Ginseng Restaurant, Edmonton

Last month, a group of friends and I headed out for some Korean BBQ. Ginseng Restaurant specializes in an all-you-can-eat, cook-it-yourself BBQ buffet.

buffet table

buffet table

About half of the buffet has a variety of marinated raw chicken, beef and pork, as well as seafood such as shrimp, mussels, clams and squid. The other half has cooked food such as rice, noodles, tempura, kimchee,  tofu stir-fry, etc.

pre-cooked food and fruit

pre-cooked food and fruit

Each table has a built-in grill set in the middle. You’re given tongs to use to cook your food, and away you go! The metal grill plate gets covered with blackened fats quite quickly, and a waitress came by often to replace our grill plate with a clean, newly oiled version.

grill and raw food

grill and raw food

I was happy with the variety that Ginseng offers on their buffet table. The marinated meats ranged from mild to spicy, and the cuts weren’t too bad. I liked that they cut up vegetables for the grill as well.

If you go, go early as the place fills up quickly. Also, be aware that you will walk out of the place reeking of meat and smoke. There are giant vents over each table (like those that you would find over a stove), but it didn’t seem like the restaurant actually turned them on. The room had a visible haze of cooking smoke by the end of our meal. It also probably didn’t help that the table behind us kept burning their food. All of us smelled like meat for the rest of the evening.

The buffet costs $29 per person and  includes non-alcoholic drinks, but not dessert other than the fruit that is on the buffet table. The restaurant also has a regular menu, but everyone there seemed to eat from the buffet.

Ginseng Restaurant
9261 – 34 Avenue
Edmonton, AB

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Bellagio Buffet and Wynn Buffet, Las Vegas

Love them or hate them, Las Vegas just isn’t the same without the buffets. On this trip I went to two – the Bellagio, which I ate at many years ago, and the Wynn, which was still being built when I was last in Vegas.

If you want to maximize your buffet dollars, the key is to show up about 30-45 minutes before the meal changes over and the prices go up. For instance, we arrived at the Bellagio at 10:20 a.m., waited 20 minutes in line, paid the breakfast price, and got to enjoy the tail end of breakfast as well as the beginning of the lunch service which started at 11 a.m. without having to pay the higher lunch fee. We used a similar strategy at the Wynn.

Also, I find that if you balance the amount you want to eat with the size of your stomach, you can comfortably eat enough to fill you up for the whole day and maybe add a snack later in the evening. Just be careful not to over do it.

I highly recommend you be careful of which buffet you choose, however. One couple missed a tour we were on because of food poisoning at a buffet. Just because there’s a deal, doesn’t mean the food is worth it. Generally, the higher quality buffets (which are also the more expensive ones) include the ones at the Bellagio, the Wynn, Planet Hollywood and Paris.

At buffets I tend to grab a tiny bit of items that catch my attention, and go back for seconds if I like them enough.

The Bellagio Buffet

The decor hasn’t changed and, while everything looks like it is in good shape, could probably use a bit of redecorating to freshen up the look. Service is still relatively consistent. Had some orange juice with this meal.

Plate 1:
Scottish smoked salmon, cocktail shrimp, African bluenose (a thick fish similar in texture to sea bass, tasted ok, covered with some sort of sweet sauce and slightly overcooked), curried duck with bamboo shoots, scrambled eggs, cheese blintz (soggy probably because it has sat out for a while), bok choy, cheese and walnuts, and miso mushroom soup (too salty, had this dish years ago and it was fantastic then).

Bellagio Buffet, plate 1

Bellagio Buffet, plate 1

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Mayfield Dinner Theatre, Edmonton

For Christmas, my sister and I were given a couple of tickets to the Mayfield Dinner Theatre`s current musical, Peace, Love & Rock N Roll 2: And the Beat Goes On!

The Mayfield Dinner Theatre serves their food via a large buffet. Coffee, tea, and water is included, while alcohol, pop, etc. can be had for a small fee. The buffet is open for two hours, then closes just before the show begins. A good strategy is to eat most of your food during those two hours, then grab a loaded plate of fruit, cheese and dessert to nibble on throughout the show.

My piled buffet plate, mostly filled with vegetables thanks to my diet.

My piled buffet plate, mostly filled with vegetables thanks to my diet.

The food selection there is quite varied. There are a number of salads, various buns, cocktail shrimp, smoked salmon, deli meats, cheese plates, roast beef, a chicken dish, a fish dish, cooked vegetables, etc. There were even bison short ribs available on the evening that we were there. There are a number of fresh cut fruits and desserts (cheesecake, trifle, bread pudding, etc.) as well; these tend to disappear quickly so it’s best to grab them at least 45 minutes before the show begins.

While the food isn’t so spectacular that I would rave about it to everyone I met, I have to say that I am usually impressed by the range of food they have, and am glad that the quality of food is decent. Buffet food can sometimes be very bad, or at minimum hit and miss, but over the years I have found the food at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre to be consistent in quality and flavours.

And the show wasn’t half bad either. A 60s music revue, it is playing until February 15th. There will be a sequel next year as well – this time playing music from the 70s.

Mayfield Dinner Theatre
16615 – 109 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta

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