Phillips Seafood (Flagship) – Washington, DC


Phillips Seafood (Flagship)
900 Water Street SW
Washington, DC
(202) 488-8515
Monday–Thursday & Sunday, 11am–9pm
Friday & Saturday, 11am – 10pm
Weekend Brunch, 11am – 2:30pm

Overlooking the Washington Channel on the Southwest Waterfront, Phillips Seafood (Flagship) is reputed to be the only all-you-can-eat seafood buffet in Washington DC.  A large buffet of fresh seafood selections, as well other cooked and dessert specialties, make up an glutton friendly display.  A traditional a la carte menu is also available.  For those coming by car, you can swing below to an underground parking garage (complete with a man standing by the payment machine to help speed up the process at dinner time when the line can get long).  Its a pure tourist destination however, so be warned…

The choice for this massive group dinner was left to someone who’s been here before and thought the simple venue and dining style would be conducive to our party – filled with a bunch of big strapping fellows associated with a certain active military outfit and accustomed to big eating of the seafood variety (as they are based on the west coast).  I wasn’t particularly thrilled but decided to chalk it up to one of those unfortunate outings when one’s interest in eating well (and perhaps in more moderate quantities) was thrown to the wayside in the greater interests of group harmony and wasting time arguing about where to eat.  I guess I can be accommodating to a fault.

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Mavericks – Calgary, AB


Mavericks Dining Room and Lounge
Calgary Stampede Grounds
Calgary, AB
(403) 261-0108

Large scale gatherings and events of the commercial variety are usually an impersonal affair.  Interacting with strangers, in big crowds amid long hours of making introductions and face-to-face networking result in meals being forgotten about until your stomach growls in protest.  Fortunately (or perhaps not) often tied to these shows and meetings are facilities to feed countless individuals on-site, mainly latching onto the captive audience who is seeking out convenience in order to get back to the work at hand.  At a recent one, I was faced with this dilemma of being shepherded into the closest and easily accessible mass feeding zone on the Calgary Stampede Grounds.  For $21.95, the lunch buffet at Mavericks drew a long lineup through the 11am – 1pm time period, resulting in at least a ten minute wait time just to get to the front of the line and seated.

On this particular day, the all-you-can-eat menu was: soup, salad, AAA carved Alberta roast beef, penne chicken alfredo, barbecue beef ribs, Swedish meatballs, teriyaki chicken, and baked lasagna.  After being led to our table and announcing that we were all-in with the buffet, we made our way down to the main floor and got into yet another queue for the feast.  Given the huge dining contingent, I would have figured they would have expanded to accommodate at least a pair of routes through the heated-up food pans, but alas it looked like how it is set up on a normal capacity day.  I think this helped explain why there was a lineup to just get in, despite the obvious sight of unoccupied tables.

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Swannie’s – Seattle, WA


Swannie’s
222 S Main Street
Seattle, WA
(206) 622-9353

Say what you will, and I’m sure many of our Canadian readers could if given the chance, about the believed shortcomings of our neighbours to the south, but you have to admit they really know how to go all out when it comes to combining two of the classic male pastimes – eating/drinking plus sports…

Where else can you start from the early morning, drinking beer and gobble down a hearty, greasy breakfast in a pub while watching sports on giant tv screens amid the company of many others who are there for same purpose as you?

After making the short drive down from Vancouver, a group of us made our way down to Pioneer Square, just a few blocks away from Qwest Field, the home grounds of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.  With Opening Day kickoff hours away, we thought we could easily find a free (as in not having to pay money to park) spot to watch the early games playing in the eastern time zone, before we made the short walk to the stadium.  Oh how wrong we were.

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Todai Restaurant – Honolulu, HI


Todai Restaurant
1910 Ala Moana Blvd # 5
Honolulu, HI
Tel: (808) 947-1000

I debated even bothering with this particular post since it was such a disappointment in terms of both the food and service, but in the interests of not only writing about those places I’ve enjoyed and the incredibly bizarre episode in just getting seated, I thought I should mix in the bad when it does happen…

Out of shear desperation and fatigue after searching with inaccurate information for a seafood restaurant apparently in the same general area, our group stumbled upon the bright lights of Todai.   Having resigned to the fact we would not find what we were looking for, we approached the entrance of this restaurant.  Todai, whenever I hear this word, I immediately associate it with Tokyo University, as that’s its popular shorthand name.  We even joked, heck, maybe the cafeteria at that storied institution was so good, they’d gone the franchise route. 🙂

With about an hour before closing, several diners were making their way to the cash register at the main entrance.  I ducked in and nabbed one of the servers and asked for a table for four.  She said to wait outside for a five minutes, which I obliged, given the apparent rush at the counter of departing customers.

Five minutes soon passed and became ten.  I had enough and stepped back inside and stood face-to-face with the same server I had initially interacted with.  She looked right at me and asked how she could help me.  Clearly this blonde haired, Swedish-accented English speaking girl (you can catch a glimpse of her in the above picture) did not recognize me at all.  So I reiterated that we had spoken just a few minutes before and she’d asked us to wait.

No apology given, she grabbed some menus and led us to some tables and offered us the choice.  As one of them had yet to be cleared from previous diners, we took the obvious clean one.  As we settled into scanning the menus, some others came to clear the other table away, at which point Ms. Genius came back and asked if we wanted the other table now, despite us not having given any indication that we wanted that particular table.  A shake of the head, more so in my disbelief and she was gone never to be seen near our table again, much to our relief.

I’ve heard of poor service due to labor shortages, but this was ridiculous.

Todai is all about the buffet.  An extensive one yes, featuring various seafood and cooked items, as well as desserts.  The place is massive with each food section located in different parts of the restaurant.  Some are staffed by people creating the items (e.g. sushi) but you have no direct interaction with them, and most are self-service (e.g. take as much of whatever you like).

The nigiri, if you can call it that, was absolutely tiny.  I am not sure if the image above gives the full indication of just how small each piece was.  I’ve read more than a few reviews on other sites and comment boards that people enjoy the sushi here, and all I can say is that they have no clue what they are talking about.

The main exception to this rule was the snow crab legs.  Here, a lady behind the glass barrier would give you one set of legs (3 pieces).  Not wanting to keep going back and forth from my table a good 40 feet away, I asked her to give me more.  Reluctantly she did, but I knew not to press my luck by doing it again.  Instead, other members of our group went up there to her and got as many as she was willing to dish out, for the benefit of our table.

Again, not top quality by any means as there was more dead air space in the shell than actual meat, but I’d say it was the only half decent food item in the whole place, and I ended up eating only these.

I can’t begin to describe the wretched mess of cooked items.  Dried out, overcooked shrimp, mushy grilled veggies, and bland tasting noodle concoctions were some of the big lowlights.

A place like Todai just reinforced the stereotype of quantity-over-quality preferring Americans.  So it did not surprise me to learn that this chain originated in California, but was shocked to learn that it had made its way into more food conscious locales such as Hong Kong, Beijing and Seoul.   For about USD30 per person, I can away thinking I got majorly ripped off.

Todai on Urbanspoon

Surya Indian Restaurant – Calgary, AB


Surya Indian Restaurant
1207 11 Ave. SW
Calgary, AB T3C 0M5
(403) 290-1777

Surya Restaurant on Urbanspoon

East Indian lunch buffet. In a town like Calgary, it seems like most places of South Asian cuisine need a lunch buffet to compete. I’m not sure if it’s the vast quantity demanded by patrons, or if it’s the wide selection everyone likes, but all I know is most locations with a dining room, whether they start with one or not, end up with a lunch buffet.

Surya Indian Restaurant is located on the main floor of an office building in the Beltline. The first time i ate there, it was ala carte, and it was really quite good. That made the lunch buffet a must try.

The first thing you notice with Surya is that their selection is enormous. While many lunch buffets usually have 6-8 choices, Surya has 12 dishes, plus a variety of salads, rice, chutneys, desserts, and naan of course. They also have pappadums – which makes me really happy. The selection is fantastic – about the same as Glory of India. The quality is excellent – as good as Glory of India, if not better, and better yet, the price is much cheaper (13.99 last time i was there) than Glory of India. The keep refills low, and refill often.

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Selection is varied – includes many meat dishes (usually 4), a load of vegetarian options, and a lot of starches.

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