Royal Garden (of metal)
*For a complete description of our Chinese buffet analysis, please see the beginning of our previous buffet ratings.
Whitefish Bay is not known for their Chinese buffets (in fact we're not even sure if this is in Whitefish Bay or Glendale. Whatever, we're not geographers). If this does fall within WFB village limits, it's the only one. Point is, there isn't another Chinese buffet for miles and we think that's a problem. If you work or live in the area, get that craving to stuff your face with delicious Chinese food from a buffet, but don't have that much time, you go to Royal Garden because you really don't have a choice. The owners may be aware of this quasi-monopoly and seem to make their buffet good enough, but not great.
As we walked in, we were shocked to see almost every table filled with business-types; we didn't really fit-in with our baggy sweatshirts and cargo pants. We were greeted quickly and brought to our seats. From that point on, the service went downhill. Granted there seemed to be one waitress for the entire place, but we still expect our water glass to be filled when empty. And then service went really south.
Towards the end of our visit while in the buffet line, Snob noticed something shiny in his kung-pow beef. He picked out a 2-inch slice of sharp-looking metal. You know, the kind of metal that if you put it in your mouth and chewed, it would shred your mouth to pieces and force you to second-guess how long it has been since you got your last tetanus shot. Well, Snob pointed this out to who appeared to be the owner. She mumbled something, grabbed the piece of metal, and then said, "Oh, I'll take that for you" and whisked off behind the curtain to the kitchen. Standing there dumbfounded looking for more shrapnel in his beef Snob thought, "She didn't even apologize, she didn't even take my plate, she didn't even REMOVE THE REST OF THE BEEF FROM THE BUFFET." In hindsight, Snob would have requested she did that, but he didn't and if you ate metal from the buffet that day, it's partially his fault; he's still confident in his innocence though. Not really hungry for anything else off the buffet, Slob and Snob made their way over to the stack of almond cookies to finish their meal and were again somewhat disgusted to see no tongs to grab a cookie. They expect you to just grab a cookie off the pile... with your hands, hands that have been placing egg rolls in your mouth and playing with metal. Slob's tweets (@chinesebuffeter) sum it up: "I'm one plate away from being full, two plates from being sick" and then deciding "nothing worth getting sick over." We paid our overly-priced bill ($8.50 before tip) and left.
This is what we agree on:
1. Service was sub-par and even sub-awful at one point
2. Very busy lunch-time crowd
3. Shrapnel in food can really bring down the quality rating
This is where we differ slightly:
I have to admit, I had a hard time writing this review. This was a rather pedestrian experience. Since we had been here years ago, pedestrian means it beat my expectations. All I remember from years ago was that we never intended to go back. The restaurant was busy this time. This came as a bit of a surprise. It also made it difficult to navigate to and from the buffet. The buffet had, basically, the standard fare. The missing elements were Chinese donuts and Lo Mein noodles. The other staples were there, but not a single thing I had was ‘very good'. It almost all, however, fell into the ‘good' category. The exception was an awful fried chicken wing. It looked like the kind they used to have at the Ponderosa buffet but didn't taste nearly as good. Everything else, the fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, and sesame chicken were ‘good'. The egg drop soup was the basic buffet recipe, which is good, but it had a stink to it. My unscientific opinion is that it stayed out too long or is a cheaper version than the quality stuff.
If you are a slob and enjoy tying on the old feed bag for some Chinese Buffet, this is a forgettable, yet not bad alternative. Considering the dearth of Chinese Buffets in the area, it serves a purpose. The only major issue being the piece of metal in the food that didn't seem to bother or surprise the help. As the late leader of North Korea Kim Jong Il was once heard saying in a Pyongyang bistro "I never eat at places with metal scraps in my food." Assuming you don't find metal in the food, I can't see anyone hating it or anyone loving it. If you find someone that either loves it or hates it, it means they either own the restaurant or just hate Chinese Buffets.
1. Quality - 2.5/5
2. Quantity - 12.5/25 (Good food aplenty though)
3. Cleanliness - 2.5/5
4. Price - 2/5
5. Replenishing - 4/5
6. Service - 2.5/5
Favorite Item: Fried Rice (by default)
Item to avoid: Anything with a metal strip in it.
All things considered, this was a fairly decent buffet. At first glance, it looked like it was potentially a good mix equally enjoyed by Slob and me. It had several healthy options and several fried options. However, the quality was just lacking, not awful but below average especially because of the metal. I did go with the hot and sour soup right off the bat and found it to be heavy on the sour side. I think it was during my first slurp that I wondered, why do I bother with soup. It just takes up space intended for my delicious options. I believe this may be my last bowl of buffet soup unless there is something quite unique on a future buffet.
Moving on, I went straight for the thin pan-fried noodles that they call Singapore noodles. I usually love this dish on other buffets, and I enjoy the flavor of curry powder. With that said, I enjoyed these noodles, but the curry taste was strong and I had to pick around the bell peppers. Cozied up to the noodles was my helping of kung-pow beef. Alright, gotta get mean about that dish. The beef had one of the most off-putting textures I have ever tried; even worse than a similar dish I tried when rating a recent downtown buffet. I've recently tried putting various objects in my mouth to match that texture while trying to avoid contracting anything orally. What matched closest were the spongy ear plugs we should all be wearing at concerts, and I'm not showing any symptoms associated with the experiment... bonus!!!! This was the dish that had that bonus texture of hard sharp metal in it that possibly increased my displeasure of the dish. On the flip side was the twice-cooked pork. The pork was incredibly flavorful and moist with really good big pieces of tender cabbage and took the horror off my face from the semi-chewed beef sponge staring at me from my plate. Similarly, the garlic chicken was also very flavorful and well-prepared.
My arteries were working way too well, so to slow things down I went with an egg roll and a crab rangoon. Both had a really nice flavor and were crispy, and the crab rangoon actually tasted like crab. I also went with the chicken fried rice and found it to be safe, a dish that was kind of bland but well-prepared. Not completely satisfied, I took some more of the pork and called it a day.
Favorite Item: Twice-cooked Pork
Item to avoid: Kung-pow Beef
1. Quality - 10/25
2. Quantity - 4/5
3. Cleanliness - 4/5
4. Price - 3/5
5. Replenishing - 4/5
6. Service - 3/5
Grade - .56
Overall Ratings List
1. Emperor's Kitchen (Brookfield) - .83
2. William Ho's (Shorewood) - .66
3. Royal Garden (Whitefish Bay/Glendale) - .54
4. China Gourmet (Downtown)-.49
---A little more info on Port China. It looks like the owners closed its doors initially to renovate. But after much deliberation decided to keep the doors closed. We wish them the best of luck in their retirement and hope they pass-on the recipe for their sweet and sour sauce and egg rolls.
Good thing we still have Yen Ching and their delicious cashew chicken!! We grew-up with Yen Ching as well, but it was saved for special occasions because it was higher-quality but a little further away. The key to Yen Ching's success is consistency and high-quality food at a very reasonable price. Keep it up Yen Ching!
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.