Understandably, there is some major hesitation to give any buffet a five-star rating in the foodie community. There are a lot of moving parts in a good buffet experience, from overall cleanliness to quality and just plain temperature of food. When done right though, Chinese buffets offer the unique chance to completely go nuts and pig out.
On our quest to find the grail of gorge-tastic eateries we came across Oriental Garden Super Buffet in the Scottsdale Pavillions. This place almost seemed like a fluke in buffet dining. Upon first glance, you can tell something is different because this buffet, unlike many of its relatives, is not dimly lit. We like a place that doesn't hide.
The Price:This $8 super buffet turned out to be its weight in wontons. It seems eight bucks is a pretty standard going rate for a lunch buffet.
Overall Cleanliness: We liked what we saw around the restaurant. However, there is a lot to see behind the scenes and because the buffet is technically on reservation land, Maricopa County doesn't give it a restaurant rating, which is unfortunate because we do love the dirty details.
The selection at Oriental Garden is huge. There is even a stocked sushi bar, which is actually pretty good. Our adventurous buffet buddy said the calamari was his favorite part of eating there. He also raved about the pot-stickers, which were "packed full of pork."
Something we appreciated was the omission of plasticy imitation crabmeat from their crab rangoon. It's like if you aren't going to buy the goods, why bother? We also really liked the tempura vegetables because they were crisp and fresh with a crunchy bread coating. In fact, all the veggies at Oriental Garden were fresher than we expect from a buffet. The selection of vegetables was also impressive, from the steamed asparagus to the cucumber and tomato salad.
However, not everything was sunshine and rainbows at the Oriental Garden. A couple dishes to stay away from are the cheese muscles, which were actually covered in mayonnaise, and the fried potatoes because they had a distinct dirt after taste. The egg flower soup had a pretty sizable film on the top, but if that doesn't deter you, it was actually pretty tasty.
Overall, this buffet was a very unexpected break from the norm. But, as we'll see tomorrow, not every buffet can take the heat. Just what was China Harvest Buffet missing? Stay tuned for tomorrow's installment of the Buffet Buff to find out!