Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Empire Buffet

Empire Buffet
572 Clock Tower Way
Crescent Springs, KY

Empire Buffet bills itself as "the most elegant buffet in Kentucky." I haven’t been to every buffet in Kentucky so I cannot vouch for that claim, but the atmosphere is certainly a step up from the usual. The substantial space is partitioned into several smaller sections, which gives the restaurant a cozy feel, and unlike the majority of local buffets, it has a number of screened booths which lend an air of privacy. Nicely decorated in honeyed tones, the ambiance is warm and inviting.

When I asked to order from the menu, the friendly and enthusiastic hostess tried very hard to dissuade me and pushed the buffet option. Upon learning that I am vegetarian, she personally took me around the buffet and pointed out the vegetarian-friendly choices. Her insistence that I opt for the buffet raised my suspicions that either the ala carte food wasn’t very good, or ordering it would throw off the kitchen’s rhythm and ability to keep the 160-item buffet fully loaded. Even though the vegetarian choice on the buffet was small, I relented, figuring that I’d be able to find one or two things I really liked.

Whoever coined the phrase "jack of all trades, master of none" must have had Empire Buffet in mind. The restaurant is an amalgamation of cuisines - Chinese, Japanese, American and Italian - none of them done very well. Of the approximately 15 vegetarian items on the buffet, only the hot & sour soup proved a winner with me. I might have enjoyed the mei fun rice noodles a bit more had they been warm, but they’d obviously been sitting for awhile. The egg foo yung and fried bananas were too oily, the buttered potatoes limp and lifeless, and even the items that were halfway decent (sautéed garlic green beans, buttered mushrooms, lo mein) were greasy tasting. The spring rolls were vegetarian, but plunked into the same pan as pork egg rolls, which didn’t sit very well with me.

Likewise the Japanese hibachi option, where you choose your items and have a chef grill them up while you wait. When I asked the chef about cleaning the hotplate prior to preparing a vegetarian dish, he didn’t seem to understand and couldn’t answer my question, so I walked away without giving it a try. I also perused the sushi bar but came back empty-handed.

As far as American and Italian cuisine, the only vegetarian items on the buffet were cheesy potato casserole and pizza, both of which had orange pools of grease on top. I steered clear.

The restaurant has a salad bar – amply stocked but nothing special. There is also an extensive dessert bar filled with vegetarian no-no’s like Jell-O and marshmallow fruit salad. They also offered profiteroles, much to my amazement. I knew they wouldn’t be any good, as profiteroles are made to be eaten immediately, but I tried one anyway. Filled with a thick, eggy custard instead of fluffy cream, it was horrible.

We were lured to the Empire Buffet by a Reach Magazine advertisement with money-saving coupons, but we felt our money would have been better spent elsewhere - anywhere else. My husband summed it up best: "I think I’d prefer a lot less choice and better tasting items." I wholeheartedly agree.
Empire Buffet on Urbanspoon


toxickaty said...

Wow, your descriptions made my stomach turn. I feel for ya.

Anonymous said...

This review is so terribly off-beat it's not even humorous. I cannot go to another buffet after eating at Empire because the quality of food at other places has yet to be matched by what I can consistently get at empire. In terms of cold food ive never once experienced food that had been sitting for more than maybe 20 minutes which is impressive for any buffet. yes some things are not good but thats a given with any buffet you go to. and maybe the reason the vegitarian food was not good is because no one in their right mind eats vegitarian food. its not the way humans are meant to be. You want veggie food you like then stay home and make it yourself, dont knock places that have great food just because they dont cater to you. Spoken

Veggie Option said...

The whole point of this blog is to let other vegetarians know which restaurants do and do not cater to us. But thanks for playing.