The Budget Epicureans Review: China Buffet

Jeremy Smyczek | Staff Writers


Each week, the Budget Epicureans select an eatery or take-out establishment, in search of quality and value. Bonus points are awarded for healthy options.

Chinese buffets tend to be generally the same and therefore not really worth reviewing. But recent competition from hibachi chains and upstart sushi bars have forced some, such as China Buffet on Market Street, to diversify in an effort to keep up. These adjustments, meaning the inclusion of their own sushi bar and hibachi grill, work. China Buffet isn’t a bad place to eat.

Customers encounter a giant aquarium with equally giant fish upon walking past the giant lions on the way in. Chinese pop plays in the dining room. To the left, there’s a Mexican cook working a Japanese grill in a Chinese restaurant in Southeastern North Carolina. It’s an only-in-America kind of cool.

One can have a soft drink with the buffet, but why bother when a Sedrin beer from China is 99 cents? It claims to be made of “pure volcanic water,” after all, whatever on Earth that means. It’s even decent—a crisp, light lager of the Sapporo tradition. One contemplates making an evening of this.

On to the sushi bar; Well, it isn’t made to order, but it’s fresh enough, with California, salmon, and shrimp rolls. Wash them down with a healthy dose of the soy sauce, wasabi and a generous swig of the Sedrin. It’s a quality first plate, especially at this price point.

The hibachi grill’s selection is small but serviceable. Imitation crab, shrimp, beef and chicken sit with an assortment of vegetables and lo mein noodles, to be mixed and matched according to taste. Sauces include a picante-style hot, garlic and teriyaki. Some shrimp with noodles and mushrooms plus the hot sauce are a good choice.

A foray into the soup section was dire, featuring a bland, gelatinous hot-and-sour soup that was neither hot nor sour.

Little needs be said of the buffet itself. It’s a Chinese buffet, after all featuring far too many items left for far too long under heat lamps that sap whatever original character they might have had. The cold food section offered some crisp kimchee and boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce that made for a nice plate. A rule of thumb for these affairs, cold food can sit for much longer than hot food.

Dessert options feature a scoop of real, hand-dipped ice cream, not that nefarious ooze from a pump that passes for ice cream some places. It’s hard to go wrong with hand-dipped ice cream.

These extras don’t make China Buffet great, by any stretch, but they do make it better than the competition and a third of the price of a trip to the typical sushi bar.


Cuisine: Chinese/Asian buffet

Price range: $8 lunch, $10 dinner

Address: 3606 Market St., Wilmington, NC, 28403

Contact: (910)762-9868

Store hours:

Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.