Oriental Buffet satisfies wallet, not palate

The Oriental Buffet, although not quite up to par with Chopsticks, proves a solid alternative. Christian Ruhl/Managing Editor.
The Oriental Buffet, although not quite up to par with Chopsticks, proves a solid alternative. Christian Ruhl/Managing Editor.

Given the recent and unexpected closing of Chopsticks (“Town manager closes Chopsticks restaurant,” Oct. 26. 2016), the Record took it upon itself to seek out the next best Chinese restaurant in the greater Williamstown area. This week’s installment: Oriental Buffet.

As we — Zoë Taylor ’17, Record editor Jack  Greenberg ’18 and myself —  turned off Route 2 near North Adams into the nearly empty parking lot, we caught a glimpse of the neon-lighted windows, curtains drawn, panes fogged, and wondered what awaited us inside.

There was little decoration and even fewer customers. We sat ourselves, waiting to be served, and eventually called a server over to our table. With tax, we each ended up paying just over 10 dollars, not including tip, for the all-you-can-eat buffet.

Jack piled chicken with garlic sauce and a chicken wing or two onto his plate, and spent most of the night poking around in this poultry pile. Occasionally, he would even try a piece, expressing mild disappointment for most of the night. Like Jack, the food was mostly tepid, though I guess that’s par for the course at a buffet. The servers, on the other hand, were extremely friendly and quick to remove any used plates.

Zoë loved the “stuff shrimp,” so I decided to try some too. True to their name, these were not shrimp stuffed with some filling, but rather shrimp stuffed into some filling, presumably pork or a mix of meats. Either way, they  were delicious.

The chicken fingers are worth a try, too. Not your standard cafeteria breaded variety, the fried batter surrounding them reminded me of Chopsticks’ sweet and sour pork.

The meatballs actually deserve their own paragraph. Remember the kötbullar, Swedish meatballs, you had in Ikea as a little kid while your parents were out shopping for Smörboll bedding and Knutstorp chairs? That warm feeling of umlauted Scandinavian cholesterol tumbling into your stomach? This is better. Large, delicious balls of beef, surrounded by some sticky sauce not unlike the one on their General Tso’s chicken, beat most items at Chopsticks.

But you can’t build a meal off chicken fingers and meatballs — this might come as news to my former middle school — and much of the Oriental Buffet disappoints. The jumble of vegetables mixed in with most dishes is completely overcooked. The sour and watery mac and cheese did not seem to contain much cheese at all. We spent much of the dinner attempting to find meaning behind the buffet’s arrangement. Why were there mussels between jell-o and pudding, donuts next to the appetizers? The two art history majors in our group could not ascertain their significance; the political science major claimed the anarchy was only natural.

Looking around the room, however, we realized that people don’t necessarily come here for the food. The Oriental Buffet is a fun, cheap and down-to-earth relief from Williamstown and its pesky wannabe food writers. Zoë’s fortune cookie felt especially revealing: “Not all experiences are the same. Some are just better than the others.” Still, we hope Chopsticks reopens soon.