Fortune Star Buffet in Elkridge/Columbia
Tried this place yesterday- Located in Columbia 175 East shopping center (near My Organic Market, Starbucks, etc.). It opened only a few months ago.
There had to be more than 100 kinds of hot dishes, not all of which were Chinese. Bizarre items that I would have never guessed on this buffet- pizza and french fries sitting in the hot food bar next to steamed octopus, head-on shrimp, crawfish, pork dumplings, rice noodles and tofu/soy dumplings. There were three rows of dessert-related foods- fresh cut fruit, baked goods, etc that I did not try. Though I truly enjoyed my lunch, I found it a bizarre mix of offerings.
Lunch was $7.99 for all you can eat buffet and 99 cent drink. I believe dinner is $13.99, not sure if the offerings are more or different, but I cannot imagine more- I barely got to taste even a few of the items. You pay upon arrival and sit anywhere- waitress takes your receipt to confirm your purchases and brings utensils and drinks.
The dining room seats about 300 in my estimation. Most of the patrons were were not speaking english. I did see a few children there as well. There was a flat screen TV on the far wall playing Chinese pop music with chinese subtitles- like for karaoke?
In any case, I've told my coworkers all about it and will be returning soon. I suppose a true gorger could sit there for hours trying everything in the place!
I heard about this place from a neighbor when we were all outside during a power outtage on a hot Saturday night last month and it sounded interesting. So my adventurous 15 year old son and I went over one evening. And believe me, he will try anything!
The dinner is indeed $13.99. So with tax, we ate our fill for under $30 which is about what it would be at a conventional Chinese place.
It's a mix of several cuisines including Chinese, Taiwanese, and others, which accounts for the very unusual selections. Baked salmon, black pepper chicken (great!), hot and sour soup (not so good in my opinion), french fries and pizza for the kids, sushi bar with some really wicked wasabi (ask my son!) and chicken feet (deep fried I think). Simple boiled shrimp (in shell), snow crab legs....which one gentleman that evening made a meal of....there is definitely something for everyone here. We couldn't even bear to look at the sweet dessert offerings.
The attendants were not obtrusive to me but seemed efficient in removing used plates as we enjoyed our meal.
I think the fact that my son and I were the only non-ethnic customers that evening probably speaks to the authenticity of the dishes offered.
Heard from friends that this is the spin-off from Fortune Star Buffet in Rockville and we rushed over the very first week it opened. We've gone for lunch with friends three times since and the reviews are mixed. Our biggest beef with the place is inconsistency. But still, we'd go back from time to time. As DH puts it, with Fortune Star in Elkridge, the bar for Chinese buffet in the Baltimore metro has been raised.
I like it for offering some hard-to-find dishes as buffet items, like the braised whole tilapia (but everyone left the heads in the tray!) and the palm-size fried pomfrets. All of the lunch pals agreed the steamed sticky rice (mi-gao) is very delicious. We all know it's there to fill us up but we just couldn't help ourselves but to go back for more. Yum!
After reading the positve reviews on this board, I took my family to Fortune * to try it out. I have to agree that this is the best Chinese buffet in the area. For a family of four with softdrinks the total came to about $55 and the items in the buffet were plentiful and kept filled. There were certainly lots of choices. They have three make-on-demand stations: Sushi, Soup, and Stirfry.
What we liked: roast duck, ginger fish, salmon, fried rice, roast chicken, tofu dish (ma po?), veggie dumplings, pork dumplings, fresh fruit, coconut jello, custards
What most impressed me: Sushi bar - good choices, plus they'll make what you want (though they didn't have tomago (egg). Fresh soup - your choice of noodle, protein, and veggies and they create the soup for you. Much better than the regular soups.
What we didn't like: The regular soups at the serving tables (hot + sour, wonton, egg drop) - none of them were particularly good. The General Tso's Chicken was salty and tough.
In summary, I was impressed with this buffet. Most of the food was quite good, with a large selection. The made-to-order stations were very good and really added to the value of the buffet.
Trader Joe's is in "Gateway Overlook" shopping center. If you keep going east (away from Columbia) on 175, Fortune Star is in the shopping center immediately after you cross US1 ("Columbia 175 East"). Strangely enough, there is also a Panda Cafe in the same shopping center. You'd think they wouldn't put two Chinese restaurants in the same area, even if they are on different ends of the shopping center.
So I just went for the first time and came away very impressed. If not for Grace's Garden, this might be the best serious Chinese option in Anne Arundel or Howard County, buffet or not. They had a large variety of dumplings and other dim sum items (radish cakes, bao, sticky rice with sausage, bean curd rolls, etc), plus I had salt & pepper shrimp and squid, baby octopus that was delicious, chicken feet in black bean sauce (not the best rendition, but ok), two kinds of tripe, beef stew, and more. I do also enjoy the buffet lunch at Jesse Wong's Hong Kong, and that is a higher quality option, but for the sheer variety and authenticity, it's something that's been missing in this area. They also say they have a Dim Sum buffet on weekends for $13.99. I might have to check it out...