associate mojos more with fried chicken, the tots do a good job of rounding out the whole fresh, non-crappy Taco Time vibe this place has. La Tenampa is just a flat-out great place to enjoy the fun and friendly feel that a good buffet spot generates.


Jimmy Nguyen Offers Up a Short Essay on Mexican Social Mores!!!!


After being couped up in the ride way the fuck up to Duncan in the back of a beater, I was just glad to get out and let the blood rush back into my legs before they cramped up: finding my way into the restaurant was only a secondary concern. The past few weeks leading up to this trip haven't been particularly kind to me in terms of weather, so I needed some temporary relief in the form of food to at least take my mind somewhere tropical. As you can see I was happier than a Mexican who just got a green card when I stepped through the doors of La Tenampa.

We stood for a moment in front of the buffet line—dazed by the choices presented to us. Meat dishes of all kinds were available, well sort of—a fair portion of them were beef variations.

What the deuce, we've gone too far to turn back now! I loaded up my plate(s) and made my way back to the table, anticipating a hearty feast as the wind and cold raged on outside. I swear the moment I brang the spoon up to my lips, ready to line up the first bite, I could hear the mariachi band playing the tunes in my head (and what a delightful feeling that was). The cheese was nicely melted on the ground beef, the limited selection of vegetables were compensated for by the freshness and preparation, and the serious supplies of other side features make this a truly ass-kicking build-your-own taco experience. I still can't get over how crunchy the taco gets with a simple combination of Mexican lasagna and tater tots.

I blinked and four plates found their way to my side of the table and back. Needless to say, even I was impressed that I could put that much buffet food into my system (and for once feel like it wouldn't do any gastro-intestinal damage).

Our entourage left the place with readjusted belt sizes, an extra few pounds each, and the feeling of a huge Mexican party going on in our stomachs. A straight-up fiesta with Mexican dudes drinking beer and cracking jokes while Paco takes a whack at the pinata, only to deliver an embarrassing miss and have all the chicas and mamacitas laugh at him. I wouldn't have left if not for the fact that there was no more room in my belly. The only thing I could think about in regards to these partiers was "I'll be back, pendejos!"


Price For Lunch: $11.50 (after tax)
Rating: 3.9


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Small Changes

Hey Everyone,

I've made two minor navigational changes to the blog recently.

  1. Search bar! Now you can easily search the entire blog by using that lovely google search bar located just to the right of this post.

  2. Added an easy to find RSS subscription gadget - you'll find it halfway down the side bar. I'm surprised I did not add this sooner as I'm an avid user of google reader.
I hope this makes it easier for everyone to find the information they seek!

Cheers and Merry Christmas!

Angelo

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Un-Official Statement on the Future of the Buffet Blog

Two months ago we all received some debilitating news. It was at this time when Guy Alaimo, head-writer and CEO of the Victoria Buffet Blog, announced his retirement from the world of buffet critique. Since this announcement, the future of the Victoria Buffet Blog has been in doubt. Today I would like to ensure blog readers, and the public at large, that the Buffet Blog is not dying.

I am a long time contributor to the Buffet Blog, and would like to announce today that I will be taking over head-writing duties until either Mr. Alaimo returns to the blog, or he chooses a successor. These are exciting times in the Victoria all-you-can-eat/buffet world: summer saw the opening of a buffet at the Indian Market, the premiere of Posh on the island, and the advent of a Sunday brunch buffet at the Loghouse Pub.

In the coming months expect coverage of the Empress' curry buffet, the pending grand opening of Kuku's Buffet, and updates on previously reviewed eateries. At this time I plan to update the blog once every three months or so. I will admit this marks a drop in content, but I believe the alternative of no blog at all is a far harsher reality.

I would like to thank Guy, and his brother Angelo for their unwavering commitment to the championing of buffet culture over the past year and a half. I would also like to thank Guy for allowing me to be part of the outstanding community service that is the Buffet Blog. I look forward to attempting to take a walk in his shoes.

Sincerely,

Donald Kennedy
Head-Writer/Founder Victoria Burger Blog
Contributor Victoria Buffet Blog

Monday, September 21, 2009

Posh | 102-1063 Fort Street | 250.382.7674 | www.303-posh.com

All-You-Can-Eat Sukiyaki

Goddamnned camera sucks balls in low-light. My apologies.

Having finally secured a job that offers me more than ten hours a week, and having also received a little bridge financing from the 'rents, I decided to celebrate my good fortune through gluttony with a trip to Posh. Posh recently expanded operations (there are already three locations in Vancouver) a few weeks ago by unveiling its first Victoria restaurant in a spot formerly occupied by Med-Grill. Sukiyaki style cooking arms eaters with a shallow cooking pot filled with sukiyaki sauce (a sort of sweet soya sauce) and cabbage. You toss some meat and veges in there, let 'em soak up the sweetness of the cabbage water/sauce mix, and then dip your meat in raw egg if you feel so inclined (different from Shabu Shabu where you do not cook directly in sauce).

At Posh your options for meat are beef, pork, cod, and fish cakes. For vegetables you've got an array of mushrooms, yam, zuchinni, and probably a few other things I forget. You also have the ability to toss udon noodles into the pot as well as vermicelli, tofu, and baked tofu.

The meaty shitake mushrooms are the highlight here as they maintain a good texture after cooking, and the sweetness of the sukiyaki blends well with the flavour of the shitake. The pork and beef cooked up pleasantly in the sauce, but weren't as enjoyable flavour-wise as the Korean BBQ-style options you get at Sura on Douglas. The soft, eggy coating, however, does combine with the sweet sauce in a way that allows each meaty morsel to wrap its way around your mouth fabulously.

The cod is a definite disapointment here however, as it tastes like a sour, sweaty fishmonger's shop smells in the heat of the early afternoon (in other words, "too fishy"). Overall eating at Posh is an enjoyable experience, but sukiyaki is perhaps better enjoyed in a non all-you-can-eat format: the food is good, but it all sort of starts tasting the same after shoveling it in non-stop for half-an-hour.

Finally a little bit of advice: don't bother with the Udon noodles. Yes, they taste good in the sukiyaki sauce, but they totally take up the whole pot and can really end up fucking up your flow: better to stick with meat and veges. It should also be noted that Posh is still young, and I have absolutely no idea if at some point in the future things like sushi and tempura will be added to the menu. At this point in time I would say the price for all-you-can-eat is fair, but it's not exactly the deal of the century (although the bottomless pop is a plus). I may have left loving the Passionfruit 7-Up more than I did most of the food, but I'd still say Posh is worth checking out.


Price: $24

Rating
3.6/5

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Raymonds on Admirals Re-brands Itself as 'Royal Palace'?

Yes, that's right - the Victoria Buffet Blog is not dead!

What seems to be dead though is the name 'Raymond's' at it's (now previous?) location on Admirals in View Royal! Perhaps, they have gone through a re-branding as the site still sports the Raymond-esque neon signs, but this time with the name Royal Palace.

Interestingly enough, their window-posted menu claims "WE ARE THE BEST BUFFET IN TOWN" which as you can see contradicts the ratings to the immediate right of this text ->


Apart from the signs and name, it appears Raym.. er Royal Palace will only be offering a Lunch Buffet with this new iteration. Moreover, if this restaurant really did just go through a name change, and their food quality remains the same, I can assure you they are NOT the best buffet in town which can be noted from the previous review of Raymonds at the same location.

Expect a review up early next week.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Goodbye everybody!

Health issue’s force Victoria’s Buffet King to call it quits


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


VICTORIA, B.C | JULY 30, 2009 - - Guy Alaimo, the main writer and creator of the Victoria Buffet Blog, has called it a career and is retiring from the world of buffet reviewing at the age of 24 citing declining overall health.

In an interview conducted with the CBC mere months after launching the blog, Alaimo mentioned heart palpitations and other health issues he suffered due to extreme overeating. Sadly the sound of those palpitations has grown too loud to ignore.

“I just got out of hand,” says Alaimo. “I was obviously suffering from a severe eating disorder, and I was channeling that energy into my blog. It’s time to get serious and change my life if I plan on being alive in a few years.”

Alaimo provided the people of Victoria with one of the city’s first specialized food review blogs, reviewing every buffet restaurant in the city in just over a year of service.

As of July 29, 2009, Alaimo tipped the scales at 270 pounds, 50 pounds more than what he weighed when the Victoria Buffet Blog debuted in March, 2008.

Alaimo is also a contributing writer for the Victoria Burger Blog, though it is not known whether he plans on retiring from his burger reviewing career as well.

Listen to Alaimo's official retirement announcement

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

B.C Ferries Pacific Buffet - Breakfast - Spirit of British Columbia, Spirit of Vancouver and the Coastal Celebration - http://www.bcferries.com/

I, like my older brother, have had many, many wonderful childhood memories of eating on the ferry buffet. From school field trips, to traveling across for sports competitions, I always looked forward to gorging on the immense offering while sailing between the island and mainland. Of course, not all ferries offer this opportunity, and I would always become extremely disappointed when I did not see the distinctive exhaust stacks of the Spirit of British Columbia, or the Spirit of Vancouver Island slowly pull up to berth from my car window.


On a recent concert trip to Vancouver, my friends and I hit up the glorious Pacific Buffetlocated at the stern of the Spirit of British Columbia on the main passenger deck. Of course it being the 9 A.M. sailing, we just had to have breakfast, and I must say – the breakfast buffet on the ferry has always been my favourite – especially after becoming food poisoned by the seemingly harmless and legendary sunshine breakfast during a sports trip back in ‘06.

The breakfast buffet is separated into three lines – one for main dishes, another for fruit and cereal, and another for dessert/sweet breakfast items.

From the main line, items included – scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs, corned beef hash, grilled sausages, ham, cheese omelette, dim sum, ratatouille, potato patties, cinnamon swirl toast, and croissants.

The first item one sees entering the main line is the “scrambled” eggs… I’m sure some people remember their first trip to the breakfast buffet and questioning the compact looking yellow substance in the metal tray in front of them at least for a second or two. Yes the eggs look a bit off; however, they are not farm fresh, but powdered. If you prefer whole/real eggs, you’re only option is to grab the hard boiled eggs adjacent to the “scrambled” eggs. I’m not sure if the cheese omelette uses real eggs or powdered, but it was very good regardless.

To be honest, I don’t like breakfast sausages. Every time I have had them at breakfast buffets – hell, even at traditional breakfast, I have found them to be fatty and disgusting. I’d rather stick to bacon. Unfortunately, bacon was not available so I did eat the sausage and I must say it is the BEST breakfast sausage I have ever had. Perhaps it’s due to the fact it is grilled, or the combination of spices, but I’m glad I did not pass it up.

I’ve always enjoyed the corn beef hash provided at the buffet. The mix of potato, corned beef, and some other ingredients I can only guess at always makes me go back for more. Other items on the main line that I tried and found decent are the ham, potato patties and dim sum. I found it quite odd the buffet was offering dim sum for breakfast as I have been informed by a friend it is traditionally an item offered at brunch.

After filling up the first plate from the main line, I personally love to douse the eggs, corned beef hash, potato patties, and sausage with sweet maple syrup. In the good ol’ days, one would be able to bring back individual servings of maple syrup back to the table for a discrete pour. Alas, gone are those days, and I had to pour the syrup from a single flask located near the toaster into a small bowl to bring back to the table. I still get raised eye-brows from those I sit with.

From the line next to the main, items included – fresh fruit, organic yogurt and assorted cereals complete with toppings such as cranberry, granola, and dehydrated bananas. The yogurt served was in individual cups of the brand Olympic , and if I even remotely interested in eating cereal at a breakfast buffet, I’m sure I would have enjoyed the toppings offered.

From the third line, items included – Belgium waffles with strawberry and whipped cream, assorted cold cuts, candied salmon, and other sweets. The candied salmon was exquisite and definitely worth filling half a plate. Belgium waffles are always oh so good and absolutely wonderful with the supplied toppings. A friend of mine had the following to say about the waffles.

“I must say the waffles with whipped cream and strawberries topped were some of the best I’ve ever had, mainly because it wasn’t overly sweet like how a lot of breakfast places offer. The strawberry syrup wasn’t laden with sugar, and neither was the whipped cream. It allowed the flavours to come through instead of being overshadowed by the sugar.

Finally, many drinks are available for enjoyment such as orange juice, coffee, assorted teas, 2% milk, hot chocolate, and Coca Cola soft drinks. Of course with many buffets, the glasses provided for the cold drinks are fairly small so one must walk back and forth several times or fill up more than once. As a remedy in my younger-years, I would always grab a couple large cups from the cafeteria, and stuff them in my backpack before entering the buffet. Several trips back to the drinks section were reduced to one or two.

Overall, the breakfast ferry buffet is a great start to the morning aboard a BC ferry. Not only do they provide a variety of traditional breakfast items, but also healthy items such as fruit and cereal. As mentioned by many people, the view can’t be beat and I feel my brother has previously summed the experience up nicely - “The Pacific Buffet has a monopoly on ferry buffets, and offers a relaxing view of the ocean, far away from the rat-race of the white-spot cafeteria and sandwich bars on the other side of the boat”

If you’ve got the stomach real-estate, the cash-flow, and will be traveling on either the, Spirit of British Columbia, Spirit of Vancouver Island, or Coastal Celebration between 7-10 AM, be sure to grab a table inside the breakfast buffet while sailing between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen.

Price: $16.50 + tax for adults

$9.50 + tax for children 5 to 11 years of age.

3.7 / 5



Kuku's Continues to Tease


Sick of hearing all this buzz about Kuku's on Burnside opening a buffet?

Yes, well so am I.

Nonetheless, here's an update letting you know they STILL have not opened, but this time with a picture showing decals placed on the windows of what looks to be the area for their restaurant/buffet.

Does anyone else think the guy in their logo belongs at an Italian restaurant?

Just Saying.

Oh and look for a new review up later tonight.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Racial epithet scribbled on wall of beloved local buffet restaurant

Thanks to DK for alerting me to this; as reported this morning in the Times Colonist, a top 5 buffet has been attacked with a racial epithet.

Caribbean Village in the Quadra Village is a one of a kind restaurant for Greater Victoria. I reviewed their lunch buffet last September. The food was excellent.

I'm not surprised Mr. Bowen was unnerved by the event. I even mention feeling "safe as fuck" eating in that restaurant as a result of the mans imperturbable behaviour. You should watch the way he handles drug addicts loitering around his store.

Here's a link to the review I wrote a while back. Take away the Oak Bay Marina, and the Blue Crab, and the Caribbean Village is the third best buffet in the city.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Szechuan City Revisted, 110 Burnside Road East, Victoria B.C - - (250) 386-2288

Editors Note: Yet another Victoria review from blog contributor Angelo Alaimo! And It is now official... The current Szechuan City has no link to the former powerhouse buffet which took the city of Victoria by storm in the early to mid 2000's. It is truly the end of an era, and no words can accuratly express the sadness, and feelings of emptiness I have suffered as a result. In my sadness, I feel creative, and will probably post some sort of memorial article in the near future. Thank you for continuing to view this blog as your official Victoria buffet authority.


After a sudden closure, and months of waiting for "Renovations" to be complete at Szechuan City, the grand re-opening occured last week to the pleasure of many. Of course "renovations" in mandarin translates to "under new management" in English. I apologize in advance for the cell phone pics, but my DSLR died a couple weeks ago :(

Upon entering the "new" Szechuan City, you are asked to pay ahead of time before being seated - just like before. On our visit, it did not seem like the new owners/management had their debit system up at the time, so at press time, the only confirmed methods of payment include credit card and cash.


The buffet set up consists of a approximately 5 meter long buffet station, a dessert bar, and a wide variety of drinks which includes pop, coffee, water, and juice which just happens to be in a "Slush Puppie" machine. Normally, something inside a Slush Puppie" machine would indicate it is of the iced variety. Not the case here... also note the labeling of the right canister in the picture below and compare it to the colour of the liquid inside. We buffet goers were slightly confused for a moment and it warranted an image capture.


The service under the new management at Szechuan city is actually very good. I was very impressed with the care the servers put into their work. Plates were cleared promptly and the staff also striked up a conversation with patrons.

Now, onto the most important part.... the food.

As one can see in the previous review of this establishment, it has received a rave review from the buffet blog. Unfortunately, under the new management, Szechuan City will be unable to hold its dominating 4.3/5

The main buffet table contained items such as several chow mein rice and noodle dishes, ginger pork, mussels, beef and green beans, deep friend chicken, squid, snow peas, sweet and sour pork and some others which I did not sample.



Soup selection included hot and sour and won ton soup. The won ton dumplings were fairly decent but unfortunately, the only other ingredient in the mix was broth. I like to see some vegetables in my wonton soup so I thought this could be much improved.


Going back the rice/noodle dishes.. I found them to be bland..In fact... I started to feel Szechuan City doesn't use MSG in these dishes. Well, at least perhaps it was forgotten in the batch I sampled. To be honest, the flavours of most of the dishes seemed a bit off, and perhaps with a little bit of tweaking of the sauces, can be good with the mostly quality ingredients present.


I enjoyed the beef and green beans and other vegetables, such as the bokchoy were decently cooked. The ginger pork, unfortunately seemed too fatty/tough, and I ended up second guessing the legitimacy of the pork labeling.


As for fish, you had a choice of squid, mussels, and another assorted fish type dish. I did not sample the squid or the mussels, but my chime ins did and hopefully will send me their reports soon. I did however, try this assorted spicy fish dish. I forgot it's exact name... but it's best to be avoided. See the picture below for the random ball of grey processed mystery meat and/or fish. It was rubbery, had no taste... yes I tasted it.. but I did not swallow.


Of course, the most important part of a chinese food buffet is the spring rolls. I am happy to report, the spring rolls at Szechuan City are excellent! So good in fact, I ate at least three. According to other reports, sushi was available, unfortunately I cannot confirm this as none was present during my visit; however, I did see what looked like to be ginger and wasabi in the dessert bar area.


Highlights for dessert include fresh fruit, rice krispy squares and soft serve. I hadn't tried the soft serve prior to my most recent visit, but its fairly satisfying after you've stuffed yourself. I washed down said rice krispy squares and soft serve with a great cup of coffee. I had a hard time finding the cream, so if you do end up heading off to Szechuan - the creamers are in the dessert bar.

Overall, I was disappointed to see the food quality - with exception to the spring rolls - head downhill from the establishments previous glory days. The restaurant definitely has the good service going for it which I love to see, but the food needs some adjustments. Perhaps my suspicion of the missing MSG is correct, or just the fact the restaurant is getting over its first startup bumps. I'm happy to speculate and give them the benefit of the doubt, but the bottom line from my experience shows the food needs work.

Price for Dinner: $14.95

3.0/5

Friday, June 5, 2009

Szechuan City has re-opened


According to a report from the Good Food blog, Szechuan City on Burnside has finally re-opened after months of being closed for renovation. The Buffet Blog is on the case and we are aiming to have a review up by sometime next week.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Article that Started it all

It's a proven fact that 95 percent of this blogs readership happens by chance. Whether a reader is introduced by means of a google search, or a link from a fellow blog, chances are the reader has no idea, nor cares of how this blog came to be. In October of 2007, during a rainy day in a writing class I was taking at Camosun College, the seeds of the Victoria Buffet Blog were planted. By that point I had started to write for the school paper, and had just begun a journey into print media. The paper's editor, along with his sidekick intern-editor, had begun speaking to our writing class with the hopes of turning us all into full-fledged, student-newspaper writers and columnists. This particular rainy day the class formed into groups, and the editor asked each person in the class to come up with two story ideas that they would have to choose between. These were my two story ideas: the sad state of buffets in Victoria and Emo kids. Or was it cutters? Hipsters? The truth is I really don't know who I was targeting with that particular story idea, but the outcome was sure to be a mess. With that in mind, the decision was easy. The other students in my group told me I should take off with the buffet idea. Tentatively, it was going to be a 300 word column on the lack of decent buffet restaurants in Victoria. That all changed a week later when I went into the newspapers newsroom and started talking about the status of my column to the editor. It became apparent to him while I was explaining the status of my column that I had a great wealth of knowledge about buffets in Victoria. As I continued to explain, he cut me off. "Its set then. We'll do a feature on buffets."

Without further hesitation, I present to you the article that started it all...

A Buffet Love Affair
by Guy Alaimo

Published in February 2008
Nexus Newspaper

Photos by Angelo Alaimo


It's not easy being a buffet expert. Not only is sacrificing your physical health a must; it takes dedication and an undying love for the buffet. It started when I was 10. My introduction to Pizza Hut’s kids-eat-for-free deal turned out to be an all-out, lifelong love affair with buffet.
In comparison to other cities, Victoria fares poorly when it comes to buffets. For example, in Ontario there’s an award-winning all-you-can-eat buffet called The Mandarin offering Chinese cuisine and other items, such as Maui ribs and cold prawns.
In Victoria, you have to pay top dollar to get those kinds of quality items in an all-you-can-eat buffet. The Victoria buffet scene has gone through its share of ups and downs over the last 15 years. By far the biggest devastation for the local all-you-can-eat buffet community was the loss of Pizza Hut. Whether I was a 10-year-old boy with the lingering taste of dessert pizza in my mouth or a belligerent, hung over 16-year-old punk seeing if I could be the one who breaks the 30-slice record during a 45-minute lunch break, the Pizza Hut on Shelbourne was too amazing too be true. This was a buffet that could keep your senses sharp. It was a tool for tuning up the hunter/gatherer instincts. One must be quick and cunning to load up a plate with enough pizza to feed 15 people for a table of three. With 10-minute breaks between fresh pizzas, only the strongest and fastest could suckle upon the sweet breast of the Hut. It was $6.99 for all-you-can-eat pizza and all-you-can-eat dreams. Sadly, the Pizza Hut passed away in 2005 to make way for a Tim Horton’s. The late Wonder Wok restaurant, also on Shelbourne, offered a tasty little buffet for $5.99. In 2003 it sadly shut down, but re-opened for a brief stint in 2006. Eventually it was turned into a Starbucks. In memory of the Wonder Wok and Pizza Hut, two buffet gems taken away from Victoria way too early by major coffee/donut chains, I have spent the past two weeks venturing all over greater Victoria with one goal in mind—to find the best Chinese buffet in the city.




Winner:

Crystal Jade

(801 Vernon Street)

Crystal Jade is located in the old Uncle Willy’s building. It was a treat. Highlights included salt and pepper fried fish and squid, tender barbequed pork glistening with flavour, and textbook spring rolls that crunched with freshness every time you took a bite. There were different types of chow mein with Singapore and Shanghai-style noodles and staples like sweet and sour pork, ginger beef, and, um, scrambled eggs. Yes, scrambled eggs. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Further down the buffet line required some pickiness. I don’t eat vegetables unless they’re deep-fried. If it isn’t brown, give it a frown. But the mixed vegetables with tofu drizzled in black bean sauce looked and smelled incredible.

Near the top of the buffet line was an assortment of deep-fried items that all had fantastic consistency--prawns, chicken wings and balls, squid, all of which are lightly crunchy on the outside while warm and soft on the inside.

Once I was finished loading my plate, a self-serve fountain pop kiosk caught my eye. Around the corner from that was a soft-serve ice cream machine, of which many customers took advantage. Chocolate and caramel syrup were available for customization purposes. The service was fantastic and comparable to the service you would receive at a classy Sunday brunch buffet in a nice hotel. Tea was graciously served the second we sat down and the manager of the buffet was working hard and smiling at the same time. This was truly an experience, and I will be visiting this buffet many times before I die.

Price: $14.95 for dinner, $11.95 for lunch

Rating: 4.75/5


Editors note: Crystal Jade isn't good anymore. Read my new review to find out why.



First runner-up:

Purple Garden

(138-1551 Cedar Hill X Rd.)


A gem is resting behind a McDonalds in an underground parking lot. Its name—Purple Garden. Located only a few minutes from the Lansdowne campus, Purple Garden delivered quality food that was clean and fresh. When an item was old or the container empty, a fresh batch would be in its place fairly quickly. Other than dry chow mein, the items were excellent. The spring rolls were fried well, offering a nice, crunchy exterior and filled with cabbage and other assorted vegetables. Other items included ginger beef, mandarin-style fish, and green beans with barbequed pork. Or was it barbequed pork with green beans? This place does not cheap out on the meat. The beverages were on a self-serve system, similar to Crystal Jade, and there was a freezer with four kinds of ice cream to choose from. The customer service was polite and diligent. Used plates were quickly removed from the table and tea was offered. The general atmosphere was nice and the other customers seemed to be enjoying themselves while light classical music permeated the dining areas. Easily the best value in the city, Purple Garden is great place to go for lunch if you’re at school and want to get away from the boring food served at Chartwells.

Price: $12.95 for dinner, $8.95 for lunch.

Rating: 4.5/5



Second runner-up:

Szechuan City

(110 Burnside Rd. E.)


The Szechuan City experience has been a tumultuous ride. As a teenager, I frequently visited this restaurant with my friends and have many memories of the poor way that my friends and I were treated.This was back when Szechuan City was still a one-store pony across from Tillicum Mall.

I distinctly remember an incident when I was 17, and a waitress poured me a glass of water only half full. Before she walked away I asked her kindly if I could receive a full glass of water, since the plate of food I was about to devour was surely going to parch my taste buds. She politely agreed and poured the rest of the glass. Later on during our meal, a disgruntled waiter approached our table and made eye contact with me.

He then started pouring me a glass of water until the water started overflowing and spilling over the table, and onto the floor. Then he uttered words that will stick with me for the rest of my life. “Is that enough water for you, sir? You make so much mess!” But the food easily made up for the rudeness of the waiter. Now it’s a different story. The quality of the food has taken a dive and, as a result, the customer service has greatly improved. Again, the drinks were on a self-serve system, and ice cream was offered on tap. Nanaimo bars summed up the beauty of their dessert options and their main dishes were pretty good, but not as good as they used to be.

Some unique items they offered were teriyaki meatballs and cold prawns—the good kind you have to peel.

Price: $9.50 for lunch

Rating: 4/5




Third runner-up:

Raymond’s

(212-815 Cloverdale Ave.)


Raymond’s has been referred to as the best buffet in Victoria. Well, they’re not the best, but they have some nice qualities.

A large number of Chinese people were dining at the Cloverdale Raymond’s, which made me feel pretty good while I was sampling the items. I was also hung over, so the sight of all-you-can-eat dim sum was a nice surprise. The dim sum itself was okay, but the only item I enjoyed from it was the pork wrapped in a small sticky bun.

Classic items were readily available though--sweet and sour pork, ginger beef, fried rice, and chow mein, to list a few. The best items were the salt and pepper squid, which possessed a spicy bite, and the spring rolls were amazing. The staff generously poured water and the atmosphere was great. Drinks weren’t included in the cost, however. Excellent elevator music was in the background and this was firmly established by the muzak rendition of “I Want to Live in America” which was subtly playing as I drowned my sorrows in sweet and sour sauce.

Price: $12.75 for dinner, $9.75 for lunch

Rating: 3.75/5




Fourth runner-up:

Raymond’s

(4-100C Aldersmith Place)


Raymond’s near Admirals offers a unique style no other Chinese buffet in Victoria has—a Western buffet containing over 20 items with a salad bar. We knowingly ignored the salad bar and started piling up our plates with Western cuisine. Some of the standout items were stuffed mushrooms, garlic sautéed mushrooms, and maple BBQ side ribs. The BBQ ribs were delicious, but the majority of the food was lukewarm and old. We were shocked to see this common phenomenon happen at such an early time in the dinner rush. It would be better if they replaced the items in the Western buffet more often. Our second trip to the buffet led us to the Chinese items. We filled our plates with all the regulars, like fried rice, ginger beef, and sweet and sour pork. The spring rolls were crunchy and fresh, a sure sign of a passing grade. Many Chinese items were also not being replaced, despite their age. The kung pao chicken with diced vegetables was cooking in its own juice and developed a saucy film. The salt and pepper pork was cooked well and had a nice, spicy bite, but it was cold. The few items that got replaced included the garlic pepper deep-fried squid and the pork dumplings. Both were tasty and provided us eating enjoyment on our third and final plate. Raymond’s buffet has the potential to be the best buffet in the city, but for whatever reason they don’t replace the items as much as they should.

This isn’t a new problem. I’ve visited this buffet many times over the past five years and I’m always disappointed in the lack of fresh items. Buffet items should be replaced because of their age, regardless if they are consumed or not. If they provided fresh food throughout the duration of the buffet, Raymond’s on Admirals would be one of the front-running buffets in the city.

Price: $12.75 for dinner, $9.75 for lunch

Rating: 3/5




Avoid at all costs:

Wing’s

(90 Gorge Rd. W.)


WTF? I’ve never left a buffet hungry in my life.

There was no way I was going to continue dining on wonton soup that had an epidermis and almond chicken reminiscent of the days when I was curious about the taste of play-dough.

Three types of chow mein equaled three different possible patterns of vomit. Dry and soggy at the same time, I had to give them credit. It’s very difficult to make food that has polar traits like that. The fried rice was hard enough to chip teeth. The spring rolls were old. Correction. Everything was old. I was confused by how bad everything was. I was even more confused when I realized the place was full of people. The waitress who greeted me was more depressing than the cuisine. Also, drinks weren’t included with the cost of the buffet.

Price: $7.50 for dinner, $7.25 for lunch

Rating: 0/5