Ye’s Wok, Buffet & Restaurant
1425 Topsail Rd.
Ph. (709) 782-4329
When it comes to buffet restaurants versus full-service restaurants, generally, they’re at opposite ends of the field. Buffet restaurants are, for the most part, self-service; the food is prepared in advance and often sits in hotel pans until gone. Full-service restaurants provide table service, customers choose their dishes from a menu and the food is cooked to order from fresh ingredients. There are excellent and lesser versions of each, but for the most part, buffet restaurants don’t compare with full-service places.
For example, if you’re paying $12 to dine at an all-you-can-eat buffet it makes sense that your overall experience – unless you’re only concerned with quantity – will not be as good as it would be at a full-service restaurant with a $60 meal. Would you expect a Stones tribute band to perform “Sympathy for the Devil” as brilliantly as the original band? No, and a real Stones concert ticket would cost 10 times as much. In other words, you get what you pay for.
We had lunch at Ye’s Wok, Buffet & Restaurant. Its façade looked familiar. Then I remembered it had been a pizza restaurant before it became Ye’s. A Pizza Delight I think. All that appears to have changed inside is the food, from pizza pies, to Szechuan pork et cetera. It still looks like a pizza place: a built-in wood fired pizza oven, booths, tables, steam tables. It’s the most un-Chinese looking Chinese restaurant I’ve ever seen. There’s very little of the usual Chinese decoration, except for one of those lucky waving golden cat figures displayed prominently behind the cashier’s counter.
Friend and frequent lunch guest, Linda, was with me. She’s a Chinese buffet aficionada. After a polite greeting from the hostess, we were seated and served jasmine tea. My first trip to the steam table was quick. I decided to start with a bowl of wonton soup sprinkled with chopped green onions, followed by a plate of starters: crispy fried wontons, spring rolls and an egg roll.
Ye’s wonton soup was identical to many served at similar Chinese buffets. Let’s face it, this soup is really all about the plump, purse pork dumplings. If they’re good, and the broth is sufficiently rich in umami, it’s a race to see who can eat the most dumplings. I enjoyed the soup, even more after my request for chopped green onions was accommodated.
The crispy fried wontons were on par with other versions, as was the sticky, sweet and sour sauce. I didn’t enjoy the spring rolls and egg roll as much. Both tasted like frozen supermarket products, especially the spring rolls with their unappealing, mushy filling.
After studying the various dishes, Linda offered the opinion that Ye’s buffet didn’t offer enough variety compared with other Chinese buffets in and around St. John’s. Perhaps, because Ye’s roughly $12 per person price is lower than others, Ye’s requires a smaller selection to make a profit; and in some of that selection you could even taste the cost cutting: i.e. the spring rolls.
Ye’s staff had the buffet drill down pat. There was steady traffic between the kitchen and dining room as pans were frequently replenished with rice, chow mein, honey garlic ribs and about eight other items. We had plenty of room to manoeuvre. The restaurant had customers, but it was far from full.
My favourite Ye’s buffet dishes included a pork stir fry with a balance of pork v. fresh vegetables – much better than the Szechuan pork, which lacked kick. I liked the beef and broccoli for its broccoli flavour and the General Tso’s chicken was nicely tender. To my surprise the oniony egg foo yung impressed, and the honey sweet, garlicky spareribs were melt-in-the-mouth good.
Less impressive dishes included vegetable fried noodles that were remarkably free of taste and, as far as I could tell, free of vegetables, insipid no noodle chow mein, mostly meatless and bland guy ding, and sweet and sour chicken balls that were dry with minimal chicken. Tiny square chocolate dessert cakes were almost as inedible as widgets made by a robot on an automated assembly line.
One final comment on Ye’s desserts. The factory-made carrot cake was fine, and the selection of about half-a-dozen ice cream flavours, excellent. If you’re careful about your choices you can find enough at Ye’s Wok, Buffet Restaurant’s buffet to make a good and satisfying meal.
* Good * * Very good * * * Excellent * * * * Exceptional
Price Lunch for two with tea, tax and tip costs approximately $40.
Service Table service is minimal at buffet restaurants, but we felt that we’d received just the right amount of attention.
Atmosphere Somewhere between bland and moderately engaging. The décor needs cheering up.
Sound level Moderate.
Open Monday to Friday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday: 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Reservations Yes, and walk-ins are welcome.
Credit cards All major.
Parking Building’s parking lot.
Beverages In addition to soft drinks, various teas and coffee, Ye’s Wok serves a small selection of beers and wines.
Best bets Wonton soup, General Tso’s chicken, honey garlic ribs, beef and broccoli, egg foo yung, pork stir-fry and ice cream.
Gluten free options Please ask your server for details.
Wheelchair access Yes.