East Feeds West
Silver City's Asian Buffet offers more choices than you can shake a chopstick at.
It's little wonder that one competitor to the newish Asian Buffet in Silver City, despite a longer track record feeding locals Chinese food, recently shut down. How can any place compete with this latest entry in Silver City's seemingly zero-sum (one opens, another must close) Oriental restaurant game? Charging a mere $8.95 for dinner, $6.45 for lunch and $7.95 all day on Sundays — and kids ages 4 to 10 eat for half-price — Asian Buffet serves a boundless buffet that would satisfy the Mongol hordes. Asian Buffet also has a regular menu, with prices for entrees mostly in the $6.75 to $8.95 range, but except for takeout it's hard to imagine why you wouldn't just head straight for the buffet.
Owner "Frank" Wu arrived in America in 1999 from Fujian Province in southern China. He made his way west from New York, eventually settling in Deming, where he opened China Wok, a restaurant he still owns with his uncle. When Wu set his sights on Silver City last fall, he clearly decided to go all out with the buffet.
We're not talking about just a couple of steam tables here. We honestly lost count, but the choices listed on the menu top 100. There's one whole long buffet table — as big as the entire selection at some places that claim to have a "buffet" — devoted solely to appetizers and soups. (Yes, soups plural.) Although most Asian Buffet offerings are standard Chinese-restaurant fare, there's also an entire section of Japanese-style sushi (California roll, salmon avocado roll, black and green dragon rolls, nearly a dozen choices in all) plus a "taste of South Asia" assortment. The latter, for the more adventurous-minded diner, includes curries, Thai dishes and some spicier selections.
So, quantity, check. The selections are dizzying and, despite relatively small plates, you can go back as often as you like — so stuffing yourself with more food than the average Chinese village consumes in a week is no problem. But what about quality? Is the food any good?
Mostly, yes. For these prices, you obviously shouldn't expect the sort of painstakingly prepared gourmet food you'd find at the priciest place in Chinatown. But most of Asian Buffet's offerings stack up pretty well against those at your former favorite Chinese restaurant.
From the appetizer table, we tried the egg roll and cheese wontons (no pretense in the name of any crab therein) and found them satisfyingly crunchy outside and delectable inside. Chicken wings, fried shrimp, chicken satay and beef satay all tempted us to return for more — but we knew so much more still lay ahead! Hot and sour soup, one of our favorites, was appropriately, well, hot and sour.
Braving the other buffet tables with one eye on our waistlines, we especially enjoyed the honey chicken and sesame chicken. We could easily have made a meal of an unusual stuffed shrimp. General Tso's chicken, our go-to order at off-the-menu Chinese restaurants, was good if not exceptional — and several notches above the version at the China Gate restaurant which the Asian Buffet replaced at this spot on Highway 180 East.
The chicken choices overall stood up better to the rigors of the steam table than seafood or beef, and the buffet is curiously almost pork-free. (The exceptions being lo-mein and sweet and sour pork.) A few items were already a bit cool by the time we put them on our plates.
But, for the money, Asian Buffet is tough to beat. Add a soft drink or tea and you can still have a sumptuous dinner for about $22 for two.
As you'd guess, it's not exactly a pre-prom or 20th wedding anniversary dining destination. Patrons who recall the former China Gate will find the simple, pleasant dcor familiar — with the exception of the army of buffet tables now occupying the center of the space.
And that amazing array of buffet offerings is really the whole point, isn't it? Dcor? What dcor? Keep your eyes on the plate — that's where the action is. Time for a refill yet?
— David A. Fryxell
Asian Buffet, 1740 Hwy. 180 E., Silver City, 388-0777. Open seven days a week: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Major credit cards accepted.