poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


Buffets of Taiwan

Happy New Year! Hope everyone is having a great start to 2011 so far. Do you have any food-related resolutions? I don’t usually believe in making resolutions, but if I had to state a couple I’ve been working on since the end of 2010, they are:

  1. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  2. Become a part-time vegetarian. This is related to #1 for health reasons, and also for environmental reasons.
  3. Learn to cook something new at least once a month.

So far, so good. I’ve been making some simple, yet delicious veggie dishes and sides. When I come across a winner, I’ll post the recipe here.

Back to the blog! I’m going to overindulge you with photos, just as I overindulged in Taipei. It was a real shame that I wasn’t more hungry when I visited the following buffets. I felt truly hungry maybe two times in the two weeks I was there, and a tinge of hunger less than 5 times. For reals. I still tried to adhere to my buffet rules, though I’m fairly certain I didn’t get my money’s worth. Sad face.

First up: a Japanese buffet. It doesn’t really matter about the name because it wasn’t that good. It gets good marks for pretty presentation, but the food was just so-so and the desserts were very disappointing. I had a nice time with my family though!


The sushi station (with guy giving me a funny look, to the left). Also, check out the ginormous carrots!


The dessert table looked appetizing but ended up being disappointing.

Again, a beautiful presentation of mussels that didn't deliver in taste.


"Look, Ma, no hands!"

They had made-to-order hand rolls. Not bad.



This poor shrimp was no match for my appetite.

Since the desserts sucked, I had star fruit and passion fruit instead.


Next: my family and I took a mini-vacation to Yilan, a city 1.5 hours southeast of Taipei by train. We stayed at the lovely Silks Place hotel, where we were given complimentary vouchers to the breakfast buffet. This breakfast smorgasboard was amazing, featuring a wide selection of Chinese, Japanese, and Western-style morning treats. My sisters and I especially loved the porridge bar, where every conceivable topping was available (it doesn’t take much to make us happy).


Freshly steamed buns (man tou)

My first round, clockwise from top left: fried egg with hot sauce, porridge with goodies, plate of bacon, croissant, and Japanese rice, and a cafe latte.

Fun with fruit!

Everyone was very happy with their food.


Finally, we went to the Japanese buffet at Wasabi, in the Taipei 101 mall. My mom had discount vouchers, reducing the price of lunch from $25 to a more affordable $17. I enjoyed my food; it was all very fresh and high quality, but we were annoyed that they charged my 4 year old nephew (who only ate rice and a few pieces of veggie tempura) $12. Lamesauce.


The view of Wasabi from the mall.

My first round at Wasabi: lots and lots of fish and other sea creatures.

My sister and dad, with a plate of fried food. Someone decided not to follow my buffet rules!

My mom and I ready to chow down!

A very minimalist dessert. I was stuffed! Upper left: fruit; lower right: various mochis.

The mochi was really good. Two thumbs up!




The Casino Buffet

Atop Mt. Lincoln at Sugarbowl, with its gorgeous vistas.

Skiing in the Lake Tahoe area is a major highlight of living in the Bay Area. Back in early March, JL, LF, and I went skiing at Sugarbowl for two days. All of the local hotels were booked, so we decided to stay about an hour away in Reno at the Silver Legacy Hotel. I’m not a huge fan of casinos in general, but I was secretly pretty psyched about the casino buffet, which as everyone knows, is the King of All Buffets.

Our first round at the buffet: crab legs all around!

Y’all know how I feel about getting the best value from my all-you-can-eat experiences. Happily, I was not disappointed by the Silver Legacy buffet. There was an entire island of crab legs and shrimp. I made sure I devoured two full plates of these high value items before I hit up the noodles, always my weak spot. JL and LF were both very diligent students in the art of buffet eating. They even asked me for permission/advice on whether they were “allowed” to move beyond the crab legs!

Crab claw attack!

As we wandered about the casino in a food coma after dinner, none of us wanted to gamble. I put $2 into a slot machine just for kicks, but we shortly made our way back to our hotel room to zone out to mindless tv. To this day, I’m not sure I could eat another Alaskan crab leg. Even I have my limits.


Buffet Dining 101

A couple of weeks ago, my coworker hosted a first birthday party for her daughter at Todai, a Japanese buffet in Cupertino (though it is also a national chain).  It is an immense buffet with all kinds of Japanese food (sushi, gyoza, tempura, udon), Korean food (japchae, bulgolgi), Chinese food, and a wide selection of desserts.  (No mochi though, which was disappointing.  I heart mochi.)

Growing up in a cost-concious (a.k.a. Asian) family, I was trained early on in the art of all-you-can-eat dining.  These are the rules I follow, in no particular order:
1. Stay away from fried foods.  They will fill you up.
2. Go for your favorite pricey items first, e.g. seafood, prime rib, steak, etc.
3. Don’t fill up on carbs.
4. Balance the heavy stuff with some vegetables and fruit.  It will make you feel healthier and prevent indigestion.
5. Try a little of everything first before piling your plate with something that might only be so-so.
6. It’s not all about the money: if you like something, even if it’s cheap, eat it!  This is about the whole dining experience; you might as well enjoy it.

I didn’t realize that not everyone has a “buffet philosophy” until 3 years ago, when I was talking to two friends on the way to a birthday buffet.  They thought my approach was preposterous — too focused on a strategy rather than just eating for fun.  Maybe so, but I do always get my money’s worth!

Here are photos from my dining experience at Todai.  I’ve been to another Todai (in Virginia), which I think is slightly better.  The sushi in Cupertino was only so-so, but the rest of the food was pretty good.

The sushi island of the buffet at Todai.

The sushi island of the buffet at Todai.

The rest of the buffet.

The rest of the buffet.

The casserole dish of wasabi.

The casserole dish of wasabi.

My plate #1

Plate #1. Highlight: eel nigiri.

Plate #2

Plate #2. Highlights: Teriyaki chicken and gyoza.

Plate #3

Plate #3. Highlight: Japchae!!

My dessert plate wasn’t that pretty or memorable, so I don’t have a photo of it, but I do have a photo of another dessert plate…

JY's dessert plate

JY's dessert plate (food styling by JY)

The birthday girl!  (No, I did not eat the baby...)

The birthday girl! (No, I did not eat the baby...)