Searching for Good Chinese: King Buffet

I have renewed my quest for great Chinese food.

Eons ago, when I was just a young caveboy in Vernal, my parents took me to the only Chinese/American restaurant in town. I immediately fell in love and if I ever had the choice, we’d hop on our dinosaurs and head for Chinese. After we moved to Salt Lake, we enjoyed similarly good food at the South Seas on 2100 South.

When South Seas changed hands about 20 years ago the food and service were not the same. I looked elsewhere, but never found it. Some have come close, but never the full package. I learned to settle supposing I was just old and picky.

Then three weeks ago on a trip to Washington, we lunched at the only Chinese restaurant in Baker City, Oregon – the Golden Crown. When my food came, I was shocked. It was so different.

It was a simple lunch plate of sweet and sour chicken, lo mien and ham fried rice, but it was delicious. Now, I am not a chef or a food critic so I am only guessing what made the difference. All I can say is that it was fresh, perfectly prepared and cooked.

If I’d had the presence of mind, I would have asked to talk with the cook and quiz him down, but I didn’t. What I did was determine that when I got back to Salt Lake I would start looking, again, for good Chinese food.

Today, Debra and I visited the King Buffet (3640 South State). We had driven by this place hundreds of times and never stopped. We stopped today because of its good reviews on TripAdvisor (average of 4.5 out of 5).

I was pleasantly surprised.  

We were seated almost immediately – which shouldn’t have been surprising because it was 3:30 in the afternoon (old people do that), but even mid-afternoon the place was very busy.  We were offered drinks which our server brought right away. After that she was consciences, but really allowed us to enjoy our meal in peace.

The place was sparkling clean – tables, seats, floors and buffet area. Employees were constantly replacing serving spoons in the buffet area, sweeping the floor and our empty plates disappeared almost immediately. The silverware and plates were clean and spotless. 

(Disclaimer: I didn’t go into the restrooms before setting down, like I almost always do, so I can’t comment on their cleanliness.)

The food was very good. It was all flavorful, well cooked and freshly rotated. It was all presented well.

There was a lot of variety – seafood, fish, chicken, steak, ribs, vegetable dishes all prepared in different ways; at the separate fruit and salad bar; and with offerings I hadn’t seen before (or for a long time) like Chinese donuts and strawberry bananas. There was also a sushi table and Mongolian wok.

I was impressed with the little extras one might not notice – napkin dispenser (great for messy eaters like Grandpa) and Mexican hot sauce (they know their customers) on the table.

And while no visit is perfect the only negatives today were cantaloupe that wasn’t quite ripe and one variety of fish that ran out just before we got some and didn’t get replaced.

All-in-all a very good meal at a good price ($10.95/ lunch, $14.95 dinner, with drinks extra). There is a 10% senior discount, but you have to ask for it.

I recommend King Buffet (4 out of 5) and will be going back until someone turns me on to better.  What do you Salt Lakers recommend?

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