Yum Cha, Dim Sum, Buffets, Free hotel breakfasts, family style dining, sample day….
No matter what you call it it’s all the same thing – feeding from the public trough.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for variety, it is the spice of life after all. And I do enjoy the ‘packaging’ aspects of the tiny wicker baskets at yum cha. And it is kind of oddly quaint to bond with your fellow hotel guests when waiting for the general purpose toaster oven to rotate your toast through even if it is next to the onion bagel the other guy picked out.
But if I ever have a choice, I would choose a menu.
Really what is the true benefit of a buffet? I can only really see the downsides, germs, dried out food, spoons that have been used for the eggs and for the beans then sat in a bowl of murky water, the lack of hygiene practiced by your fellow diners, and of course the seemingly ‘good deal’ that’s definitely too good to be true as they charge you $50 for the $10 worth of mediocre, luke warm food that actually makes it into your body.
What really boggles me is that most evening buffet restaurants can’t seem to make up their minds about what style of food they serve. It’s like the word ‘Buffet’ gives them license to mix the cheapest foods from 10 ethnicities and then add a salad bar.
I don’t know about you but if I see a restaurant that serves both Italian and Mexican, I can usually be pretty sure they do neither well but both okay. I’ll probably keep walking… who wants to go to a restaurant that makes ‘okay’ food. And just think, the ‘okay’ restaurant only had 2 varieties and the buffet has 10! That isn’t just okay food it’s a restaurant with an identity crisis.
This is another problem with a buffet, the choice. It’s overwhelming. You go pick up your plate from the warmish wettish pile and look around you, where do you start? You settle on the counter you’re at because you’re causing a traffic jam behind you for the family of 8 who’s mortgaged the house to come to the buffet for dinner.
So you approach the potatoes, there’s mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, potato wedges, and they’re sitting next to at least three types of broccoli and cauliflower, or at least you’re pretty sure the container of lumpy white stuff is cauliflower, and maybe.. cheese sauce? And after you’ve narrowed down your veggies while narrowly missing the flying spoons of the family behind you who are impatiently reaching around to serve their sickly 5 year old suddenly you’re greeted by the surly man with the mustache and a chef’s hat on, he’s wielding a large knife and his bloodshot eyes look like no ones home inside as he asks if you’d like something from the carvery. Judging from the bandaids on his thumb and forefinger you smile tentatively and say a meek, “no, thanks.”
Onto the next counter where you are planning to get some salad when your overwhelmed and confused again by the choice as you see the salad bar is strangely full of canned fruit, cottage cheese and overly dressed lettuce with little baco-bits floating around amongst a sea of crouton ships. Do people at home think of salad and really go immediately to cottage cheese and canned fruit? Maybe you’ll come back for salad.
Now your white plate still looks decidedly empty of anything beyond a few veggies and you still feel oddly compelled to explore what the other bars have to offer. Maybe there will be something to round out my mashed potatoes you think, all these other people have piles of food on their plates.
The next bar has a small child with grubby fingers reaching in to grab a taco shell as their mother puts mac’ n’ cheese on his plate using the Spaghetti Bolognese spoon. Who knew macaroni and cheese was italian?! Giving up hope of finding something you want that’s clean and untouched and tired of battling your way around sneeze guarded counters you grab some garlic bread and a small spoon of butter chicken and head back to your table.
Here you realize there’s no consistency to your meal. All the sudden you’re having an ethnic crisis, right there on your plate, Italian, French, American, Indian, Mexican… It’s like the UN. When it reaches your stomach it’s world war III and you wonder why you feel sick. Not that it keeps you from wandering over to the dessert bar and having another dollop of soft serve with sprinkles.
All in all there is nothing to be gained from dining at the public trough other than an expanded waistline, an empty wallet and some sort of illness possibly contracted from either the food, a fellow diner or the stress of having to make so many decisions in so short a time.
So the next time you decide to dine out, may I recommend choosing a restaurant that has white table cloths a menu and people who look like they shower regularly.