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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Greenville (SC) Eats: The Woodruff Rd. Buffet Run

I've somehow eaten at a handful of buffets up and down Woodruff Rd. in my short time in Greenville, South Carolina, something that just happens when there's a large family hungry for food I guess. Woodruff Rd. for the most part was littered high profile grocery stores including Whole Foods and Trader Joes and chain after chain after chain. That being said, there's some interesting bites to be had along this popular part of town, such as Tasty Korean BBQ, reviewed below or Lieu's Chinese Bistro, a much more exciting variation of Chinese American compared to P.F. Chang's horrid, oily mess just down the street. That's a whole other story though; we've got other business to discuss here, starting with:

Ni Hao
Type of Food: Chinese/Japanese Buffet
Price: One of the Cheapest in Town for Dinner, $8.99
Atmosphere: Surprisingly upscale for the price range

I had my doubts about the place considering how less busy it was compared to the nonstop action going on at Hibachi Buffet down the street, but Ni Hao actually had kind of a sexy atmosphere and some interesting bites here and there. The best bite went to the steam dumpling; a crisp on the outside, soft and creamy in the center dumpling with fresh bits of shrimp and sauteed spinach on the inside. Devouring five of these bad boys might have been a bad idea considering how filling it was, but weighing the options I think it was worth it. Outside of these, most items were hit or miss. Seafood-wise, the clams bathed in black bean sauce and crawfish hit the spot, but the sushi were mostly misfires. Everything else was standardish, nothing too different from the norm, but not horrendous either. For a quieter experience at the sacrifice of a few items, Ni Hao isn't a bad choice in the face of it's heavy hitting opposition down the street.

Ni Hao on Urbanspoon

Saffron Indian Cuisine
Type of Food: Oh, you know.
Price: $10ish for lunch buffet
Atmosphere: Upscale, but locals keep it local

Saffron may be a bit hard on the wallets for guests during dinner time, but like most Indian restaurants, lunch provides an affordable trip to overseas. Vegetarians will feel at home here with the flavorful vegetable dishes at Saffron, which are constantly rotating. Cauliflower was the feature of the day during my visit with it being served three-to-four ways whether it was battered and fried, cooked in curry, or well... cooked in curry. I'm not the biggest cauliflower enthusiast in the world, but these dishes certainly made me forget that fact for awhile. Saffron's curries pack a satisfying punch, from the standard chicken curry to the more robustly spiced vegetarian curries. Spice lovers may be slightly disappointed by the heat levels of these dishes, but some side dishes help up the ante for those looking for their kicks.

The naan, Indian flatbread, had been hit or miss for me in the past, but today it was exactly how I liked it, soft, slightly chewy with a bit of savoriness. There was one disappointment though, the tandoori chicken, a sad, dry piece of chicken found stuffed in what looked like a 90s infomercial roaster. Stick with the chicken curries for your protein meat lovers.

Saffron Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Bon Thai
Type of Food: American Thai. I guess.
Price: $8-9 lunch
Atmosphere: A little too quiet for the lunch hour methinks.

I love Thai curries, I really do, but even I know you can only have so much. While the idea of a thai buffet sounds exciting, when the only options are seemingly leftover curries left and right, it gets a bit on the repetitive side you know? It's kind of ironic that the restaurant labels itself as a healthy food on the outside, but serves up a buffet (portion control anyone?) on the inside. Regardless, the curries offered only register "meh" on the Thai goodness scale. Most of the curries failed to really give the full Thai flavor that you'd expect out of their potent curries, which was disappointing considering the almost nonexistent choices outside of them. Endless Tom Yum soup was a nice touch, but the best part of the meal was the least Thai thing on the menu - a creme brulee. In a town with better Thai options, Bon Thai just doesn't hit the spot for me.

Bon Thai & Sushi Bar Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

We just tried the Saffron buffet, on a Sunday. Besides being very crowded (I suppose this is generally a good thing), it was quite good with some misses.
The kofta curry was missing the koftas. Yes I know people fish them out, but when I inquired it took quite a while for them to replenish them. Then when I finally got a couple, they were WAY oversalted and nearly inedible. Be careful what you ask for...
The desserts were kinda awful. Really. The "mango custard" tasted exactly like Jeloo pudding, which it no doubt was. The sooji was meh, with too much coconut. I like coconut, but in the right place and the right amount.
Overall, I'd rate their buffet as 7/10. Some dishes were excellent and authentic (eg pau bhaji, the vegetable medley), some were good and bad (the kofta curry), and the meat dishes were mostly uncompetitive. Vegetarians would prefer this place as long as they're not looking for desserts.

Bach Pham said...

I agree about the deserts, it's usually a miss at Saffron. Saffron can definitely be a hit and miss some days, but I find more hits then misses. For Woodruff Rd., Saffron is generally a good choice I think.

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