Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Crazy Buffet - Altamonte Springs

Crazy Buffet--Hard to decide where to start. With their name? Their food? Their reputation?
Howabout we just start at the start and work our way to the end... ya?

As you walk up to Vari Asian Crazy Buffet, which is (if you like to be proper) their full name. You are greeted by none other than your 80's-style revolving door. It's been a while since I've gone anywhere that had a door like this, let alone a restaurant.
After filing into the waiting area you find a nicely lit place. There's lotsa oriental decorations: giant fans and hanging lanterns--as well as an indoor Koi pond ala Kobe's steakhouse. We were taken by the host to the seating area which was expansive. No lack of tables here. So when the host sat us right on top of another party, I was a bit surprised. Oh well, I guess having to listen to their whole conversation about whether or not a human could live in an atmosphere made of strictly CO2 (couldn't make that up) was better than having to listen to the loud "God Warrior" a few tables away. Every time this guy opened his sushi hole, the dining room became loud with an evangelical sermon instead of the quiet white noise that is buffet banter. Not that I have any problems with people and their views on religion. I just don't wanna hear it at level 11, echoing across the room. Maybe he just doesn't care about my serious conversation regarding the weirdos eating behind me!
The waitress took our drink order and told us the ins and outs of the place. You got your sushi bar, your flat iron grill they use to cook up the concoctions you create from the assorted items available (chicken, shrimp beef, different veggies and noodles, sauces and spiciness). They also offered fillets cooked to order. So we asked for a few steaks, medium rare, and went to peruse the rest of the selections while the man prepared the meat.
Although I don't particularly love it, a diverse sushi selection greets you at the beginning of your crazy journey. Hard to deny that, when a ton of unique looking and uniformly lined up rolls are on display, it almost looks artistic. I tried a tempura shrimp roll with wasabi and soy...it was good. Friends got a few rolls as well and had no complaints. The tempura vegetable option however, man--that was just about the grossest thing I've eaten in years...and I've been to Arby's!
What seemed to be just a nicely fried round of zuch-suit-riot (Zucchini if you don't speak Cherry Poppin Dadese) was actually stuffed with what I could only describe as sweet tuna salad? It looked weird, tasted off key and went straight into my napkin not unlike Jerry Seinfeld's Mutton.
As we continue down the seemingly, never ending line of buffet options, we find the raw bar. Nothing out of the ordinary as far as selection goes. Peel and eat shrimp, oysters, clams and crab legs with lemon wedges to spritz as well as cocktail sauce for dunking.
I'll be the first to tell you that I am not a well-versed crab handler. In the fact that, I cannot successfully open a crab leg dinner from start to finish, without at least one major blowout. This meal was no different. As I was wedging my fork beneath the crab claw to forge out that ample nugget of sweet crab meat, I was thinking, "Why aren't there any crackers or cocktail forks to assist us?" It was about that time the resistance of the claw finally snapped in my favor, shooting shcrabnel all over the table, my lap and my plate. Oh well. Better luck next time. Of course, allow me to clarify that, although the crackers and mini forks were absent, the taste was not. Their crab was clean, crisp and sweet. I think this was the first time I'd ever tried it cold before, actually. I'm used to it steamed and then dipped into a king's ransom of butter (which was also available just a little further down the line). I thoroughly enjoyed this selection and went back for seconds, twice!
Like any good Chinese buffet, there was also plenty of ooey-gooey selections.
Honey, Teriyaki, Barbecue and the almighty General Tso's chicken as well as crispy Peking Duck. In the past I've come to expect a very sub par plate of food when it comes to these buffet dishes (with the exception of the duck, not a very common buffet item). Most of the time they have been lying out, getting dry and losing their crispyness only to sop up more and more sauce resulting in a soggy bite. I was pleased to discover that not only were the chicken choices moist and delicious, the duck was crisp and succulent as well. Great Success!
Like I said, Peking Duck isn't your run of the mill buffet item. So I was happy to discover that amongst the long line of chaffing dishes offering up more common fare like: spicy shrimp, fried rice, chicken wings and noodles. The duck, as well as the options to ask for a made to order steak or hibachi grill dish, lends to the reputation that Crazy Buffet is an expensive option for a meal out. After all was said and done, between me and 2 others we had: 3 dinners and 3 soft drinks which came out to right around $60.00. So that was a bit of a surprise. I thought we'd be in the $90 area (Otherwise known as, this better be worth it) for sure.
There's so much more than I could possibly care to write about at this place. The steak was cooked well (medium-well that is), the steamed crab was also good (even though I thought their drawn butter tasted a little weird). The made to order grilled selections came out just the way they should, with their own version of that famous white sauce everybody seems to love. It wasn't until the time was nigh for the sweet treats to be devoured that I was again impressed by what they had to offer.
Ice cream and cakes, macaroons and tarts are child's play. Rice Krispy treats and donuts are a little better, but the top dog on this menu was the chocolate fondue station with optional S'mores bar. A crock pot of melted chocolate sat next to a pile of Stay Puft marshmallows and some graham crackers. On the far side were a couple bananas, if you preferred to go that route. I decided to take matters into my own hands. I got the chocolate, found some peanut butter, dumped that in and stirred it around. Next? Simple: dipped that Rice Krispy treat and immediately knew--I've made a mistake. Four portions later, it was too late. I had gone too far...I was now uncomfortably full. Like the passed out kid at a Phish show, I need to know my limit. Oh well, too late to worry about it now.
We settled up our bill and waddled out to the car. I poured myself into the seat and began my typical eater's remorse cycle. Why? Ugh! I disgust me...what was I thinking?!?

After all is said and done, Crazy Buffet is an interesting dining option. Friendly servers, interesting patrons and a wide variety of mall Chinese, Sushi and much more makes this place worth a look. Not sure about a second, but at least one.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Skyline Chili - Ft. Myers

Cincinnati, Ohio...let that just settle in there--yeah. Cincy. Anything come to mind? Perhaps Eric Davis and that batting stance, Ickey Woods or Dr. Johnny Fever? I feel like that, unless you're from the area it's just not a place you're going to up and say, "Case closed, we're going to Cincinnati for vacation!"

I'm sure they have a rich tradition there, peppered with a fine history and unique citizens. I just figure, if I'm going to have to go to Ohio, I'm gonna at least get on some roller coasters.

It wasn't until I ventured south to the Naples/Ft. Myers area that I was introduced to something that city can really be proud of. Who knows maybe even develop a theme park like Hershey's did.

Skyline Chili is something special. It's not your spicy/hot chili you know--not that Tex/Mex style with the smoky flavors you're used to. No, Skyline is a Greek style recipe that actually comes out quite thin with more of a Cinnamon aroma and taste to it. Seems when I asked around, people either loved it or hated it--not a whole lotta gray area there. Well I love it. It's delicious and I don't care if you can sip it through a straw, I'm ordering seconds.

Your experience begins with a greeting and a personal bowl of oyster crackers as you sit down. I figure, you're in a chili joint, save the crackers for the chili, right?
Wrong, eat'em up. In fact--take the hot sauce they leave on the table and give it a little kee-yick. The trick is, to look for the crackers with a small hole in them, on the side or top. Then fill it to the rim with brim and voila, tasty app right there for freebies.

When it came time to order I got the Skyliner, a chili cheese sandwich and a Chilito. The Skyliner was perfect. A mini dog on a bun swimming in chili and cheese, as well as, "MO" which is mustard and onion. The chili sandwich is the same as a Skyliner, hold the hot dog. The Chilito was a soft tortilla wrapped with chili and cheese all up in it and on top of it.

Every bite was that much better, honestly. Their shredded cheddar is lighter than a cloud. I wager if you threw that cheese in the air, the only way it's coming down is if it starts burping. Add on the fact we made it to the place about 15 minutes before they closed so chances are, we were getting bottom of the barrel ingredients and it still came out better than any meal I've ever gotten at Applebees.

A more popular dish they serve there is chili 3 ways or 4 ways or 5 for that matter. That's where you take your noodles, your chili, your cheese, your onions or what have ya and make a delicious spaghetti treat. The more ingredients you top on, the larger denomination you'll be ordering.

The decor is all Ohio gear: banners, posters, basketballs and pennants representing Ohio and The Queen City (in case you didn't know, Cincinnatians refer to their home as "The Queen City" too).

I can forgive the lack of individuality on the nickname though, seeing as they did come through with possibly the most unique chili I have ever tasted in my life. I'll give'em a pass. If you're in SW Florida, I'd say give them a pass too, a pass on through that is! Get it? See what I did there? Pass on through...bah--stimulate the economy and your taste buds people. Skyline Chili, good stuff.