Imperial Garden - Buffet-side Seating
On weekends for lunch, you might find me at one of my favorite Chinese buffet restaurants in Columbus: Imperial Garden. I love Chinese buffets, because Chinese food is my favorite cuisine. But when I eat out alone or with a few friends at a regular (non-buffet) Chinese restaurant, the old rule-of-thumb of ordering one dish per person to share means we don't get very much variety. Fortunately, at even a smallish good buffet, there's quite enough variety to satisfy my diverse hunger.
One requirement of any buffet, though, is that they have enough diners who will empty the food trays quickly enough to ensure that fresh trays of food are continuously coming out from the kitchen. I have tried almost every Chinese buffet restaurant in Columbus and have learned well enough to walk out if I don't see enough fellow diners in the restaurant. This has never been a problem at Imperial Garden.
Imperial Garden's buffet - offered only at lunch on Saturdays and Sundays - has the largest variety of really interesting and original Chinese (specifically, Shanghainese) dishes in Columbus. (Most Chinese buffets cater to an American clientele who prefer what is called "Chinese-American food.") And the dishes are really good here! However, most are dishes that most non-Chinese diners have never experienced. They have sometimes been labeled on the buffet, but the signs are written only in Chinese. So even if my non-Chinese friends are adventuresome enough to try new dishes, they have no idea what they are eating. This photo blog is for those friends, to provide them with a photo menu and diary of the dishes usually served there. Although they often introduce different dishes, many stay the same from week to week.
There are 2 buffet tables. Start with the one in the back of the restaurant. That one has appetizer dumplings and three soups: a savory soup, bean curd soup (to which one typically adds sugar to make it a dessert soup), and a sweet dessert soup (typically, red bean). It also has a few light desserts (usually sesame balls and orange wedges).
|Cold noodles with hot pepper, bean sprouts, cilantro|
|Fish soup with preserved cabbage|
|My first plate selection, with Fried Cruller, Chinese Chive Dumpling|
On to the hot dishes: about 20 of them, plus 2 additional soups and rice. It's hard to have even just a little taste of all of the entrees, so I concentrate on my favorites the first time around, and go back for another plate to try other dishes. It would take a third plate to have a sampling of all of the dishes, but I never make it that far; I try to save space for a sesame ball and water chestnut gelatin, when offered, for dessert.
Although my family is Cantonese, Mom was born and raised in Shanghai. So while Pop and Yeh-Yeh (Pop's father) cooked Cantonese food at home and most Chinese restaurants in my childhood NY were Cantonese, it was a special treat to go to the 2 Shanghai restaurants in Manhattan (one in Chinatown, the other up on Broadway and 92nd St.). So both real Cantonese and Shanghainese food are comfort food for me - and it's certainly comforting for me to enjoy Imperial Garden's food.
Working on this blog is getting me hungry! I'm glad I've invited friends to meet me there this Sunday for lunch! If you'd like a personal tour of this food for lunch, just give me a call; I'd love to guide you and your palate!
|Shanghai Bok Choy|
|Fried Chicken Wings|
|Beef Tendon with Bamboo Shoots: my favorite!|
|Braised Pigs Feet|
|Chinese Radish with Hot Peppers|
|Tendon Beef with Peanuts|
|Fish Fillets with Pepper Sauce|
|Chicken in Peanut Sauce|
|Pigs Ears with Vegetables|
|Baby Squid with Celery: another favorite|
|Pork Belly with Cabbage and Carrots|
|Pork Intestine with Tofu (don't say "yuk" until you try it!)|
|New Zealand Mussels|
|Pressed Tofu with Pork and Bamboo Shoots: my virtuous favorite|
|Salt-cooked Whole Shrimp|
|Egg Drop and Hot and Sour Soups|
|Sweet Rice Sesame Balls with Black Bean Paste|
|Main Buffet Table|