Hokkaido Seafood Buffet is the Perfect Thanksgiving Warm Up


Thanksgiving is just days away, so food blog readers should probably prepare themselves for a bunch of “Here are my favorite turkey sandwiches in L.A.” posts. (Lord knows I’ve been guilty of this in the past.)   But that’s just food blog filler.  After all, who wants to eat turkey before eating turkey?  Oh… you do?  Well, not me.  I try to limit my turkey intake to once a year, followed by a day or two of leftovers. Of course everyone has a different way of preparing for Thanksgiving.  Since we’re in Los Angeles, I’m guessing starvation is a go-to strategy for many.  Then again, for those people not eating is probably a default setting so the lead up to Thanksgiving is really just an excuse to make their eating disorder acceptable.

But don’t those people know that eating less is probably the worst thing you can do the prepare yourself for the carnage of a properly eaten Thanksgiving meal!  Stomach shrinkage?  No thanks.  We need stomach expansion.  That’s why I like to all-you-can-eat-buffet it up in the week leading up to turkey day.  And what do you know?  A new one has just opened up in West L.A.!


If you’re a fan of the Hokkaido Seafood Buffet in Encino, you’ll be happy to know that the new West L.A. location is practically identical in every way, down to the massive seating area with terrible lighting (presumably so you can’t see your super cheap seafood?)   At $10.99 for weekday lunch, it’s a tad bit over the ML price range- but we’re always willing to fudge the rules for an all you can eat buffet. Especially one where seafood is involved, since it should be a little bit easier to win the game.


Rule #1. Don’t eat the bread!


Rule #2. Go for the big money items… which at Hokkaido is a variety of shellfish, too much of which is covered with cheese of some sort. Grossed out by cheese covered cheap shellfish? Hokkaido might not be for you.


There are also salt and pepper fried shrimp.


And a sushi station, with a 50/50 split between raw fish and rolls made with filler like cream cheese and fake crab salad. Deep fried california rolls are probably a bad idea, but how could I not? The sushi is a notch below what I would consider “good enough to continually stuff my face with” but it is an essential element to winning the game. Want to know who the professionals are at Hokkaido? Look around at all the tables… the ones with full plates dedicated to mussels and shrimp and sushi are the big winners at this place.


As you’d expect, there are no crab claws at lunchtime (not for $11!) But they do offer them as an add on, a new development in buffeting I’ve never seen before.


I never bother with the soup station at a buffet, but couldn’t help but notice this. If shark fin soup is already super questionable as something you’d want to eat, what category would shark fin soup at an $11 all you can eat buffet fall into? Although it was at the soup station where I saw a vision of myself in 40 years- a 70 year old dude, loading up his walker with bowls of soup to push back to his table. Amazing.


Once you move beyond the seafood, there are a few things that make Hokkaido unique. Like their small dim sum station next to the standard assortment of fried stuff (french fries, plantains, cream cheese rangoons, and tempura.) It’s all average to decent, and they seem to switch the stuff out faster than they could change the signs in front of the items.


And I don’t know where Porky Island is, but it sounds like a place I’d like to live (fat Brando as Dr. Moreau, style.) In fact, if you are into various meats, covered in any number of different sweet and sour sauces, Hokkaido has no fewer than 7 different variations. Despite being relatively full for their first week, it seemed like most of them had been out in the steam tables a bit too long. But once this place gets rolling, like the Encino location, you’d expect some of the freshness issues to resolve themselves.


And even if they don’t, there is a station dedicated to making orange chicken, and a few other dishes, fresh to order. The trade off with that is you don’t how big the portion is going to be, and since there is no way to try it, you may end up with a big plate of suck.


Less risky is the stir fry station, which is always packed in Encino. They let you pick between a variety of raw proteins and vegetables, and then a guy stir fries them up to order. How to tell the professionals on this line? They’re the ones with a 10-5-1 ratio of shrimp to beef to vegetables. They will also sneak away to load up a plate of sushi while their food is being cooked on the flat-top. Don’t want to waste any time… the place closes at 3:30pm!


Dessert is mostly forgettable, although they do have jello (a post buffet necessity in my world) and this chocolate fountain- although it wasn’t entirely clear what you could and couldn’t dip into the fountain. There wasn’t any strawberries or bananas or anything that was obviously dip-able, and the guy behind the counter spoke no English at all. I considered grabbing a sushi roll, or some tempura and giving it a chocolate bath, but with nobody around to watch me get thrown out of the buffet I felt like it would have been more sad than funny.

So… what’s the verdict? If you like the Encino location of Hokkaido Seafood Buffet, you’ll be plenty happy with the new West L.A. branch. But if the other locations aren’t for you, the West L.A. location isn’t going to change your mind. In the end Hokkaido doesn’t really transcend its price point for people who are scared off by super cheap shellfish and sushi. I always like to see a few seafood dishes on a buffet for those of us who like a clearer path to victory. But at Hokkaido there are so many seafood dishes, the quality gets stretched a little bit thinner, and the $11 price tag gets a little tougher to justify for those of us who don’t want to eat a whole plate of cheap clams.  I like to be the fatso at the buffet that all the losers are paying for. At Hokkaido, I feel a bit more like one of the losers.  Then again, it did stretch my stomach out.  And I guess for that, it’s worth the $11.  Now bring on the turkey!

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • I love cheap mussels covered in cheese!
  • Cheap sushi and seafood doesn’t scare me at all.
  • I don’t need to win the game. I just like a buffet with a lot of variety and Hokkaido is huuuge.
  • I love that they have two stations dedicated to food being made fresh to order.  I could just eat 4 plates of that and be happy.
  • I love all you can eat Asian buffets, and there are no other options on the Westside

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • Nothing grosses me out more than cheap seafood.  Totally not worth the $11 for me.
  • The non-seafood stuff is the quality you’d expect from an $8 buffet, not at $11 buffet.
  • The location is new, so their turnover isn’t as good as the one in Encino.  Hopefully this will get better as they get more popular
  • Shark fin soup!?  Seriously?
  • Did I mention that all you can eat seafood for $11 is scary?

Hokkaido Seafood Buffet, 10850 W. Pico Blvd., 310-475-8181

PARKING is free in the mall lot, but the entrance to Hokkaido is on Pico so you have to leave the mall and and enter the restaurant from the outside.



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