On Wednesday night I went to Tomi Japanese Seafood & Grill, a buffet located between Ginger’s and Tandoori Nights on East Roseville Parkway at North Sunrise. I needed to use a SacPerks deal that was expiring this week. My friend Justin joined me. I’m not really big on buffets and tend to avoid them for the most part (Indian buffets being the exception). Maybe I’ve just not been to the right ones but I never have a very good experience. The food is often old, has a weird texture, just doesn’t look appetizing or has no taste. I will usually do one pass where I take a tiny bit of anything that looks somewhat decent and then return for a full plate of the one or two items I ended up liking.
There’s this sushi/Chinese/Mongolian BBQ buffet near where I work in Rancho Cordova that has closed and reopened with new owners at least 3 times in the last 5 years. I’m pretty sure it was closed for health violations at least one of those times. The Yelp reviews for the current iteration of it are just staggeringly bad. Since I see it pretty much every day it’s what I think about when I think of buffets. Going in to Tomi, with this in mind, I was not optimistic.
We arrived at about 6:30PM. The parking lot is cramped and always looks like it’s full, even when there are plenty of spots. Tomi was actually pretty dead. There were maybe 4 or 5 customers eating when we walked in. A woman greeted us and showed us to a table on the opposite side of the dining room from where the other people were, so for a little while we had that side to ourselves. After about one plate a young couple were seated nearby. One other table may have been seated while we were there. The place is BIG. I don’t think my photos of the seating really do it justice. There’s like 2-3 times that much. It’s a very nice space in general. Right when you walk in there’s a big entryway with a huge chandelier and some glass “walls” that are the type that look like they are shattered and about to crumble to the floor. The buffet is lit up with moody green lighting all the way around.
As we were shown our table she took our drink orders, a water and a Dr Pepper. We headed off right away to start our first plates. I used 3 different plates this night and each one was still wet from (hopefully) the dishwasher. I kind of shook them off and went about loading up. I started on the right side, which was all the cooked stuff. I picked up a little bit each of: chow mein, General Tao’s chicken, stuffed mushrooms, (what looked like) mushroom chicken, walnut shrimp (though no walnuts, same style sweet glazed shrimp), salmon stuffed eggplant and a couple fried potstickers. Back to the table I found my Dr Pepper and a fork rolled up in a napkin, as well as a small stack of napkins in the middle. I went to town on my plate. The chow mein was “meh.” I think if it were hotter it would have been good, but it was just a little warm. The General Tao’s chicken was definitely on the older side, also not as hot as it should have been and a bit dry. Flavor-wise it was decent. The stuffed mushrooms were about room-temp and not really special. The majority of flavor came from the drizzle of sweet-tasting sauce over it. The mushroom chicken was much like the General Tao – dry and not very hot. The walnut shrimp seemed to have, at the risk of sounding repetitive, been sitting out for quite a while. Again, needed to be hot. The eggplant was tempura-battered and fried. I didn’t tatse anything other than the batter and a hint of eggplant. Finally the fried potstickers were just borring, not that crispy since, again, they hat been sitting for a while. They were definitely room temp. Justin had immediately went for the crab legs which he said weren’t great. At one point he said “I’m going to pay for this” and then continued eating.
I headed back out, this time to check out the sushi selections. The first items I came across where pieces of nigiri. Most of the fish looked to be on the dry side and I selected the best(safest) looking ones. The salmon actually looked decent and relatively fresh. Next up was a platter full of salmon and yellowtail sashimi. This also looked OK so I took a couple of each. Finally I rounded the corner to where they had many different rolls and picked a few different pieces. They were all on the small side and I think I only saw one that had fish on it. Most of the others looked to have tempura shrimp and/or shredded crab. I finished this plate off by heading back to the cooked side and picking up a crab leg, which I didn’t have room for the first time. I took a moment to look over the rest of the buffet before heading off when a guy working just on the other side of the buffet table motioned to the butter, which I had forgotten about, so that was cool of him. I grabbed a bit and went back to the table.
This plate was more disappointing than the last. I’m typing this about 4 hours after eating and feeling OK, so everything must have been relatively safe. At the time though I wondered. Pretty much all the fish, with the exception of the sashimi, was just about room temperature. I think the sashimi must have been recently put out. Most of the sushi had been sitting on a glass-top over what I guess was some sort of cooling system or ice. Even so, it just didn’t do the job. I ate a piece of the salmon sashimi. It was a bit cooler, texture seemed ok, but really didn’t have much flavor. Same was true for the yellowtail. Next up I ate the salmon nigiri. This was acceptable but would have been much better chilled. I kind of poked at some of the other pieces but didn’t really want them. I was losing my will to eat. Having not seen much in the way of utensils I bare handed the crab leg and worked to get the meat out. At one point I apparently sprayed Justin’s side of the table with a shower of juice and bits of crab, but I was so focused on opening the shell that I didn’t even notice until he showed me later. I thought the crab was OK. Again, could have been hotter.
Finally I went out to see the fruit and desserts. I thought the fruits mostly looked pretty good. Their desserts consisted of a chocolate/coffee cake thing, what almost looked like jello shots, some yellow cake and little cups of some sort of custard. They also had some ice cream that I passed up. I tried out the custard, which was kind of thin and I’m not really sure what flavor it was supposed to be, it wasn’t very rich. The chocolate/coffee cake thing was actually pretty good, very light and tasty. I picked up some pineapple, watermelon and cantaloup. The pineapple was the best, juicy and flavorful. The watermelon and cantaloup were not really noteworthy. All these could have been colder. They were almost room temp. (forgot to get some photos of this plate)
I had low expectations of a sushi buffet and I was actually surprised because it didn’t even live up to those. The staff was mostly absent, save for the one woman that kept a very close watch on the dining room and cleared our plates as we finished with them. Most of the guys working in the kitchen stayed in the back the whole time. Of the extremely limited interactions I had they all seemed generally nice. I couldn’t believe that they were OK with my taking photos of the food on the buffet line. For some reason I was expecting some amount of hostility or a “no photos” policy. The place was fairly warm. I was on the brink of sweating just sitting there. I would think with a sushi buffet you’d want to crank the AC, but not here apparently. I can’t ever see myself returning. It’s a good thing we had the $25 Sac Perks deal. Without it the price would have been about $36. As it is I was disappointed in what we got for $11. Had we paid full price I think I would have actually been upset. This place was overpriced and the quality was awful. My opinion of buffets stands.
http://tomisushibuffet.com/ – Site seems to be down