Up Next: Downtown Milwaukee's China Gourmet
Welcome to the finest descriptive analysis of Chinese buffets this side of the Yangtze as presented by Slob and Snob. Within this blog you will be presented with the unique opportunity to get quality opinions from two slightly overweight men with no experience as food critics or writers (sounds promising, right?). We have enjoyed many (hundreds) Chinese buffets in our lives. Throughout all of that gluttony came one incredibly insightful observation... it seems impossible to supply a buffet with a high quantity of quality foods.
This observation lead to our realization that we vary greatly regarding our preferences of the quality and quantity of food at Chinese buffets. Slob likes his buffets filled with as many choices as possible, especially if it's fried and includes those sugary Chinese donuts. Snob on the other hand prefers less food on his buffets if it means the quality of food is improved. Both of us are on a quest to find the best Chinese buffet in Milwaukee and surrounding suburbs; one that has many options of high quality food.
With that said, we will be rating the Chinese buffets we visit with a truly scientific rating system developed by two slightly overweight men with no experience as food critics or writers. Actually, the rating system does make sense and it took us a while to develop it. It allows Slob to put a greater emphasis on the quantity of food offered and Snob's rating to be more influenced by the quality of food. We then simply add up the scores, divide, wipe the grease off of our hands from our last egg roll, do some other stuff and then we get a score. We'll keep an ordinal list based on the average of our two scores, which should reflect our combined opinion of Chinese buffets in this area. The best Chinese buffet we've encountered will be in the number 1 spot. We will be adding each buffet to the list as we progress through this blog (not a list we'll be sharing with our primary physicians or future cardiologists). So stand up, grab your plate, and get ready to load up on some warm, succulent Chinese buffet ratings...
For our second buffet, we decided to move out of the North Shore and mingle with the fancy business folk in beautiful downtown Milwaukee. At its heart is China Gourmet. We chose this buffet because Snob had been there a few years prior and knew this was going to be some good quality eats. We were excited to potentially have a strictly positive review about a buffet we thought would keep the number one spot for weeks and maybe even months. During the long, late nights of creating the concept of this blog, Slob and Snob agreed that writing this blog is not about hurting feelings or taking cheap shots for audience enjoyment. It's about educating the people of this great city and guiding them down the path to great Chinese buffet experiences while helping them avoid the nasty potholes along the way.
Upon entering China Gourmet, we were greeted by a friendly man wearing a tucked in tie that told us, "Welcome to my restaurant, I'm gonna cook you up some good buffet." He quickly took us to our table, past the buffet tables, and through a very spacious, clean, and naturally lit dining area. We looked at each other with high hopes, licking our chops, and getting ready to sit down to discuss our plan of attack. Just then, before we could even pull our chairs out, and very excited waitress came to greet us and began to lay down the ground rules for the meal we weren't allowed to enjoy quite yet. Not quite understanding who she was dealing with, she began to explain in condescending detail how one is to approach a Chinese buffet. We tried to stop her so she could continue doing her job; however, this attempt was rebutted several times with, "I'm not done yet." Upon the many ground rules we were reminded to follow, the rule she had the most passion for was "Just one free soda refill". When we got the refill later on, she made sure we understood ‘No more soda for you'. In our William Ho's experience, we quickly forgot who the waitress was, an excellent element of a Chinese buffet. This waitress was quite memorable, a not so good element of the experience. Especially when at the end of our time at China Gourmet, Snob overheard her say to a group of people (which we tweeted from @chinesebuffeter), "Hold on, as soon as I can't get these people out of here." I'm pretty sure she was referring to us, no, I know she was, we were the only ones in there. Finally, all poor Slob wanted and all he asks for from a Chinese buffet is the sugary, melt-in-your-mouth, deep-fried Chinese donuts. He approached the dessert section, headed straight for the ‘Chinese donuts' sign and reached in to a barren sugar wasteland of a tray. Snob, being the more aggressive of the two, asked politely for more Chinese donuts for Slob. The waitress response, "Well, the chef stops cooking after 2:00, so I don't think he'll be making more." End of story.
Let's keep in mind, the food is the most important aspect of a Chinese buffet. With that in mind, have you ever placed something in your mouth that was so delicious, so crispy and creamy, so sweet and slightly salty, that everything else that is wrong with world just melts away on the cream cheese goodness? Per Snob, "Screw the healthy stuff, I'm converting to fried cheese!" Yes, Slob and Snob agree, the crab rangoonies (they deserve an affectionate name) are perhaps, the single-most tasty item on any Chinese buffet they have ever encountered. Just pure delciousness. As you will see, our scores reflect a buffet that has a few really good items that brings up the quality score. Thus, Snob's score will be higher than Slob's. The rest of the items will be mentioned in our individual critiques, except we agree that:
1. The whole waitress thing
2. The whole crab rangoonie thing
3. At $11.50 per person with soda, way over priced
4. Chinese buffets should not place a limit on soda refills
5. We couldn't see the food we were selecting, it was tucked under counters in a very dark space.
This is where we differ:
The China Gourmet experience reminds me of a quote by former Czechoslovakian tennis player Ivan Lendl, "It takes more than a forehand and a haircut." Lendl was talking about Andre Agassi, not Chinese buffets, but his wisdom helps me draw a parallel and make my case... It takes more than an address and crab Rangoon. China Gourmet's lunch buffet simply has little going for it other than that prime downtown location and one truly spectacular appetizer. An overly anxious waitress who scolded us upon arrival, an out-of-place refill policy, unusually placed pots and strange comments were lowlights of this experience. The flip side....crab rangoon.
China Gourmet features an unusual egg drop soup, which got the eating portion off on the wrong foot. Almost all Chinese restaurants serve the same egg drop soup for good reason. This was an imposter with green things on top. The buffet featured vegetable fried rice and vegetable lo mein. This is a big mistake. Good Chinese buffets are filled with fried coatings, not vegetables. I assume that there will be some ‘stay away' steamed veggie dishes, but fried rice and lo mein are sacred and need to be separate from vegetables. They have a fried chicken that is unique in the most uncomplimentary way. It has a greasy yet untasty coating and combination meat inside, not white chicken meat. The other dishes were forgettable. This brings us to the crab rangoonie. The nicely located, well-decorated appetizer buffet appeared to be a total dud until I tried the crab Rangoon and could not resist getting more. After my ninth and final crab rangoonie, I declared it the best of its kind. I have downed hundreds of crab rangoons, but none brought me the joy that these eight did.
1. Quality - 2/5
2. Quantity - 10/25
3. Cleanliness - 4/5
4. Price - 1/5
5. Replenishing - 2/5
6. Service - 1/5
Favorite Item: Crab Rangoon - crisp with great filling. Saved the experience
Item to avoid: Governor's Chicken-Got a bad vibe from first blush
I agree with how Slob used his reference above, very poetic Slob. It does take more than prime location and a good appetizer to make a good buffet; it takes some decent white meat chicken. Starting at the appetizer buffet, I tried the steamed dumplings along with my Crab Rangoonie. They were really good, light, fluffy, and very flavorful. On that same buffet was a vegetable mu-shu, not typically an appetizer and not typically on buffets. It too, was really good.
My appetite was calling for a good chicken entrée at this point. Using my cell phone to see the dishes, I found the Garlic Chicken. This dish appeared to consist of big chunks of white meat chicken in a delicious-looking brown garlic sauce. When I stuck my fork in a piece of chicken, I could tell right away, it was weird. I decided to try it and it felt like chewing pieces of fat held together with marshmallows. I swallowed it, fearing the waitress, and then it hit me. There was this utterly bizarre aftertaste that left a stinging feeling on my tongue. This was not the white meat chicken I was hoping for. I tried the fried, sauced Governor's Chicken hoping to find white meat chicken (I usually pull the breading off) and found the same meat. We Chinese buffet snobs really look forward to plump and tender white meat chicken on our buffets.
Giving up on chicken, I went for some seafood. I tried the Shrimp in Lobster Sauce and was smacked with disappointment as it was very bland and the shrimp were veiny. My last hope was for the Beef and Broccoli. This I found to be too seasoned with salt but the beef was actually cooked perfectly, it really melted in my mouth. This is a very difficult task to accomplish for a Chinese buffet. The rest of the dishes were either too greasy, or looked too unappetizing. To sum up this buffet, the items that were good were really good quality and flavorful, but there were far more bad items that were quite bad. Overall, I could make a decent meal from a few of those quality items.
Favorite Item: Crab rangoonie - unhealthy, but the light, crisp, slightly salty, golden won-ton outside and the fluffy, sweet, rich cream cheese inside made it irresistible.
Item to avoid: Garlic chicken - Made with weird "combo" meat with an almost rancid aftertaste.
1. Quality - 14/25
2. Quantity - 4/5
3. Cleanliness - 4/5
4. Price - 2/5
5. Replenishing - 3/5
6. Service - 2/5
Overall Ratings List
1. William Ho's (Shorewood) - .66
2. China Gourmet (Downtown)-.49
If you would like us to visit and review a Chinese buffet that we haven't yet, simply post a comment in this blog with the name of the restaurant and it's general location. Please include who you think would enjoy the buffet more, Slob or Snob.
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*Disclaimer: The comments are intended to reflect the food from a restaurant's buffet, which may differ significantly from ordering from the menu.