And you thought they only had Italian restaurants in Knightsville.
Hong Kong Buffet, at 1776 Cranston St. is celebrating 25 of bringing quality Chinese cuisine to its loyal customers at what owner Wai Chan calls “Your Neighborhood Buffet Restaurant.”
Chan’s parents opened Hong Kong Buffet in a smaller space across from the YMCA, moving to the larger 210-seat restaurant in 1996. Wai learned the business as a young man, watching his mother cook in the large, spotless kitchen. His parents are now retired and he runs the 7-days-a-week restaurant with his wife and sister.
We have seen many Chinese buffets open and close over the years in Rhode Island, but Hong Kong, which probably holds the record for the longest continuous operation, continues to fill the two large rooms every day of the week.
When you enter the attractive space, you will see plaques on the wall from a Chinese restaurant magazine citing Hong Kong Buffet as the top buffet restaurant three years in a row. The chef has been there for 20 years, and many of the staff (15 just in the kitchen) have been there for years.
While they have an extensive menu, Wai says that 90 percent of the customers choose the buffet. I know that we do and always rave at the quality of the food, which is always hot and plentiful.
We begin with the sushi bar, where the sushi chef serves up a variety of raw and cooked rolls, ranging from eel to shrimp to veggies. Then it is on to the appetizer bar for cold mussels, nim chow, spare ribs, dumplings, peel your own shrimp, and a fresh Chinese cabbage salad that is 10 times better than cole slaw, followed by a bowl of hot and sour soup.
Save room for the delicious foods on the two large buffet counters. There are the usual offerings, such as sweet and sour, lo mein, moo shu chicken, roast pork, plus shrimp and chicken in many a variety of styles. My favorite is the General Tao’s chicken and shrimp, cooked in a sauce that is sweeter than any I’ve had elsewhere. I could make a meal out of them. That is, until I found Wai’s specialty: salmon in a teriyaki sauce.
Joyce likes the Chinese veggies with her meat, chicken and seafood, while I prefer string beans…if they are cooked right. The chef at Hong Kong Buffet knows how to cook them nice and crispy, with a little garlic to spice them up.
Take a deep breath and head for the dessert table, where the usual puddings, fruit and soft ice cream make a fine finish to the meal. And don’t miss the trays of baked desserts that are kept warm and fresh.
We have experienced many Chinese buffets, both in Rhode Island and in China, including a couple of chains that settle more for volume than for quality.
The only problem you will have at Hong Kong Buffet is deciding what to zero in on. My advice is to take small samples and then return for your favorites. There are so many items that a normal eater (whatever that is) can’t include them all in one sitting. There’s a simple solution. Return for more visits, as many of Wai’s customers do.
We noticed him “working the room,” greeting old friends and new guests. While he runs a true “neighborhood buffet,” word of mouth brings in food lovers from all over the state and nearby Massachusetts.
The lunch buffet, served six days a week, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and noon to 3 on Sundays, is $8.45. Dinner buffets (3-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, are $12.50; and Friday and Saturday 3-10 p.m. are $13.50. The Sunday and holiday buffets (3-9 p.m.) are also $13.50 and, like Friday and Saturday, include filet mignon and other special treats.
Hong Kong buffet is child-friendly, offering a selection of “American food,” such as chicken nuggets and fingers, French fries, doughboys and, of course, ice cream. Kids eat for 70 cents per year at lunch, and $1 per year for dinner, up to age 10. Under 2 are free. We overheard a father telling his daughter, “Now remember, you are five now, so it costs you $5.”
It is great to have honest customers. To make sure, Wai has a gentle reminder on his menu that states that wasted, unfinished food may result in an added fee, and no buffet food may be removed from the site. He says that many customers come in, grab a take-out box, and make up their carry out meals. Lunch is $3.99/lb. and dinner $4.99/lb.
Catering is also available, and Wai has all of the needed utensils and equipment. There is also a private party room available. Call them for carry out at 942-8888 or 942-1022. Check them out online at www.hongkongbuffetri.com.