Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Not-So-Crazy Aspects of Dining at Crazy Buffet

“First time here?” A nod.

“Did you … [garbled words because of the muffling by the background din of patrons waiting to be seated]?” Huh?

Louder, “Did you know about us from friends?” Yes, friends, definitely.

“Do you … [relapsed back to normal loudness]?” Finger pointing to what seems like a sigh-up sheet on the table.

Straining my eyes because of the dim light, I could not make up what she was trying to ask.

“Coupons?” This time loud and clear. Oh, No. And she put a big cross across the middle section of the sheet. [OK, be aware of that if ever there is a return visit.]

The above scene was played out in the lobby of the Crazy Buffet restaurant in Tampa last evening. Before that we had just dropped CE (our younger D) at Augosto Restaurant in South Tampa where her friend was holding her birthday party. And our two sons preferred enjoying the cool comfort of home rather than the hassle of going out, dinner at a fancy restaurant or not [or maybe trying to save the old man some dole]. That suited us well, a rare occasion where a loving couple can have some time to themselves, reliving the “care-free” days of roaming about town before the children were ushered in.

After some exchanges between us as to the restaurant choice, guided by the overarching principle that we must not have been to, we settled on Crazy Buffet restaurant along Dale Mabry Highway. Outside at the restaurant signage, my wife spotted a huge pair of chopsticks embedded in the name (like so, taken from their website, unlike the one we visited, which is standalone). Hmmm, something immediately rang in my mind.

Immediately after the entrance, we crossed a small pond with fountains, And paintings on the wall, some with Chinese calligraphy. Definitely an oriental eatery. Then while waiting to be seated, we picked up a card that says VariAsian across in red. That settled that.

We were then given a grand tour of the buffet area, apparently a treat for first-timers: the sushi bar, the salad bar, the cooking-on-the-spot-by-the-chef place, the Korean food (we learned later that August is the month for Korean delicacies, wines included), the traditional food, the fruit bar, the ice-cream bar.

At the seating area, more wall paintings, and the light was just right. However, the atmosphere was a bit noisy for my taste, being seated in front of a multi-family with kids. But that did not dampen our heightened spirit, the elevation invariably setting in on first experience.

I first went for the traditional food: fried rice, fried meehoon (rice sticks), liberal portion of veggie, some chicken, and sat back to let my month do the work. A lot of carbohydrates, my wife commented. Her plate looked more meaty: A Korean BBQ pork rib, some shrimps (her favorite food is seafood), and some other bits and pieces that I could not make out at a glance, but more so because I was busy chewing away my food, which requires full concentration.

A second round brought me more meehoon (this time I saw the name affixed to the top of the food carriage: Singapore fried meehoon) and Korean fried rice [As you can surmise by now, fried meehoon is one of my favorites]. My wife partook of a Peking Duck drumstick, and another Korean BBQ pork rib.

I rounded up with some sesame balls and a cake for dessert. No fruits, no ice-cream. Then I sat back to observe life in a restaurant while my wife continued to sample the offerings.

The waiters brought a birthday cake with a single lighted candle to a neighboring table and blurted out a rendition of Happy Birthday. My wife joined in the festivity too by clapping. Wonder whether that birthday boy (actually it’s a man) got a free dinner for the trouble.

When the bill came, it has ‘Quality service is customarily acknowledged by a gratuity of 15-20%’ printed across the bottom. No ambiguity there. At the Thai restaurant last night, it was even better, the gratuity was already computed and totaled in the bill.

How was the dining experience? Crazy enough for us? Considering the per head charge of 20 bucks, my wife said it was OK. Mine tended not to be exactly the bang for the buck, considering my selection of food items as enumerated above. But it was an experience that we have no way of knowing before our visit. Repeat visit? If the conditions are ripe, maybe.

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