Buffet the Appetite Slayer

If you're into healthy or vegetarian eating, Mr. Tokyo's has limited appeal. Sauteed green beans probably still pack a few residual nutrients. But otherwise, you'll need to bring your own multivitamins. I'm surprised there wasn't more in the way of veggies, particularly steamed veggies that you could toss over rice or noodles. They'd give customers one more reason to come here. (The small salad bar, with greenery, tomatoes and cheese, certainly isn't the solution.)

Two other quibbles: Where's the white rice? I didn't see anything except fried rice. And why not identify the dishes? It's a pain in the neck to point and ask the guy behind the counter "What's this?" a dozen times.

The dessert section lived down to my expectations. It was partially redeemed by some fresh fruit, but I couldn't get worked up over the Jell-O or nondescript cookies and cake.

What would Moulaye have said about Mr. Tokyo? I don't know. But I don't think it would have been "Sayonara."

Great Goody's Buffet, 2984 North Alma School, Chandler, 857-9300. Hours: Lunch, Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Dinner, Sunday through Thursday, 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.

What would Moulaye have said about Great Goody's Buffet? "Mangi dem" comes to mind. It's Wolof, his native tongue, for "I'm outta here." If you've ever wondered why all-you-can-eat places are held in such low culinary esteem, a visit here will make it painfully clear.

The bad vibes begin before you make the buffet table rounds. This place looks more like a warehouse than a restaurant, cavernous and forlorn. When it's almost empty, too, as it was during my dinner trip, it's depressing, as well. The loud radio, tuned to K-Lite, didn't improve my mood, either.

If price and quantity are what turn you on, you may have to be hosed down. Great Goody's is as well-stocked as any Las Vegas buffet, with rows and rows of Asian-themed fare heaped in chafing dishes. And the $8.65 dinner tag, which includes beverage, isn't that much more than you'd pay for a fast-food meal.

Too bad no one is paying any attention to quality. This is some of the most unappetizing stuff I've had to endure in quite some time--unappetizing looking, unappetizing tasting and unappetizing to contemplate, even in retrospect.

Take the sushi--please. Whether you're looking for variety or Japanese artistry, you've come to the wrong place. The kitchen sends out just two kinds, a California roll and molded rice topped with "krab." Both are hopeless.

The deep-fried section is equally unimpressive. Everything is battered, and abused. Greasy egg rolls, sitting-around-too-long "tempura" and scary pellets of deep-fried pork are not the stuff gastronomic dreams are made of.

There's nothing dreamy about the main dishes, either. The principal difference between the lemon chicken and orange chicken is color--the former is yellowish, while the latter sports an orange tinge. Certainly, if you closed your eyes, you couldn't taste the difference, or much of anything, for that matter.

That's also the case with the Mongolian beef and pepper steak, whose differences were way too subtle for me to detect. As for the beef itself, it was quite tender, and quite flavorless.

Kung pao chicken and almond chicken are thoroughly institutional, two dishes you'd walk right past if they showed up in your employee cafeteria. Curried chicken also had a major case of the blands. The only entree with any sort of character was ma po tofu, bean curd perked up with a spicy sauce.

Like Mr. Tokyo, Great Goody's also offers crab legs. But these limbs were so unappealingly strewn on the buffet counter that I wanted no part of them. And, after one bite, I wanted no part of the baked mussels, which seemed spoiled.

Although age is revered in Asian cultures, it has limited culinary application. Several dishes tasted as if they'd been prepared during the Ming dynasty. Leathery green beans in black bean sauce had no redeeming features. And the chow mein and Singapore noodles simply tasted old.

Sure, you can eat all you want at Great Goody's Buffet. I just wonder why anyone would want to.

Mr. Tokyo:
Dinner buffet
$10.99

Great Goody's Buffet:
Dinner buffet
$8.

65

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