Best Asian buffet in Austin - Chi Buffet Restaurant
I am surprised no one has posted about this gem on Chowhound yet.... Finally we have a great Asian buffet in town! My kids love Asian buffets (no wait, tons of choices with fresh veggies and fruits, what's not to like?) and we've been to all of them. Of course, when we found out about the Chi Buffet, we had to try it. It is located at the far south end of the SouthPark Meadows complex next door to Amy's Ice Cream and the Cinemark theater past the Texas Roadhouse off of I35.
The decor is very chic and trendy with great music and the staff was very attentive. The food was beautifully displayed and absolutely awesome! On the day we went (Friday night) they had spicy crawfish, stuffed sea bass, salt and pepper shrimp (to perfection, not the overcooked kind), and the usual array of chinese dishes such as sesame chicken, beef with broccoli. They also offered some variation I've never seen before like the cilantro tomato salad which was quite refreshing (for those of us who like cilantro). We appreciated the variety of the spread. They didn't have a huge section of salads but that was ok by us since we usually go for the cooked veggies. Also, they have a very fresh sushi section and the best sashimi ever. Very affordable if you are going for that alone!
The only downside we see is that they didn't have a large selection of fresh fruits - we try to eat healthy and don't really go for all the sweet baked desserts - which they had an entire section dedicated to which looked exquisite. As for fresh cut fruits they only had was watermelon and pineapple (which for some reason tasted salty??), so that was our only disappointment.
One more thing that is a "must" try is their chicken soup - it's broth based, but it is heavenly with just the right amount of seasoning. We didn't try the other soup choices (miso, wonton, hot & sour) so can't say how those were. All in all, everything was wonderful and highly recommended. We will definitely be back to this place!
I thought the sushi was worse than Buffet Palace when I went there and that's a pretty low bar. The wakimi and squid salads were pretty good though. The salmon in particular was pretty low quality.
On another forum I believe I referred to Chi Buffet as mostly deep fried proteins covered in sugary goo.
Chi Buffet was an okay place and well, it was pretty clean with a good squid salad and wakimi salad. However, while I'm all for Americanized Chinese it was a little heavy on the syrupy sauces. They did manage to get crab rangoons to be crispy on the buffet which is something Buffet Palace can't ever manage.
The other stuff on the bar looked kinda offputting when I was there and thought it was a solid C+ effort.
It would be hard to beat Buffet Palace Westgate, IMO. I went there last Tuesday for the first time in 2 months (usually once a month) and they had several new items (eg., Tempura fried seafood roll served cold was new to me and pretty good to this non-sushi seeker). I thought it was getting old the previous time I went and was glad I remembered to check in again..
Best of all I like the selection. I don't really go for the Chinese dishes preferring the SE Asian [inspired] items. Especailly their kimchi soup (labeled "Spicy seafood soup") with a few extra Jalapeno shrimp thrown in (head and carapace are meant to be eaten without shelling)..
I'll try and get to Chi Buffet before they may start to decline as many Chinese buffets in Austin have done a few months after opening. It's just so far back in that complex it's heck of a walk from Slaughter/Cullen for a busser (slight physical disability). And it's all uphill in on the way back, with a full stomach. :-)
I suppose I should clarify my opinions on Buffet Palace. I actually like their non-Chinese offerings. I like their salads and grilled items overall, but I think their Americanized Chinese leaves alot to be desired, as does the sushi. However, while I am not a huge fan of their sushi, I do appreciate it for what it is.
For example, my dad is a bit like a midwestern Hank Hill. He wouldn't order sushi at a restaurant unless someone put a gun to his head. However, on as an option on a buffet with a wide variety like Buffet Palace, it is a excellent introduction to it in a nonthreatening way so he can get a piece while loading up on foods he's more comfortable with. Personally, I think we can thank places like Buffet Palace for mainstreaming alot of food options for people who would be more resistant to them or just skip Korean or Japanese places altogether.
I think their do a good job on most of the salads there (seaweed salad is excellent, but I have a weakness for seaweed... weird, i know).
As far as walking to the Chi Buffet, its not really around anything except the Amy's Ice Cream and the Movie Theater. I thought the sun was brutal without any trees of significance and I was only walking from my car. If I were you, I'd organize it so I'd hit the buffet and then see a movie afterwards so you can digest for a couple hours since the theater is less than 50 feet from the buffet.
I agree with you that buffets are a great way to try different things that you normally wouldn't think of ordering. Plus for us it's also a great way to get the kids to eat since it gives them the autonomy to choose! We just make sure they include veggies and fruit on their plate. ;)
As for the comment on the sushi at Chi buffet - it was definitely better and fresher than Buffet Palace at Westgate. Not as many choices for sure, but the cuts of tuna and salmon were very firm, not like the ones you usually see melting over the ice at the buffets. I normally don't even touch the raw stuff because I don't know how long it's been sitting there, but the ones at Chi were very fresh. Maybe it depends on the time of day ... we were there for an early dinner and got there just before 6pm. We were just very impressed at how everything was so nicely presented and delicious. The owner (whom I believe said he was Japanese) even popped by the tables to ask if everything was to our satisfaction which was a nice personal touch.
As far as the number of offering goes, it does not beat out Buffet Palace due to the sheer size of the place. They also didn't offer many American dishes (pizza, cheese sticks, fries), but that didn't bother us since we weren't there to eat those anyway. I thought the variety was nice and the dishes were cooked well overall - there was one dish that did look a bit syrupy which I skipped over, sorry to say I can't remember what it was. The Singapore rice noodles were delicious and not greasy or heavy -- comparable to the ones I've had in NYC. I don't recall seeing any "baos" (the chinese buns with fillings) either. I'm not a big eater, so don't get around to eating too many of the dishes, but the ones I did sample all were very good quality especially for a buffet. As with all buffets, I guess it's a good idea to get there early so the food is still nice and hot , fresh out of the kitchen and not sitting around too long.
I'm hoping the quality of this place stays up there! It's a trek for us to drive there since we live over by NW Austin, but good food is worth the trek!
I live just across the highway from this place, and went once & will never return willingly. Did not like the sushi/sashimi. Thought all of the hot items were terrible (greasy flavorless eggrolls, various battered & fried meats dripping in sticky sweet sauces, etc.). I basically ended up loading up on seaweed salad and raw oysters after trying various other items and not liking anything. Overall, no better than typical quality for a Chinese buffet, I think.