MAYS LANDING - The colorful handout we picked up at the front counter claimed the Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet is the largest restaurant in Atlantic County. We are not sure how they measure that claim, but if it is based on the number of different foods on display, we would believe it. Alongside the Asian food, you may also come across an American, Italian, or Mexican item that you might add to your plate. Cole slaw lovers rejoice.
We walked under a cut-glass chandelier into a foyer where a hostess accompanied us to our table. Leaving our jackets behind to mark our seats, we sauntered out to the gigantic food area, composed of a series of food islands.
We didn't notice a starting point. It was only later that we realized one of the food kiosks was actually set up like a salad bar, a better place to start. We began near the fried foods, worked our way to appetizers and raw bar, sampled some soups, tried some sushi, then finished strong with a plate of desserts.
It's not hard to locate the sushi or hibachi station; both are labeled in overhead neon lighting. The sushi chef was hard at work the entire time we were there, proudly displaying all of his finished hand rolls on pretty plateware in front of him. The problem for beginners is nothing is marked, so you may have a hard time telling the raw from the cooked rolls. Plates filled with the traditional garnishes such as wasabi, the spicy green Japanese horseradish, and pickled ginger, which acts as a palate cleanser between bites, were within easy reach.
At the hibachi station, all of the raw ingredients were on display in refrigerated pans. The customer picks their ingredients and then hands it to the hibachi chef, who cooks and seasons it on the grill. Our initial concern was with cross contamination of the raw chicken or raw beef. But the chef carefully cooked everything, placing the cooked food on a fresh plate before handing it back to the customer.
You can watch the sushi chef and hibachi chef at work but the other foods are prepared behind closed doors in the kitchen. We missed watching hibachi chefs' usual antics, such as tossing whole eggs in the air and catching them in their hat and the fiery onion ring volcano.
My dining companion liked the Hibachi Chicken, the spring rolls, and fried wontons, but thought the green beans unpleasantly undercooked, and didn't care for any of the dessert cakes available. The large selection of fresh fruit was a nice touch.
When you become a buffet regular, you know which items are best and you can focus on your favorites. As neophytes our first plate quickly filled up with protein, mostly deep fried items difficult to hold well in a hot bain Marie. We thought the General Tso's chicken was as good as any we have had in sit-down restaurants. The coconut chicken was crisp, coated with a creamy sauce that was slightly sweet. The glazed pork ribs were the traditional kind, tender and meaty, marinated in red dye, sugar and spices.
Each station has plates and any appropriate sauces or condiments available nearby. The table that had the sweet and sour sauce setup with cups and ladles also had several fried items available to pair it with. One island featured several soups including wonton or hot and sour, along with cups and ladles for portioning out what we wanted. There also was a selection of dumplings, buns, and pot stickers.
The server in our room tended to beverages and refills, clearing plates when we returned to sample some more. The sneeze guards over all stations served double duty, protecting the food and holding slips of paper stating what was in each serving pan. Several things were unmarked.
The server delivers the bill at the end of the meal, along with the appropriate number of fortune cookies for your party. You then pay at the front counter on your way out.
The Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet is a bargain. There are so many things offered, there is no doubt every single family member will leave with a stomach full of things they really like. And we saw many assorted families prowling between the food islands, looking to fill their next plate. For most, the experience here will be grand, if not supreme.
C.C. Hoyt is the pseudonym of a southern New Jersey food writer. Write to Hoyt c/o Taste Editor Felicia Compian at email@example.com. Ratings guide: 4 stars, extraordinary; 3 stars, excellent; 2 stars, good; 1 star, fair; 0 stars, poor.