Want Chinese Buffet? Midtown Buffet is Your Only Option
I love all you can eat buffets… and within that vast and wonderful realm the Chinese buffet is probably my favorite. I don’t discriminate against any buffet, but sushi buffets tend to be too expensive, Mexican buffets don’t seem to stand up well to the steam table treatment, and Latin buffets are fine- but rice and beans and plantains always kill me in that equation! Indian buffets are plentiful in Midtown, and I’m all about a good Indian buffet… but Chinese is my all time favorite. Sadly Manhattan is practically devoid of Chinese buffets. And in Midtown, there is only one option. The “Midtown Buffet” on 7th Ave. btw. 40+41st.
It’s only $8 (and actually used to be cheaper) and I used it as the backdrop for the Midtown Lunch Guide to Beating the All You Can Eat Buffet a few years ago. But it didn’t really get a full +/-, so yesterday on the holiest of holy Jewish days I hit up the Midtown Buffet for a little Yom Kippur lunch action.
Midtown Buffet is what I would refer to as a “once a year buffet”. In other words it’s the kind of buffet that after you visit it once, it takes about a year for you to forget why you only visit it once a year (East Ocean Buffet in Flushing had a similar effect on me.) It had been two years since the last time I had visited the Midtown Buffet, plenty of time to forget how mediocre it actually is.
Following my own buffet advice, I started off with a feeler plate to see what was going on. A little taste of everything that looked good: peking duck, sesame chicken, a little bit of pork fried rice (I dug around to get as much pork as possible), salt and pepper shrimp, eggplant, a few string beans (for Harry), some red roast pork, a few pan fried dumplings, some sort of chicken dish with zucchini, and the obligatory onion ring (a habit formed during my Sizzler buffet eating childhood.)
The sesame chicken had way too much sauce (ruining any chance for crispiness), as did the roasted red pork (if they cooked it right in the first place it wouldn’t need sauce!) The salt and pepper shrimp were small, and not cleaned well- but not terrible. The roast duck was fine, but not something you could eat too much of, and the skin was completely mushy (so sad!) No complaints about the dumplings, or the veggies, or the onion ring (natch.)
For my second plate I loaded up on the dumplings, and tried to pick out the less sauced pieces of roast pork and sesame chicken. I also switched it up from duck to roast chicken, which looked a little less greasy. Some more string beans (for the kid), and a bit more rice (but not too much.)
Now you have to understand, I love crappy Chinese buffets- and I’ve eaten at a lot of terrible ones (including one in Tennessee that I will never forget.) But even at the bad ones (and many of them are bad) you can at least find a few great dishes (like the fried frog legs I had at this one in Houston that I will also never forget.) At $8, you can’t expect crab claws or any of the real big money dishes you’ll find at what I would consider “good” Chinese buffets- and the fact that it is Midtown (where rent is ridiculous) means that this buffet would likely cost $6 if it was anywhere else in the country. In other words, I’d recommended it only to Chinese buffet addicts, who wouldn’t hesitate to pull over at a $6 all you can eat Chinese buffet in Knoxville, TN. And even if you are one of those people, you’ll still only want to go once a year.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- It’s all you can eat Chinese food, for under $10, in Midtown. (The only one of its kind.)
- They have jello! (I love eating jello after an all you can eat Chinese buffet.)
- I love greasy, super cheap, Americanized Chinese food!
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Nothing tastes as good as it looks (and some of the stuff doesn’t even look that good).
- They have a bunch of shrimp dishes (which is always a good thing), and roast duck- but at $8, paying Midtown rent, clearly the quality is going to be even lower than the low you would expect from most Chinese buffets
- The sesame chicken had too much sauce, losing all its crispiness
- Roast pork should not have a red sauce poured over it
- Even if you start off thinking the buffet is good… by the end, you’ll probably recant.
Midtown Buffet, 566 Fashion Ave. (7th Ave. btw. 40+41st), 212-768-4422