By Cathy Wharton
For Hometown News
Whether it's an all-you-can-eat buffet, or just a single-serve meal, you can't go wrong with the Asian "Grand Buffet." In the Rivergate Shopping Center in Ormond Beach, the restaurant opened four years ago and offers a variety of Chinese and Japanese cuisine.
Ren-Hao Yang, owner of Grand Buffet, is not new to the restaurant business. He's been in food service for more than 20 years and operated restaurants in New York and Miami. Mr. Yang now dedicates his know-how and skills to his venture in Ormond Beach.
When my guest and I arrived at Grand Buffet, we were graciously greeted by the manager, Helen Frazier, who then escorted us to our booth. The restaurant's interior is noticeably quite large. In fact, the main dining room can seat up to 150 people. The room is segmented by a number of half-wall partitions and decorative glass panels, which allow customers smaller, more intimate dining arrangements. There also is a separate dining room that can seat 40 people, and is ideally suited for private parties or celebrations.
The main attraction is the huge buffet. Choices range literally from soup to nuts. With more than 350 items from which to choose, there is something for everyone. The dominant choices are Chinese, primarily Cantonese, a lighter, less fried Oriental cuisine, and Hunan-style, which is spicier in flavor. Canton and Hunan are of course Asian provinces of China, from which their particular food styles are derived. The Grand Buffet also offers Japanese fare - a full sushi bar, nicely arrayed, and a tempting addition to the buffet extravaganza.
But the buffet is not all the restaurant has to offer. For those who prefer a more traditional dining experience, the menu lists a number of tasty dishes. It starts with appetizers and soup, then follows with variations of fried rice, chow mein, lo mein, egg foo young and moo shu, including a variety of vegetable, chicken, beef, pork and seafood entrees.
The menu offers 21 "Chef's Specials," most with familiar names like Sesame Chicken, Four Seasons, Happy Family, Seafood Delight, General Tso's Chicken and Kung Po Chicken and Shrimp, all served with white rice. Other temptations include Subgum Wonton; Sautéed Double Delight; chicken, beef and shrimp in Szechuan Style; and Chicken and shrimp, Mongolian style. Prices range from $8.95 to $10.25.
Also on the menu are "Lunch Specials" and "Combination Plates" - 30 great selections in all. The lunch special is served with white or fried rice and soup, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., while the combo plate is served with an egg roll and pork-fried rice. From chow mein to moo goo gai pan, this part of the menu is sure to please, both in selection and in price - $4.95 for the Lunch Special, and $6.95 for the Combo Plate.
This day, however, we would choose the buffet. The array of food items is simply amazing. At least a dozen display stations, aligned in rows, were brimming with different food choices: shrimp, fried or boiled; chicken, fish, pork and beef in a variety of presentations; fried rice, yellow rice and rice spaghetti; vegetables, such as a broccoli medley, green beans, spinach soufflé and sweet potatoes; salad items and pasta dishes; soups, fresh fruit, Jell-O and puddings; and of course, desserts - assorted cookies, pies, ice cream and cheesecake.
Since the buffet also has items not on the menu, we decided to sample as much variety as possible, though in small portions. My guest began with roast pork and sweet potatoes, and then sautéed mushrooms, green beans and fried rice, and eventually egg foo young. All of it deserved a hearty thumbs up. My own choices included shrimp (both fried and boiled), fresh broccoli, spinach soufflé, egg roll, fried rice, stuffed mushrooms and bean curd soup, plus a nice glass of wine. Again, thumbs up. Everything we tasted was delightful and delicious.
But we weren't finished yet. We then sampled a plate of tasty pepper chicken, followed by filet of whitefish. Both items were courtesy of Ms. Frazier, who's not only eager to please her guests, but whose gracious hospitality makes everyone feel special. "Everything is made fresh daily," Ms. Frazier said.
Grand Buffet also offers a "carry out buffet" - priced by the pound: $3.99 for lunch; $4.99 for dinner; $6.99, seafood. Take-out soups are available, as well. The restaurant offers a 10 percent discount for seniors, 65 or older; plus lower-priced meals for kids 10 and under.
Grand Buffet Restaurant is at 138 S. Nova Road in Ormond Beach. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday - Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Phone: (386) 676-0073. Fax: (386) 676-0069.