Brief Hiatus Leads to the Emperor of Buffets
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 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...
Forget quotes, forget analogies, this is just good frickin' food, plain and simple. Emperor's Kitchen's 10-item buffet clearly had the highest quality food of any buffet we had been to, but it causes a dilemma. Are we going to be stuck in a rut with the rest of our blogs with constant comparison to the best as we write, "This place is good, but it's not Emperor's Kitchen." Despite what I wrote above, an analogy comes to mind. While Snob and his wife were engaged, his wife's cousin jokingly said to him, "To be in this family, you need to summit a mountain." Actually, he was wrong, Snob was going to marry her no matter what, but the adventure sounded fun. At the peak of Mt. Adam's, looking down at Mt. St. Helen's, across to Mt. Hood and up to Mt. Rainier, Snob thought, "Ok, I can say I've reached the peak of a legitimate mountain, this is pretty cool." Well, any big hill/small mountain after that didn't compare. Is that going to happen to our cherished Chinese buffets?
Brookfield's Emperor's Kitchen really emphasizes the importance of providing high quality, hot and fresh food. The second-story dining room provides the buffeter with a naturally lit eating area surrounded by windows that overlook, well a parking lot, but the natural light was nice. The waitress was great... we've never seen someone work so hard for very small tips. She was always there when needed, and never there when not wanted. Perfect. The food trays are placed in a free-standing buffet that is in the shape of a Chinese sailing vessel and consistently filled with fresh food. It reminded us of those travelling food shows when they go to some harbor in China and are served in their boat by a sailing chef passing by. We remember at one point over-hearing one diner near us say, "That was delish." While we don't EVER condone the use of the word ‘delish' we definitely agree with that diner, that meal was delicious (not hard to add that extra syllable). Slob's tweet (@chinesebuffeter) sums it up: "Yeah, I just went for a plate too much. This is the one that'll make me sick."
This is what we agree on:
1. Great management and a waitress we don't remember at all (always a positive) but always seemed to be there when she was needed. I cannot think of a higher compliment. Perhaps our favorite waitress of all time.
2. Classy lookin' joint.
3. A place for a more sophisticated crowd of business people who prefer to avoid early heart attacks.
This is where we differ slightly:
Emperor's Kitchen is a classy man's/woman's Chinese buffet. Hard to argue with the quality of the food. Easy to argue that this buffet is guilty of some serious quantity malpractice. The shocking thing is that this buffet rates very well despite lacking almost all of the staples of a slob-friendly buffet. That is quite a compliment to the chefs! Try to wrap your head around this: A good overall experience for the resident slob, despite no egg drop soup, lo mein noodles, Chinese donuts, sweet and sour chicken or crab Rangoon. The lack of these essentials is startling. Slob was able, however, to fill up on some high quality fried rice and pan noodles. I could have used another taste, but I did reach 4 digits on the calorie meter on those foods alone. The rice was exceptional. Not greasy and just terrific. The pan noodles were also outstanding. One truly impressive aspect of this buffet is that they serve real, legitimate chicken. No pork, turkey, lamb, chicken combination crap like a previous buffet visit. A restaurant can save a lot of money serving crap, but this buffet doesn't do that. (Please take note, I know next to nothing about the restaurant business, but my last statement sounds good and is sensible, so I'll assume it's true.) Really there is nothing to complain about except for the omission of those previously mentioned Chinese buffet necessities. This brings about a deeply philosophical question: Should the buffet be scolded for its lack of staples or complimented for being terrific even without the best slobenly options? For my own personal final answer, a quote from Sandy Koufax comes to mind... "Any pitcher can win when he has his best stuff. A truly great pitcher can win even when he doesn't." Hmmmm....just imagine Emperor's Kitchen with trays of Chinese donuts, Lo Mein noodles, egg drop soup, crab Rangoon, and sweet and sour chicken.
1. Quality - 5/5
2. Quantity - 13/25(Good food aplenty though)
3. Cleanliness - 5/5
4. price - 5/5
5. replenishing - 5/5
6. service - 5/5
Favorite Item: Fried Rice
Item to avoid: Nothing was out of place. Some of it was just too fancy for my palette.
What Slob did not tell you above was that this buffet, like a previous one, had mu-shu pork that was delicious. Also, in lieu of the buffet staple egg drop soup, Emperor's Kitchen offered hot and sour soup. I really like hot and sour soup and this one had big pieces of meat in it. However, I found the soup unnecessary given the other delicious items. They had fried wontons on the buffet, but I don't understand those things... they're never that good especially when they replace an item like crab rangoons. Most of the dishes were actually pork and the chicken dishes had big, moist chunks of white meat. Despite my desire for healthier items, I couldn't help but splurge on the pan-fried noodles as they weren't greasy and were packed with flavor. On the healthier side, the pepper chicken was also very flavorful with big pieces of sliced white meat chicken. However, the chicken was not that moist. My opinion differs from Slob regarding the items he claimed were missing; they would have been extraneous and taken the chef's attention away from the quality of the other items. However, I do think there are some items like the wontons that could have been replaced with better options. For the record, I've never heard Slob say that high quality can undo the despair of low quantity, quite a monumental moment!
Favorite Item: Pan-fried noodles
Item to avoid: Nothing I tried was avoidable. However, I did avoid the sweet and sour pork because it's just so unhealthy and didn't look like it was worth the splurge.
1. Quality - 22/25
2. Quantity - 4/5
3. Cleanliness - 5/5
4. Price - 5/5
5. Replenishing - 5/5
6. Service - 5/5
Grade - .92
Overall Ratings List
1. Emperor's Kitchen (Brookfield) - .84
2. William Ho's (Shorewood) - .66
3. China Gourmet (Downtown)-.49
---On a sad note, we would like to pay our respects to the friends and families of Port China in Fox Point. Port China played an integral role in Snob's upbringing and it appears as though its doors are permanently locked. No explanation or warning has been given to its patrons of at least 35 years. If anyone has any information it would be greatly appreciated.
-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.