Wednesday, April 29, 2009

B.C Ferries Pacific Buffet - Spirit of British Columbia, Spirit of Vancouver and the Coastal Celebration - 1 (888) 223-3779 -http://www.bcferries.com/


I could write a book on my experiences eating the ferry buffet. I have so many vivid memories; from the plethora of coin hockey games played on their tables, too the vigorous eating competitions and debauchery staged on high school football trips, the ferry buffet has a place in my heart that no person could ever penetrate. Now that I'm a big shot buffet reviewer who's been interviewed by Monday Magazine, I have to put personal feelings aside and use my valid opinions to dissect this fortress of heart-warming nostalgia.

This buffet has changed for the worst over the past several years. There are no more complimentary cans of juice or boxes of cereal. Long gone are the days of filling up your backpack with 24 cans of juice. I guess it must be a sign of the times. But like the great late Tupac Shakur said, "Life goes on," and I have learned to live with the fact that many of life's simple pleasures, such as stealing cans of juice, are long gone.


I'm sure many of you have popped a blood vessel or two as a result of B.C Ferries. It might have been over the multiple fare increases, constant mechanical malfunctions, or the countless afternoons spent wasting your life waiting for the stupid, ugly, inconvenient, impractical water treading monoliths to come pick you up and send you to the ever so gorgeous, gridlocked, gang violence ridden, polluted lower mainland. But for me, those factors are not so much a problem as B.C Ferries decision to remove the tables with the ridges around them from the Pacific Buffet. Those table ridges used to be the backbone of the underground sport of coin hockey, where the object of the game was to shoot a coin through the opposing players break in the table-ridge. I know I'm not explaining this well, but unless you have played coin hockey, there is no way you will understand what I'm talking about anyways.

So far, no more coin hockey and no more cans of juice, and you know they've raised the prices. It's the B.C Ferry way of life. So, does the food compensate the new flaws?


Maybe a little. Pork and shrimp dumplings are a wonderful addition to this buffet, and go extremely well with the sweet chili Thai sauce they provide. The sausages have also improved immensely as they are no longer greasy and loose; instead they are soft, chewy and just a little crispy on the outside. Butter chicken is also a nice addition, and when laid alongside some jasmine rice, a mini-Indian restaurant setting is created.


I love how the ferry buffet has gone buckwild with prawns. Cooked in a buttery curry sauce, the prawns were peeled and delicious. And like any brunch buffet, there was french toast, scrambled eggs, bacon and ham, all of which were average at best, except for the eggs which had an aftertaste of acid-reflux.

The dessert options have also taken an interesting turn from the days of high school football trips. Gone are the copious amounts of chocolate and vanilla pudding. Instead, there is a small array of higher qualityish baked goods and cheesecake. While I'm not crazy about the baked cookies, the cheesecake is excellent. There is even a strawberry topping and whipped cream option.

To summarize, this buffet has always been expensive and many of it's former qualities have been erased, which makes it very hard for me to give out a good-value rating. However, 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. When you team those facts up with half decent entrees, all-you-can-drink refreshments and deliscious cheesecake, there is no question: you must dine at Pacific Buffet the next time you take the ferry.

Price for Brunch: $19 plus tax

3.4/5

Monday, April 27, 2009

RUMOURS OF A NEW BUFFET AT THE INDIAN MARKET ON QUADRA HAVE NOT BEEN EXAGGERATED!!!

Yes it's true! I'm very excited to report that there is in fact now a lunch buffet being offered at the Indian Market on the corner of Quadra and Mackenzie! Buffet is available from 11:30-2:30 and is $7.99. I went by there at about 3 O'clock today and the line layout appears to suggest that this is not a serve yourself buffet. A new brochure for the market says the deal is "7 for $7.99", so I'm assuming they just serve you up seven dishes of your choice from the buffet trough. We hope to have a full review up sometime in the coming weeks. The Indian Market makes the best samosas in town, so I have very high hopes for this place.

ps. I do, unfortunately, have to report on some bad news relating to the Indian Market. Paki soda appears to have disappeared from the shelves! Luckily Mirinda and Thumbs Up are both still offered.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bask in the past - CBC 90.5 FM Interview - May 2008



Almost a year ago I did a short interview for CBC Radio One in Victoria with Gregor Cragie. Listening to this brings back memories of times when the blog was just a shooting star.

Shabusen, 202-755 Burrard Street, Vancouver B.C - - (604) 669-3883, www.shabusen.com



If cities like Las Vegas, Toronto and New York are the Major Leagues of the buffet world, then Vancouver is probably a double-A or triple-A district. This assumption has made me teary-eyed for two reasons. One, I was absolutely knocked off my feet by the few all-you-can-eat places I tried during my graduation celebration weekend two weeks ago in Vancouver. Two, I realized that Victoria is probably still playing t-ball in the grand scheme of buffet things. But to be fair with Victoria, if I lived in Vancouver, oxygen masks and electric wheelchairs would definitely be in the not so distant future. I also wonder if I lucked out by trying Shabusen before I tried any other of Vancouver's plentiful all-you-can-eat restaurants. I know there are dozens if not hundreds of buffets and all-you-can-eat places in the metro-Vancouver area, so is Shabusen a diamond? Or is it just the tip of the iceberg?


First of all, Shabusen is 13 dollars for all-you-can-eat Japanese and Korean BBQ. When you arrive at your table, which is equipped with a personal barbeque, you are asked to check off which dishes you would like from an order form they give you. Above is a dish of spicy tuna sashimi, just one of the many sushi dishes you can order off the menu. The fish tasted fresh and the spicy sauce possessed a sweet chili flavor.  


Probably the best component of the Shabusen experience is the barbeque. On the order form, be sure to leave a check mark beside the beef. When you cook the beef, try not to leave it on too long on each side as the beef burns quite easily. You might want to even notify your server so they can turn down the heat. 


You can also order pork, chicken and salmon for the barbecue, but the beef is far and away the best tasting option. 




Chicken karage, spring rolls, gyoza, miso soup, fried rice, steamed rice, thick noodles, teriyaki beef, teriyaki chicken and tempura are just a few of the other options available during lunch at Shabusen. The ample array of sushi and sashimi dishes is also a nice feature of the menu, and the wait time is extremely short; no longer than five minutes after we ordered did we start receiving our food. Compared to a certain place in Victoria that rhymes with Yokohama, there is no competition. Shabusen and Yokohama both offer all-you-can-eat within a 90 minute time period, but only one of them actually brings you enough food within a reasonable time frame. And thats the beauty of Shabusen. The time limit may sound scary, but the food is always brought out so quickly, patrons are usually in and out within an hour. Which is important for a busy place like Shabusen, who usually require a reservation to guarantee customers a prompt seating. 


Price for lunch: $13 plus tax
4.3/5

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kuku's update

So I called Kuku's again and the person who answered the phone said the buffet is opening next month instead of late April. I'll be in Toronto by then so I'll have my sights set on bigger things, but I'll have my best men on it and would like to accept the Good Food Blog's invitation to a buffet lunch or dinner at Kuku's when they decide to open.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Samba Brazilian Steakhouse, 1122 Alberni Street, Vancouver B.C - - (604) 696-9888, http://www.thaihouse.com/samba/



Much like the smooth jazzy music that plays when you open their webpage, the Samba Brazilian Steakhouse does not fail to impress. From beautiful waitresses and Brazilian dancers to ostrich meat and savory bacon wrapped chicken, Samba is a very unique dining experience.

Brazilian Dancers mingling with some customers

After you walk down the stairs off of Alberni street and into Samba, the first thing you will notice inside the darkly lit restaurant are a group of half naked women wearing peacock feathers, dancing in unison to latin flavored pop singles from bands such as Wings and Counting Crows. 

Sausages: so juicy, tender, spicy and delicious 

The latin atmosphere of Samba is almost enchanting. Looking around the patron-packed dining area, it's hard to not find a smiling face or a group of people who aren't laughing or in a state of bliss. And why wouldn't these people be in a state bliss. There is nothing but wonderful music, borderline erotic dancers and hundreds of pounds of meat being carried around on swords.
The way Samba works is like this: you can get up whenever you want and serve yourself at their all-you-can-eat buffet, and you can also sit at your table while gentlemen wearing red handkerchiefs around their necks bring you an unlimited supply of meat on swords. The only complaint I have with the service is the amount of times the swordmen came around asking if we would like some "top sirloin?" or "pork?".  They were really pushing that top sirloin onto us every two minutes, while the bacon wrapped chicken only came out twice in 90 minutes of solid eating.

Server carving some lamb off his sword for us

The green square cards in the picture above indicate that you would like the meat to keep on coming. If you turn the green card over, the card will turn red and that will inform the men carrying meat on swords to stop serving you. If you wish to eat more, simply turn the card back over to green.

Bacon wrapped Chicken

In terms of types of meat the men with swords are serving, the range is quite daunting. To list a few off the top of my head there was top sirloin, chicken, bacon-wrapped chicken, lamb, ostrich, pork, sausages and beef ribs.


Ostrich

The incredibly juicy bacon wrapped chicken and beautifully spiced sausage were by far the standouts as far as meat-on-swords went, while the ostrich was eerily un-poultry-like in texture. I was expecting a massive chicken leg, but instead it looked like a strip of beef that tasted like a cross between chicken and moose. Again, not Sambas fault that the taste and texture of ostrich meat threw me off, but I would suggest not trying the ostrich meat or even looking at it if you are easily turned off by "unorthodox" western Canadian activities such as eating rabbit (which is delicious).

Baked Fish

Seafood Medley - Prawns, scallops, mussels etc.

A heaping plate of Samba buffet food

As far as the buffet goes, you're looking at a pretty standard array of items here for the exception of the deep fried bananas. The white-fish baked in cheese and spices was incredible, while the prawns were plentiful. There is also some very nice thinly sliced garlic bread that is packed with flavor and a creamy seafood packed penne with prawns and octopus.

From top left: Seafood Penne, jasmine rice, deep-fried bananas and some sort of cous-cous cake?

Samba Brazilian Steakhouse is a punch to the face in culture and packs more of a sensory overload then the last time I tripped out on mushrooms in high school (during that trip I thought I actually died). It will take you on an exotic taste journey through foods such as deep fried bananas and ostrich, and it will make you fall in love with their infectious electric renditions of popular music done with a latin twist, and their Brazilian belly dancers. If you're gay, the servers  red neckties and commanding way with the meat on swords will be more than enough to tantalize your deepest fantasies. A big drawback at Samba is the price of soft drinks. They don't give free refills and each pop costs around $2.50. They also push the top sirloin and pork way to much. If I had my way, the bacon wrapped chicken would be coming around every five minutes. But I'm going to be fair and say they were very gracious, and when asked to bring some more bacon wrapped chicken out, they had no problem doing so. Sex, music and exorbitant amounts of food: Samba has it all.

P.S - If you've never experienced what digesting six different types of meat at once feels like, you're in for a treat after you eat at Samba!

Price for Dinner: $29 + tax on weekdays, $32 + tax on weekends and holidays
4.5/5

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Details leaked on Kuku's upcoming buffet

As previously mentioned on the blog, Kuku's Catering on 24 Burnside is opening an Indian buffet in the near future. Fortunately, some news has just been leaked and according to someone close to Kuku's, the buffet is opening near the end of April or early May. Kuku's new buffet will feature Naan Bread and around five or six entree's, though no specific dishes have been named. The cost is rumored to be around 13 dollars for lunch, and 15 dollars for dinner. The buffet is going to be dine in, which is interesting considering the small space of the restaurant. Anyways, keep your eyes and ears to the street. Hopefully more news will surface in the coming days.

Pluto's, 1150 Cook Street, Victoria B.C - - (250) 385-4747

Editors Note- I would like to apologize for the lack of pictures. They are coming once my friend takes them off his digital camera and emails them to me. Thank you for your patience and your patronage of the best blog in Victoria. I hope you enjoy the first of what could be many all-you-can-eat reviews. A split from the traditional buffet reviews, I feel all-you-can-eat is just as important as buffets in the cultural mosaic of this vibrant city.
Sincerely,
Guy Alaimo, CEO

All You Can Eat Taco's at Pluto's on Monday nights
$9.99

If Pluto's was my spouse she would have been in a woman's shelter years ago. But now I'm ready to take her back because I've changed. I won't hurt her again. Her all-you-can-eat fish and chips deal really pissed me off, but I love her now because all-you-can-eat tacos on Monday nights is a pretty good deal. Sure, you might get sick of eating nothing but taco's after your 7th or 8th, but its only $9.99. After twelve tacos your not sure if you're full or just sick of eating nothing but cheese, beef, sour cream and taco shells that cut the roof of your mouth. But it's only $9.99. It's such a good deal. If you love tacos, this is the place to be. I was pleasantly surprised at how much cheese and beef they were dishing out. In some cases the cook would pour scoops of beef and cheese in-between the taco shells, in what looks like an error turned into a diners free-for-all. When you order the all-you-can-eat tacos on Monday nights, you are served with a personal plate of six tacos along with lettuce and a side of salsa and sour cream. Every time you ask for more tacos, they bring out another plate with six more tacos and the same sides, until you are full. Of course they make you buy a drink, so bring more than $10.47 or whatever it comes to after taxes. But it's just a soft drink so don't worry about bringing like eight dollars for a beer unless you plan on getting pissed at Pluto's. If you plan on getting pissed while stuffing your face with tacos, I think you're the kind of person who should write for this blog. Drop me a line.

P.S- Pluto's also has all-you-can-eat fish and chips on Thursday nights. I'm going to go back soon, but the last time I went they severely over cooked and over battered the fish. Also, it probably wouldn't kill them to offer a soft shell option? Hard shell are great, but they really hinder my taco eating ability. I swear if they switched to soft, or at least gave the option, I could probably kick back like 18 tacos.