Buffet Buff: China Harvest Buffet

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Yesterday we visited the Oriental Garden Super Buffet and were dazzled by the clean restaurant and fresh, hot food. Today we head to way up North Phoenix to China Harvest Buffet to see if we can duplicate our positive experience. We'll give you a clue: we didn't... at all.

The Price: Maybe we're crazy, but for almost $9 we expect some good food, but instead we were served the very definition of mediocrity. We don't mean to sound harsh, but we heard some buzz about this place before heading up the 17 to Cactus Road, and none of it seemed deserved.

Overall Cleanliness: From the huge plastic banners out front to the cart about four steps from the food that was piled with filthy old dishes, almost everything in China Harvest was old, dusty, or gross. The moderate obsessive compulsive in us wished for Clorox cleaning wipes so we could put this icky place out of its misery. We really prefer not to stick to the vinyl-upholstered booth seats.

On Maricopa County's last routine inspection, they gave them a Silver award, which seems a bit generous considering they found sticky strips filled with dead flies hanging in the kitchen and dirty, crusted knives hanging up ready to use. The buffet did get a L3 violation, which states, "Physical facility not cleaned as frequently as necessary"... ya think? There is some hope though, because due to China Harvest's "repeated, severe, and/or numerous violations," the buffet is going to have to clean up or close down.

The Eats:
Perhaps our first clue could have come from YellowPages.com where China Harvest is simply called an "Eating Place." This title is earned by the restaurant's consistently 'blah' food and atmosphere. Nothing was too clean or too dirty, too hot or too cold, too great or too horrible. We brought along some friends to try out the food with us and every time we asked everything was "okay" or "allright"... Well, not every time.

The one buffet item that evoked an actual emotion was the pepperoni pizza, which we tried out of some sort of morbid curiosity. It seemed the pepperoni was made of plastic, the sauce was actually barbecue sauce, and the crust was still half dough. It was a totally unnecessary addition to the buffet and just made us wonder why they even offered it.

Several egg rolls and crab puffs seemed to have lost their filling along the way, and there were very few vegetarian options available. Meat-eaters would not have much better luck finding something they can eat there either. Though the sign above the sneeze guards warned diners not to waste food, it became pretty hard to do, even for our ravenous compatriots.

The most entertaining part of China Harvest Buffet was watching the workers put down trays of fresh, hot food, only for them to mix in the old stuff. There wasn't a single scrap of food that didn't end up lukewarm from the toss-and-serve treatment, not that it being hot would have improved the quality much.

The sweet release of twisted chocolate and vanilla ice cream was the only comforting part of this buffet, but it's not like we're going to go back there for a soft serve machine. Hopefully we will have some better luck tomorrow when we head to Hong Kong Gourmet Buffet.

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