Todai (aka the buffet formerly known as Minado)

Here we go again.  I love the buffets… and on Friday I visited another one (with my wife and a few of her co-workers).  I had actually been to this buffet back in March for my brother’s birthday- when it was known as Minado.  We went for dinner, and it was pretty good.  Decent sushi, some good hot things, not too crowded- but things were still fresh, and a huge selection.  A couple of months later, I had read that it was sold to Todai, a Japanese buffet chain with locations mostly in the west coast, Texas, Illinois, Virginia & New York.  My one previous visit to a Todai (in Los Angeles) left me with a bad taste in my mouth (literally).  The rice they used to make the sushi was disgusting, and the warm food was not so great either.

With that in mind, we went to the New York Todai, hoping that some of the Minado goodness was held over in the transition.  Todai is what is known by buffet aficionados as a “Super Buffet”.  It’s a very technical term, and might be difficult to understand for the buffet lay-person.  ”Super” refers to the awesome size and nature of the buffet in question.  Most Super Buffets have many stations, and at least 50 items (I just made that up… I don’t think there is any real measure). 

Super Buffets also require a totally different technique from your small scale and regular size buffets.  With the small buffets it is easy to load your plate up with the 10-20 items they have available… but with a Super Buffet you need to be more cautious.  I like to take small bits of as many items as possible, scope out the real winners and then return for larger portions of the 3 or 4 things that I really loved.

Tackling Minado, the food porn, and the +/- after the jump…

The biggest problem with Todai because apparent from the second we arrived there.  The set up.  Most of the best buffets have multiple stations, usually in a square or circle format where you can rotate around different squares picking out things you want.  See something you like, jump in load up and step out.  Plates are available on every possible corner with empty space, and it’s easy to get a fresh one and fill it up with tasty buffet treats.  This set up has been tested extensively (mostly in fat buffet rich states like Texas and Massachusetts) and then adopted by the rest of the countries Super Buffets*.   Todai is set up as one long gigantic line, with only one side available to take food from (the other side is where the workers replenish the food).  (* Scientific testing on buffet set ups probably did not happen… the set up described above is just common sense.)

At Todai, one end of the long line is the sushi, on the other end is the hot food, and in the middle is a very large selection of cold and warm “salad” type items… or as I like to call it “filler”.  In this case, it literally was the filler between the hot food and the sushi, and while gigantic lines formed on either side of the buffet (to get to the hot food and the sushi), the middle remained largely empty and accessible to anyone who could fight through the crowds on either side to get an empty plate.

I knew we were in trouble when I saw the stream of people coming down the stairs from the balcony (all with nametags on).  Five minutes before we got there, I’m pretty sure 27 buses had dropped of the most gigantic tour group imaginable and the place was totally packed.  I waited on line and attempted my “take a tiny bit of everything” strategy, but it was tough.  Because of the sheer number of people, a lot of the good things were totally out when you got to them, and then once you made your way across the the line of hot food (and salads) towards the sushi, the sushi line from the other side was trying to fight past you, to get to the salads and hot food.  A total disaster. 

I managed to snag 4 or 5 pieces of sushi (which was also pretty depleted because of the crowds) to add to my fried calamari, one chicken wing, shrimp on a skewer, two selections of fish, and my one piece of “tempura roll”.  At most buffets, you like to see a little bit of a crowd, because it insures that the food will be finished quickly and replaced with fresh, hot food.  An empty buffet, means the same containers of food sit out there for 30 mins to an hour waiting to be eating.  Surprisingly many of the hot foods were not that hot… despite being constantly swapped out. 

This could have easily been overlooked (as I do at many buffets- after all freshness is not a buffet’s fortay) if it had been easy to stuff my face.  But the food was hard to get to, and the lines on either side were long for the entire time we were there… resulting in what I’m pretty sure is easily my “WORST SECOND BUFFET PLATE OF ALL TIME”:

Todai Buffet, Midtown NYC

Pathetic.  I was embarrassed.  But the crowd and frustration of waiting in line had taken it’s toll… thrown me off my game…. and this was the result.  I’m almost embarrassed to post the picture.  In Boston I was a buffet eating master… second only to a small Chinese girl named Cyndi.  (I still don’t know how she always beat me… it’s like that hot dog contest eating guy.  A miracle of science.)  I hope Cyndi never sees the embarrassment of this meal.  I’ll never live it down.   (Click here to see a real second plate… courtesy of one of my wife’s co-workers.  She knew how to do it up right…)

That’s not to say the buffet is terrible… but I think there are certain things that might help your enjoyment.  First, maybe Friday at 12:30pm is a bad time to go.  Maybe it’s buffet day for tour groups.  I’m guessing on a Monday or Tuesday it will probably be less crowded, and easier to stuff your face.  Secondly, I think Todai might be a buffet for people who don’t love buffets.  I’m a fat guy… and buffet eating for me is about winning the game.  The place charges a price, and puts out food.  Then it challenges me… “Can you eat enough food to make it worth the price that I have set forth?”  At some buffets, the challenge is super hard… like the Bellagio which forces you to eat over $30 worth of food!  When a buffet is under $10 it’s almost laughable.  I can eat $10 worth of bad buffet food 15 minutes after Thanksgiving dinner, blindfolded and handcuffed (now that would be an appetizing sight!).  Of course “tougher” or “smarter” buffets will set up obstacles- like bread, rice, and french fries.  Small money items that really fill you up, but work against you winning the game.  It’s like Chess for really fat people.

Needless to say, on this day Todai beat me.  $13.95 (plus tax and tip) is more then I usually like to pay for a Midtown Lunch, and with the long lines and poor set up, it proved to be too much for me in the end.  If winning the game is not your objective… and your strategy is just to have a nice lunch with a lot of variety, that includes sushi and some healthier salad type options that most Asian buffets usually don’t have… then you will really enjoy Todai.  For us buffet athletes… I’d recommend going on a Tuesday- or just head one avenue over to the $9.95 small scale Korean/Sushi Buffet Arang.  The selection might be smaller, but at least they make it easy to leave feeling disgustingly stuffed.  After all, with buffets, sometimes bigger doesn’t always mean better.


  • Huge variety.  It’s a “Super Buffet” so there are a ton of different options for every taste…
  • A lot of fish options (aside from sushi).  A much larger number of the hot options are fish, comapred to your normal buffet…
  • A lot of really good Japanese salad/vegetable options.  The middle of the buffet had all sorts of things that will leave you full, but feeling better then buffets dominated by the fried stuff.  Delicious roasted eggplant, cold soba noodles, tofu and more.  (I usually preach to stay away from these “fillers”… but if you are into a buffet with some non-fried healthier items- you might really enjoy Todai)
  • Sushi is made fresh right behind the counter, and although it was depeleted because of the crowds it was much better then the Todai in Los Angeles.  (Not great, but better then a lot of buffet sushi… and a huge selection)


  • The set up makes it very difficult to go up for multiple visits on a super busy day (which clearly Friday is).
  • A lot of the things were depleted because of the crowds… something that wouldn’t be an issue if it was easy to get back up there when the new things came out.
  • A lot of the hot food wasn’t that warm
  • There was a great looking grill station where they were cooking up various things on sticks but it was so popular, I think the chef was rushing the stickes off the grill.  My shrimp on a stick was slightly undercooked.
  • The price.  $14 is a little too much for a Midtown Lunch ($17 after tax and tip)… especially when don’t get free reign to eat as much as you want.  (And especially when Arang is a few blocks away for $10)

Todai, 6 E. 32nd St. (btw. 5+Mad), 212-725-1333


  • Thanks for braving this! What a nightmare. Plus buffet sushi sounds like a gastrointestinal disaster waiting to happen.

  • Zach, the photo of your second plate had me laughing aloud. Thanks for brightening an otherwise trying Monday morning.

    My first Todai experience was in the bay area.

  • I have been to Minado in Little Ferry and when it was Minado in NYC. When they first opened up, their selections and service was good and I am afraid now they have all gone downhill. Todai I have been to twice already (alson to one in White Plains) and it always left me less than satisfieid. Although they are Japanese restaurants, you do realize that the owners in all instances are Korean Americans?

    The best super-sushi buffet I have been to is the Todai in Honolulu bar none.

  • Mm, that sounds like a nightmare. Minado was set up like that wasn’t it? I’ve been to Minado in Glen Cove, and liked it a lot though it was a bit too much cold stuff for me (they had snow or king crab legs- this was years ago, and no butter! How do you not have butter?!), so when they opened one in Manhattan I was so excited. But then I went and it was so expensive and not that good… and everyone said the Minado in NJ was so much better. This Todai sounds much better than Minado, but busy. Maybe I’ll haul up there one day for dinner.

    PS Someone just told me there’s two Sophie’s in the Financial District, so I’m excited! Will have to try them!

  • So how was the hygiene when you visited? Have they improved things since the day we went and caught them power-washing the walls next to the sushi with a garden hose?


  • I had the bad luck of reading this post while eating. Todai in Portland was, rather is, the most disgusting eatery I have ever come across. It has been cited many times by the health department and overall it is a nasty place.

  • I have been to minado…and they have a lot to choose from…. but I usually end eating only a few select items. I hope Todai is as good… ned to check it out

  • I went to Todai a few nights ago. Wasn’t very crowded, but considering the borderline inedible buffet 9 is $25 for dinner, I’m not surprised. Also, we all left smelling liking the grill. Really gross.

  • Cobbler – have you ever been to Korean bbque??

  • That second plate is the saddest sight I’ve ever laid eyes on. One slice of fried tofu and some cucumber with shrimp? You call that a second plate? I say, BLASPHEMY!

  • I’m looking for an Indian Buffet Restaurant that we discovered on a visit to NYC about 7 years ago. Ok, I have a poor sense of direction. It was near the Theatre district probably on 7th or 8th, maybe between 40 -50th? You walk in and go DOWN stairs and it was bright, open, clean and there was a big screen tv playing loops of Bollywood movies. The homemade kher was fab. Do you know the name, if it still exists, and where exactly I’ll find it? Thanks!

  • Minado was the best sushi buffet I’d found in the area. I was VERY disappointed when the NYC location was sold to Todai. After the one had been closed in White Plains, this particular Todia is probably the worst one. I have been to another Todai in Portland, OR and in Schwamberg, IL. Those were much better managed and the food was better.

    Minado’s sushi was fresh, clean, decently sized and portioned. All of these were compromised once Todai took over. The fish pieces on the sushi were cut super thin. They were also slow to replenish the “more expensive sushi” plates during the lunch hour. I felt like I was being gypped.

    Todai on 32nd St gets 1/2 STAR OUT OF FIVE.

  • I was surprised after reading this article. Each and everyone of my experiences at Minado and Todai have been nothing less than wonderful. I am sorry the lines bothered you so much- but even on a saturday afternoon I have not found a problem. For the next group of diners for Todai, this article is misleading.

  • No, I’ve been here a few times when it was Minado and one or two times as Todai. It’s definitely a lot more disgusting now than it was before.

  • Two week ago i went there for lunch, it was a “disaster”, after i got a bowl of soup from the buffet, i need a spoon for that, so i was look around for help and then a korean manager appoached so i told him what i need, at the same time my waiter come back with full tray of beverage, guess what the korean manager shout at the waiter:

    ” where the Fxxx do you go, go and get the fxxking spoon for the customer……”

    everyone in the dining room was shocked, offended and felt bad for the poor waiter, all i want is a spoon and this is what i get??

    i definately never go back to this ” giant seafood buffet” again after i talked to some of the servers, they told bout their boss has a serious anger problems, again everyday he get drunk and smoke in the restaurant.

    Anger + Drunk + Smoking, so kinds of sushi and food do you think you can get ??

  • This is just a 2 star restaurant out of Manhattan standard but they are too pricy, espeacially their drinks menu is a total bullshit, a low quality red wine at $24++ ?? which is $6 item at grocery shop!!

    Another funny thing is they make you pay $2 for a cup of green tea ( suppose to be a complimentry free drink at asian restaurant ) but frankly speaking the “Todai” green tea is famous for its good taste and quality, so i don’t mind to pay $2 for that, well, unfortunately, during my recent visit they replace today green tea with some cheap local brand and i still have to pay $2 for this junk?!

    I really hope this place regain its glory, because they are much better when thay called MINADO, as a New Yorker i really not interested to pay big bucks for junk food at a “to die” restaurant

  • Tried going to Todai around 1:30 p.m. and stood at the front counter for about 5 minutes while the hosts darted around and herded customers waiting for a seat into the main dining room like cattle. When they finally asked how many people in my party, I asked about how long the wait was and they were off again to another task without so much as answering. I walked out. Didn’t look too crowded but in a city with so many great dining options, rude staff will definitely hurt a restaurant. Been to the Minado in Glen Cove and it is a much better experience/value. FYI Todai has raised its weekday lunch price by $2 to $15.95.

  • Pls come back??!!

    Of course, when i broke,because this place is so cheap.

  • Hahaha excellent review! I always saw todai pictures on Flickr and though the food looked pretty good! I’ve only had sea urchin at one buffet in Toronto, and it was limited to ONCE peice. And I’ve been to every sushi buffet in Toronto, and the surrounding area.. Here sushi buffet dinners range from 17-26 dollars.. 26 really being the only ones that are decent…

  • This place is amazing in new york i loved it….. sushi buffet great and than they had my favorite desserts i loved it… i am going again and again…great place but go to a todai restaurant in NYC by empire state building

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