Attacking the Todai Sushi Buffet With Competitive Eating Masters

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If you read this site often, you know I have fairly strict rules about price. I feel in my heart that lunch should not cost a person more than $10.  But I have equally strong feelings about buffets, and when it comes to something like the concept of all-u-can-eat, well… I can’t help but think that rules were meant to be broken.  I’ll admit up front I don’t break the rule too often for Indian buffets (there are good Indian buffets in Midtown for $10 to $11… so why spend $17?) but when it comes to Asian buffets, all bets are off.  So, two years ago this month I made a price exception and hit up the Todai buffet on 32nd btw. Madison+5th. I thought it was just ok, and definitely not as good as when it was Minado (its previous buffet incarnation, before being bought out by the big buffet chain.)

Since that time the price has gone up to $18.95, not completely shocking for a sushi buffet, but waaaay out of the Midtown Lunch price range (even for a buffet lover like me.)  But when I got an email invite to buffet it up with competitve eater (and profiled Midtown Lunch’er) Crazy Legs Conti and a few of his competitive eating buddies, how could I say no!?!

The play by play of our meal, their pearls of wisdom, and a photo of every plate put down by Crazy Legs… all after the jump.

It’s no secret that my dream-my “goal in life” if you will-is to strike fear in the heart of every buffet owner whose establishment I step into.  I even created a “Guide to Beating the All You Can Eat Chinese Buffet”; a life’s work (if you will) that consists of my rules for attacking a buffet. But, truth be told, I am a fat man… but not *that* fat.  And I’m short.  And while I can eat like a champ, I’m not an imposing figure.  What I’m saying is, no buffet owner is going to be afraid of losing his business after one of my visits.

These guys?  Now that’s a different story…

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Beautiful Brian Seiken, Nasty Nate Biller, Crazy Legs Conti (Leon Feingold showed up later)

First sign I knew I was about to eat with professionals?  The original meeting time was set for 1:30pm… until Beautiful Brian set us all straight.  “The place fills up with too many people by that time.  We should get there for the opening bell.”  Awesome.  11:45 it is.  (We planned to meet at 11:30, just to be safe.)

Just walking in to the place with Brian, Nate and Crazy Legs made me feel like a champ.  It was like being part of some secret Las Vegas card counting team. As we were being lead to the table, all I could think was “this place has no idea what’s about to hit them.”

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I was glad to see that the quality of the food had increased with the price.  It was more expensive than 2 years ago, but the sushi was much better- borderline very good.  Getting there early ensured that we had the pick of all the best stuff. And they didn’t do the classic sushi buffet trick of overloading each piece with rice.  In fact, the ratio of fish to rice was better than many sit down restaurants where you are paying by the piece.  I have to say, I was kind of impressed. They even had sea urchin! Alot of the hot food looked great too, so for my first “feeler” plate I did the classic “take a small bit of everything that looks good.” I did a good job on staying away from the sushi rolls, and focusing my seafood eating on the piece of sushi (which had less rice.)

ZB Plate 1

When you are a mere mortal, portion control is very important.  You don’t want to load up on any one item that may or may not be good, because then you may end up wasting valuable space in your stomach on stuff that isn’t as tasty.  For competitive eaters, with bottomless stomachs, fear of getting full is not really an issue.

Nasty Nate Plate 1

Nasty Nate Biller’s strategy was pretty simple.  Start from the left side of the buffet, load your plate up, and then work your way down the line, trip by trip, plate by plate.  He only eats 1 meal a day (sometimes 1 meal every two days) so this is it for him.  “Getting full” off the wrong items isn’t really a concern.  His first plate was all sushi from the far left hand side of the buffet.

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Crazy Legs Conti attacked the buffet from a different mind set.  Like me, he does a walk-through before taking any food, just to survey the scene.  See what’s going on… and develop a plan of action. He also liked to group his plates into categories.  Here they are, in chronological order:

Crazy Legs Plate 1

Plate 1: Crazy legs called this “Breakfast”. He also said he doesn’t like going immediately for the big money items… and yet his first plate was chock full of them. Stuffed clams, mussels, and two servings of tuna tartare (strong!).

Crazy Legs Plate 2

Plate 2: Then he dippes his toe in on the sushi side…

Crazy Legs Plate 3

Plate 3: And back again… for one of every single sushi roll.

Crazy Legs Plate 4

Plate 4: My favorite quote of the day… as we were surveying the buffet at the beginning “Crazy Legs” spotted a couple of whole fish, which usually get cut up into pieces by the buffet-goers. His remark “Oooh. Whole fish. We’ll definitely have to get one of those.” Unfortunately, by the time he made it back to that part of the buffet, the fish had already been torn into, and he had to settle for just the tail portion. I really wanted one of his plates to have an entire fish on it. Oh well… you do what you can.

Crazy Legs Plate 5 (Best Of)

Plate 5: The Best-Of plate. Or what I like to call “my second plate.” My buffet usually breaks down like this. First plate is the feeler plate (little bits of everything that looks good), second plate is a best of plate. Third plate (usually 1/3 to 1/2 full) is those last few things I just can’t resist stuffing myself with (this plate often will include one last chicken wing and one last onion ring.) Crazy Legs’ “best of” plate was Plate #5. Clearly I have a lot to learn.

Crazy Legs Plate 6

Plate 6: The palate cleansing “salad plate.” I usually don’t waste any of my stomach space on salad, but it’s hard to criticize a guy who ate 3 times as much as I did.

Crazy Legs Plate 7 (Dessert)

Plate 7: At this point Crazy Legs really had to get back to work, but unable to complete the meal without a little bit of dessert… he had one piece of jello. It may have been more for comedy than anything, but it still resonated with me on a very serious level. I don’t know why, but I must end every buffet trip with a little bit of jello.

Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking… actually that’s not true. I know what the fatso/buffet king crowd is thinking. “I expected him to eat more.” Well, in fairness to Crazy Legs, he had to get back to work- and technically their “Major League Eating contracts disallow ‘eating for time, speed, or quantity’ in unsanctioned conditions.” So for these guys, it was just a casual lunch among friends… and I’m pretty sure none of them left completely stuffed. I on the other hand, had to be rolled home.

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

One final note: The buffet is $18.95 Monday through Thursday. On Fridays the price goes up to $21.95. Also, Todai is about to change their name to Ichi Umi for some unknown reason. The lady at the front said that it would be the same food, same price, and same owners… just a different name. So don’t get confused when they put the new signs up.

37 Comments

  • That’s what I like to see. Unabashed gluttony rules! Power to the people!

  • Good…god…all…mighty. Please tell me you took Zantac before, during, and after this meal.

  • mad props yo.

    that is some crazy shit.

  • Ooh, that actually looks like it might be worth it. You should totally take a trip to Harvest Buffet by the way. I don’t know exact prices anymore but I think their weekend lunch price is $17ish or less. And they have good stuff…

  • 2 word–FUCKING AWESOME!!!!!!!

    My record for sushi was at a plce no longer in existence on 3rd and 17th–I actually forget the name of the chain. They used to have $20 AUCE every night. I went there once a week. I worked my way up to 42 pieces of sushi and 2 rolls. However, at times, I’d “cheat” and pocket some of the rice….in which case my record was 53 pieces of sushi and 2 rolls. And yes, when we came in, the owners knew who we were and what we were about. Not surprising they went out of business…..I used to destroy minado, but not quite on the level of Crazy Legs. And, I’d spend 2 hours there really trying to get my money’s worth! When they had crab legs, they’d have to throw me out of the place…..

  • LoL, so how does this place rank compared to your favorite, no longer in existence, sushi buffet in little korea?

  • That food looks almost identical to Minado (the one I’ve been to on Long Island, anyway). I guess they didn’t change much when it got bought out. That reminds me, I haven’t been there in a long time…

  • I frequent an all you can sushi joint in my brooklyn neighborhood for $19.95 per person . Its called Osaka on Flatbush ave & ave P. Sushi is real fresh. There are tons of all you can eat sushi bars but the key is to pick the right one. Ive tried a few others and the sushi is not as fresh as this place i just mentioned. On the other hand Todai for $18.95 not only serves sushi but other mouth watering entree’s you would pay a fortune for anyhere else. Todai buffet includes sea urchin which Crazy Legs mentions (in my video) which is a poor mans version of caviar . I dont have to tell you how much caviar costs by the pound. I recommend eating here once a month for weight and health reasons. It can become very addicting. I have yet to find a buffet comparable to east buffet in Huntington and Queens. For $26 to $30 its like attending a huge wedding. Chinese food, american food, Prime ribs, roast beef , crab legs lobster. You name is they have it!

  • Oh Zacky(my official pet name for ya) Indian food is asian. Just thought i make that clear to you. India is a country that lies in a region known as South Asia…which in turn is part of a larger land mass known as Asia( its a continent).

    Indian Buffet=Asian Buffet(although a very specific niche)

    Stop getting your geography lessons from Sarah Palin.

  • Are they changing their name because they will no longer be part of the Todai franchise? There are Todais all over the world, so that would seem to be a good reason for the name change.

  • Wait, what did Brian eat? I see Nate’s first, your first, and Crazy Leg’s 7. Was Brian just a voyeur?

  • £10 for that lot………id kill for that place in London.

    Best Post in a long while.

    A-

  • @Lou – The sushi at Todai is much better than the sushi at Arang, but it’s twice the price. For a Korean buffet, Arang couldn’t be beat.

    @Abrain – You are totally right. I have no excuse… although in my defense, when most people say Asian food, you know they usually are not including Indian.

    @Ian – They told me they were still going to be owned by Todai, but they were changing the name. I also asked if other Todai’s would be changing their name, and they said no. Just them. ?????

  • My wife (a young and vibrant woman) is a successful professional eater. Earlier this summer, while we were traveling out west (I am a retired “educator” with time on my hands and my wife owns a luxury motorhome) we came upon a ESCOLAR eating contest at a Best Western in Durango Colorado.

    My lovely wife entered the contest and came in second — despite a valient effort –having eaten over 16 pounds of ESCOLAR in 10 minutes!

    Afterward, we repaired to our very disappointing room at the Best Western (stank of cigarette smoke, if you must know) where my wife had hardly made it to the bathroom to purge when IT happened.

    IT being Explosive Oily Orange Diarrhea!! Much like mixing Tang powder with canola oil, if that excites you.

    My wife (owner of a chain of laser hair removal salons) was completely debilitated for hours on end by these uncontrollable and foul smelling bowel movements, a situation only compunded by the Best Western’s staff cavalier response to my pleas for more toilet paper.

    She was later loaded into an ambulance and admitted to a local “clinic” where people seek medical care. We will forever be indebted to the Durango Aquarium’s generous loan of the whale sling, by the way.

    At the clinic, Dr. Natura, a noted gastroenterologist, explained that ESCOLAR contains massive amounts of oily orange waxy material that most humans find impossible to digest and that results in uncontrollable orane diarrhea. Why this was not explained to the contestants, I do not know.

    I have written many letters to the editor and posted on many “blogs” concerning the dangers of ESCOLAR. Still, I am ignored or considered a “crackpot” for these warnings. If you still need confirmation regarding the dangers of ESCOLAR, please check the informative website of the very attractive Dr. Natura. http://www.drnatura.com/?gclid=CPPIsv6fw40CFSBMGgodPEFqLQ

  • This place was originally Minado, then became Todai about 3 years ago.

  • That pic of the sushi buffet approaching infinity is awe-inspiring

  • Ichi Umi literally just means ‘one sea’. I guess it is meant to be something like number one seafood, but who knows.

  • How much KFC did you eat afterwards?

  • The Minado chain is still open in a few locations in NJ, MA, PA and Long Island.

    I have to add, I have never seen all-you-can eat buffet plates of food so well organized and clean! My plates are from the Homer Simpson plan of attack with food and sauce dripping off the sides.

  • Wow. Crazy Legs Conti hasn’t really impressed when I’ve seen him in televised competitions. Did he seriously clear everything on those five plates? BTW, it drives me nuts at some pre-made sushi places how they pack the rice on the rolls. I’m guessing it’s a buffet owner tactic to try to fill customers up with rice rather than the good stuff.

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