#225: Golden Koi Buffet

“It doesn’t end well,” Justin said as I took my first bite of the fortune cookie.  It was the perfect ending to this particular dinner.  But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

Golden Koi Buffet is located in the Nugget shopping center at Fairway and Pleasant Grove.  It used to be another buffet called Golden Dragon Buffet.  The space was vacant for quite a while and sometime in the last year they swapped out the Dragon for Koi on the building and reopened (new owners?  No idea).  I was interested when I noticed it but also not really looking forward to this visit at all.  My luck with buffets is not good.  Nevertheless here we are.

Justin and I arrived at about 5:20PM.  We stepped into the shockingly big space and up to the counter where we were greeted by an extremely quiet employee.  The place only had a handful of customers, two of which were in a booth on one side of the restaurant and the rest scattered in the other half.  We were sat right next to the first couple.  It’s always so weird to me that people would sit you next to the only other customers.  A bit of space would be nice, there certainly was plenty of it.  Dinner here is $15.99.  A bit steep even for a buffet, so let’s see how they do.

The dining room is actually really nice.  Like, it shouldn’t be that nice.  We headed back to the buffet itself as our “server” got us some drinks.  It’s a pretty good sized buffet with a ton of options.  Most of them are Chinese, although there was a smattering of other things, including sushi (which I did not go for today, partly because I had sushi for lunch but also because I was a little afraid.  Some random other things were thrown in like chicken nuggets and fries, something for the kids I suppose.  I started out with some very red General’s Chicken, some Sautéed Mushrooms, Green Beans, Pepper Steak, a Pork Bun and “Dim Sum” (don’t ask me, that’s all it was labeled as).

I got back to the table and Justin was already making some comments about how the food was lukewarm.  I gave the General’s chicken a try and he was right.  The flavor wasn’t that bad, it was a bit on the sweet side.  Crisp was not a word I would use to describe this fried piece of chicken.  The sautéed mushrooms actually would have been pretty good if they were hot, and maybe had a little something with it.  But I guess you can just add whatever you want to it since it’s a buffet, and maybe that’s the point.  The green beans were probably one of the best items I came across.  Still not hot, but these had some snap to them and good flavor.  Justin was picking at his wontons and claimed that they had “age.”  That had me laughing pretty hard.  He was sure the cream cheese inside them had turned.  He also commented that the spring rolls tasted kind of mustard-y.

The pepper steak, much like the General’s chicken, was decent tasting but was very mushy and one bite downright chewy. Again, lukewarm at best.  I dissected the pork bun which looked really dry.  Indeed it was, and there were a few little morsels of OK-tasting meat inside, but I left most of it on the plate.  With the possibility of sounding like I’m repeating myself over and over, the “dim sum” was OK, and would have probably been pretty decent if it was more than just a little warm.  I don’t have a clue what was in it, it was some sort of meat wrapped up in a thin pastry-like cup.  The whole thing was warmish and soft.

I set out once more, hoping to find something that would bring me back for seconds of it.  This time I tried the Coconut Shrimp, Pot Stickers (I had to wait for a moment for them to be refilled, so these were actually fresh), some Sweet and Sour Chicken (with 10,000ºF sauce, this is where they were keeping all the heat apparently), BBQ Chicken and Jalapeño Chicken.

The shrimp somehow appeared fresh, both in the pan and even in the first moment of biting into it.  They had a crispy batter still, which is some kind of miracle because as soon as you get chewing on it you realize it’s just as old as everything else you’ve had so far, and the disappointment meter turns a bit further.  Justin had been picking at a new plate now for a little bit and abruptly announced that he didn’t think he wanted to eat anymore of it and set off for some soft serve, asking “they can’t mess up soft serve can they?” and then added, sarcastically, “the soft serve is warm!” as he disappeared back into the buffet.

Moving on from the shrimp I actually stopped and enjoyed the pot stickers for a while.  Aside from the green beans, these were definitely at the top of the list as far as best items went.  Even though they were steaming when they were being piled onto the buffet line, they had lost a significant amount of heat on the short journey back to the table.  Flavor-wise, pretty good though, at least, as good as any frozen pot stickers you might get at the supermarket anyway.  There did not appear to be any dipping sauce though, which was a bummer.  The sweet and sour chicken was pretty big letdown.  It was sort of crispy, heavy on the batter and the chicken just didn’t really have any flavor.  The sauce wasn’t all that great either.  Pretty much the same story, minus the batter, for the BBQ chicken.  The Jalapeño chicken was fried but devoid of any flavor or substance worth mentioning.  One of the two small pieces I ate was particularly tough.

Justin’s soft serve did not turn out so well.  He had me lift it to feel the weight as he described it as heavy and icy.  One thing he did find that he liked on the same trip were apple tarts, which he said was good but were “almost certainly not made on the premises.”

My desert plate didn’t go much better, although I did find a few things that were tolerable.  The pudding, jell-o and orange slice were all decent to good.  The little chocolate cake-type thing had a major skin on the top which I fought with while I grabbed a piece from the buffet.  I almost ended up with the layer from an adjacent slice.  The other cakey kind of thing which had some whipped cream-like filling and a pastry with some custard were both incredibly dry and off-putting.

Even the fortune cookie, which Justin warned me about, somehow was not crunchy at all past the first bite.  I mean, fortune cookies are usual pretty lacking, but I’ve never had one quite as bad as this one.  I knew it in my gut the entire day that this was likely to go the way it did, and now I certainly do know, literally in my gut.  I can feel it as I type this.  Safe to say I won’t return?  I’ll let you figure that one out.

Website: http://www.goldenkoibuffet.com

#167: Fast Freddies Pizza and Pasta

It’s been a hectic week but I’m still at it, just a bit later than I had hoped.  Last night I was joined by my friend Justin for pizza at Fast Freddies Pizza and Pasta, located on Main Street in old Roseville.  We arrived at about 7PM that Friday night to about a third-full dining room with a mix of adults, teenagers and kids.  Pretty much everyone was gathered near the front, where you’ll find a selection of arcade games to either side when you walk through the doors.  The space is somewhat narrow and long.  It took us a moment meandering towards the back before we found the menu on the wall and register.  The kitchen runs most of the length and the oven area is enclosed with brick, save for an opening with a tall counter and hanging pizza stands.

There were several employees working at the time and business appeared light.  We were greeted back at the register pretty quickly.  The menu is a good size, and I told the guy we would need a moment to figure out our order.  He waited patiently while we went over some pizza options.  They seem to have just a single crust type, so no choice needed to be made there.  We settled on a half pepperoni & green peppers, half The Alfredo (Alfredo sauce, pepperoni, chicken and basil onions).  I asked if some of the pizzas we could see at a table near the front were larges and he said yes, so we went with that.  Looking at the menu again I see that technically that was an X-Large, as they only have small(8″), medium(12″) and x-large(16″) sizes, strange.  I wanted to get a little something extra and quickly picked out garlic bread from the sides part of the menu.  We each got sodas and our total came to somewhere around $26.  The soda machine is kind of behind the counter, but is apparently self serve since he just handed us the cups.  It felt a little weird to step into that area.  To the right was a walk-in refrigerator-style door that was propped open and the space had been converted to a break room of sorts with a big, worn leather couch just inside.  To the left you could view down the entire length of the kitchen.

We took a seat in the back end of the dining room where it was mostly empty.  They have a little tiny bar at the back where a half dozen or so beer taps are located, along with a small selection of wine, the bottles displayed on the wall in a rack.  The place definitely has that local pizza place feel to it with Polaroids plastered all over the wall near us showing staff and customers.  We had a narrow view into the kitchen and could see several pizzas in the big oven.  Six minutes after taking a seat our bread came out of the same oven and was brought out to us.  At first sight we thought it looked awfully plain.  Had I looked at the menu a bit longer I would have seen that in addition to the garlic bread we ordered there is cheese bread as well.  In my rush I had assumed this would also have cheese.  Big mistake.  The taste of this bread closely matched it’s appearance.  Very plain, dry, and not even really garlicky at all.  There was a hint of it here and there but basically it was toasted bread.  Even had I known this was cheese-less I would have still expected a lot more from it.  Justin didn’t even bother eating his second piece.  Very disappointing.

It was a solid 15 minutes past when the bread had come until the pizza was delivered.  Perched on the raised stand in front of us, it steamed and looked pretty good.  It wasn’t topping heavy but looked to have enough for each bite.  It was cut well and served easily.  The crust was perfectly cooked, nice and crisp on the bottom and nearly able to support the slice on it’s own.  I took my first bite and nothing happened.  I tasted nothing.  I took another bite.  Nothing continued to happen.  Justin and I both quickly commented on how flavorless it was.  On top of that it seemed to have nearly no sauce on either side.  It was some of the driest, blandest pizza I’ve ever had in my life.  Like the garlic on the garlic bread, here and there I would get a hint of pepperoni or chicken flavor as I bit into a piece, but it was just shockingly absent of any substance.  The basil onions were the strongest thing on the pizza, which really isn’t saying much.  The fact that I was extremely hungry motivated me to eat two and a half slices and try a bite of Justin’s half.  I gave up on it.  It was just not at all good save for the texture of the crust.  We both offered each other our leftover slices to take home, haha.

I asked my brother his thoughts on Fast Freddies and he said he and his wife like it so maybe this was a dud, but wow, a dud of epic proportions.  I can say for certain that I won’t be trying this again unless someone else buys and sets it directly in front of me.  The staff seemed friendly enough, but that really needs to come after solid pizza.


#122: Tomi Japanese Seafood & Grill

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.

Website: http://tomisushibuffet.com/  –  Site seems to be down