King Buffet (Coon Rapids, MN)
By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
We come from the "Who doesn't like Chinese food?" school of dining out. When we go out with our vegan friends, or with fussy eaters, or picky kids, we know we can usually all find something we'll like at a Chinese restaurant. Even better, a Chinese buffet.
The buffet at King is so large pretty much everyone can have a good meal. They even serve some American standards, for those who don't like Chinese. And for those who like their food really fresh and hot, they have a Mongolian barbecue.
Expect the standard Chinese dishes, and some interesting surprises. The black pepper chicken, served with onions, is excellent, perhaps our favorite dish there. We liked the barbequed boneless pork ribs and the Mongolian beef stir-fry. The crab-meat-and-cream-cheese is not at all Chinese, but it's really good.
But the whole point of a buffet is that it doesn't matter what we liked and didn't like. You can try everything and find your own favorites. King uses decent ingredients and makes reasonable dishes out of them, so experimenting is okay.
Of course we have advice and observations to share. The sweet and sour chicken was too tough and the sauce was cloyingly sweet. On the other hand, the fried chicken wings were nicely spiced with Chinese five-spice powder, a pleasant and subtle touch. The onion rings were also fine.
The soups were unremarkable and didn't impress us much. The hot and sour soup was neither. The wonton soup was just a tasteless chicken soup. The egg drop soup was too thick.
There's sushi, too. No raw fish, but rolled sushi with friendly Western ingredients like string beans and shrimp. We liked the tomato and pickled radish sushi. It's not at all traditional, but is surprisingly interesting.
If you have picky children, there's lots for them at King Buffet. Choices can include pizza or mini hot dogs, meatloaf or French toast. We brought a nine-year-old with us to taste-test the kid-friendly American food. He liked everything, though we have to admit he mostly ate the crab legs.
The Mongolian barbeque is like a restaurant inside the restaurant. Choose a plateful from the buffet of raw items: meats, seafoods, vegetables. Add something from the array of sauces. And then give it to a chef who cooks it all in front of you on a hot metal slab. It can be fun to experiment, but our advice is to stick with only a few ingredients instead of putting everything on your plate. A sign above the sauces recommends that you only use one or two, but we found the chef (who is also a waitress) likes to use whatever she thinks will taste good. We trusted her, and she was right.
Desserts include what can only be Indian fry bread rolled in sugar. They also have a soft-serve ice cream machine with chocolate, vanilla, and the important "twist" flavor. They offer exotic fruits like lychees, as well as cream puffs and cake and such.
Aside from the ingredients and the kitchen, the key to a good buffet is turnover. At meal times, the food is at its best: hot and fresh. Go when it's crowded.
Hours: Sun–Thu 11am–9pm
Schneier.com is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc.