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May 28, 2011 10:55 AM

A delicious buffet -- oxymoron or possible?

Is it possible to have a great buffet? I'd like to believe it is, but ... you know ... mass prepared food sitting in warming trays for long periods of time, etc. Seems like it is pretty much be impossible to provide quality food in buffet conditions.

Anyone ever been to an awesome buffet?

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  1. If you mean out at a restaurant in the States, I have never found a buffet a really enjoy. In Italy, we did go to restaurants that offered a large antipasti of room temperature dishes all laid out on a long table and that I really enjoyed. But hot food sitting in warming trays, no thanks.

    4 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      That's a tradition in southern Italy especially I think—at least I saw it there far more often. And yes, it was often incredible—hard to move on to a plated course afterward, in fact. (But I managed.)

      Best eggplant dish I ever had was at a restaurant in Lecce with such a set-up.

      1. re: escondido123

        Oh yeah, sounds like a Tuscan table. The late Le Madri in NYC had a nice one. Love that sort of food -- olives, meats, cheeses, bread. No sterno in sight.

        1. re: Bob W

          Although I love the one you're describing, the ones in Italy were vegetables and seafood with little meat if at all. The ingredients tended to be cheap, but the execution was brilliant. Meat and cheese were something you ordered at your table, I think because of the cost.

          1. re: escondido123

            Yes, entirely veggies, the ones I'm thinking of in Puglia and Sicilia anyway.

      2. Okay, it doesn't necessarily need to be a hot buffet. Could be cold, room temp, hot, or a combo of any of those conditions.

        Escondido: Mmmmm, Italy! My dream foodie vacation.

        1. The Wicked Spoon Buffet at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Vegas is outstanding on every level.

          So, no, it is not an oxymoron.

          1. Sure you can have great buffet. Some small towns have them with smaller containers and a quick turnover and are packed. I've eaten at some that all the veggies were from the garden, everything was made from scratch and had really good fried chicken. We have some pretty good Indian buffets where we live, one in particular has Indian, Korean and Nepalese. I once went to a BBQ buffet that was good. It can be done.

            1. It's entirely possible. There's nothing wrong with keeping food warm for a while, so long as it's the right kind of food. Cassoulet, braised short ribs, soups, and stewed dishes from coq au van to doro wat to rogan josh to feijoada hold up very well. Eggs Benedict or stir-fried dishes? Not so much.

              Then there are the room-temp and cold options. The antipasti mentioned above are a good example of the former; for the latter, the Sunday brunch buffet at the Mark Hopkins has a big bed of crushed ice with oysters on the half shell, crab claws, and several varieties of caviar with all the fixings. Hard to complain about that.

              But the simple fact of the matter is that you have to charge people a lot of money if you're going to let them eat their fill of expensive food. Very few buffet customers are going to pay that premium; they're more interested in quantity than quality. So most buffets provide unlimited amounts of mediocre food for a bargain price. Not exactly my cup of tea, but when you have to feed a team of ravenous teenagers it can be just the thing.

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