CVIndependent

Tue09172019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

What: The weekday lunch buffet

Where: Emperor Buffet, 69600 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage

How much: $9.99

Contact: 760-328-9200

Why: It’s cheap with a lot of delicious stuff.

I know that some of you have read the headline and instantly determined that I must have lost my damn mind.

Is he really giving the high honor of an Indy Endorsement to a free-standing Asian buffet in Rancho Mirage?! Why, yes, indeed I am. Here’s why.

I concede that not everything available at Emperor Buffet is great … or even good. The desserts, for example, are bleh, and the sesame chicken—one of my favorite gringo-ized Asian entrées—somehow approaches flavorless. However, similar things can be said about the menu items at many restaurants: You’ll have hits, and you’ll have misses.

And there are some definite hits—home runs, even—on offer at Emperor Buffet. On the plate above, at the top, you’ll see some pork with snow peas. This dish is flat-out fantastic: The peas are crisp; the pork is tender; and it’s all delicious. If I went to any restaurant, paid $9.99 and got a whole plate of this, I’d be a happy camper.

But instead, for $9.99, I got that and a whole lot more: serviceable sushi rolls, tasty potstickers, compelling crab Rangoon, moist teriyaki chicken, etc.

Look, I get it: Buffets aren’t for everyone. Some people are squicked out by self-serve food at steam tables. Others are food snobs, pure and simple. But for foodies who aren’t paranoid or snobbish—especially us foodies on a budget—trust me: There’s some truly great stuff to be found at Emperor Buffet. You may find some duds among the dozens of options … but you’re also going to find some true gems—and you’ll do so in a way that leaves you money left over for your next foodie adventure.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: Seafood Thursday Dinner at the Potrero Canyon Buffet

Where: Morongo Casino Resort and Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon

How much: $22.95 with a players’ club card

Contact: 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com

Why: You can pig out on crab or dessert or shrimp or whatever else.

I grew up in Nevada, a fact I’ve noted in this space before. The more time I’ve spent away from Nevada, the more I’ve become convinced that growing up in a state where casinos are everywhere makes you … well, just a little different.

For example, take buffets—specifically, casino buffets. Some non-Nevadans tend to be a little wary of large buffets, fearing potential disease and mediocre, mass-quantity food. However, these fears are unwarranted. First of all, I have eaten at casino buffets hundreds of times, and never have I gotten food poisoning from one. Not once. And second of all, great food can be found at many casino buffets—and such is the case at Morongo’s Potrero Canyon Buffet.

We went there for a birthday celebration on a recent Thursday night—which just so happens to be seafood night—and everyone in our large party thoroughly enjoyed the bevy of food on offer. That’s not to say everything was good—among many dozens of dishes both hot and cold, and both sweet and savory, there are bound to be a few clunkers. However, each of us found an item or four that we absolutely reveled in. For one person, it was the crispy fried shrimp (with oodles of cocktail sauce). For another, it was the unlimited quantity of crab legs.

For me? I was having a sweet-tooth sort of night, so my personal highlight came at the dessert case, where I enjoyed cookies and German chocolate cake and even a miniature lemon-meringue tart.

Yeah, the experience wasn’t so good for my waistline, but it did limited damage to my wallet—and absolutely enthralled my taste buds.

So, go. Don’t be afraid of the casino buffet. Trust me: I’m a former Nevadan.

Published in The Indy Endorsement