Some like this place. Some don’t. Either way, this place is bigger than a banquet hall.
Check out my review on Wok Of Fame
From the top: American – Pieces of roast beef, roast chicken, mashed potatoes.
To the right: Japanese – Salmon Sushi, Italian – A bit of pesto pasta.
At the bottom: Filipino – Braised pork topped with raisins with a side of creamy eggplant.
To the left: Spain – Spanish paella.
No arguments. Just good food.
In the past few weeks, I have been to a few AYCE (All You Can Eat) sushi buffets in the Greater Toronto Area.
Each and every one of these restaurants had their own menu and style that may have included in one way or another different types of asian food such as Chinese, Korean, or Thai. After checking out each restaurant, I found this to be a great opportunity to compare notes on what I look for versus what I am paying for.
1. Sushi vs. Sashimi
What is the difference between the two? Originated from Japan, sushi consists of a special bite-size portion of cooked vinegared rice topped with a slice of raw seafood, vegetables, or even tropical fruits. Makis and Hand Rolls are types of sushi that have the fish and veggies rolled or wrapped inside a layer of rice or seaweed. Sashimi is commonly thin slices of raw seafood.
At many AYCE sushi buffets, I have seen sushi and sashimi served in different sizes, and girth. Yes, GIRTH. My biggest pet peeve is being served with a huge chunk of sushi rice with a small shave of fish. These sort of restaurants overfeed you with rice so they can save more money by holding back on the fish.
The best bang for your buck will always be the sashimis. I always order makis sparingly because I don’t want to fill myself up with rice.
2. Lunch vs. Dinner
At many AYCE buffets, the price is very different during lunch or dinner.
At an AYCE sushi buffet, the standard is having sushi served for lunch while sashimi is served for dinner, but when the price is $10 more per person and you eat the same number of sashimi as you do with sushi, then you might as well eat sushi for lunch.
Although in some AYCE restaurants, dinner menus may be served during lunch but of course, at a dinner price. Only your wallet and stomach will determine which one to choose.
3. Weekday vs Weekend
This comes down to price. The base price is lowest on weekday lunches (Monday – Thursday) and increases at dinner. Some consider Friday lunch as a weekday but Friday dinners are always at a weekend price. At most places, weekend lunch and dinner will skyrocket to a much higher unexpected price.
Other than serving sashimi for weeknight dinner or on weekends, usually there are no special reasons why they are charging more only that they know families and couples are most available to feast at these times.
Go for the weekday lunch if you can make it. You will get better service, pay less, and it won’t be so crowded.
4. All You Can Eat but not All You Can Drink
Better ask if your soda drink refills are unlimited and/or if it’s included in the AYCE price. Otherwise you might be paying much more than you think.
I usually order some Chinese tea or green tea solely because I gave up soft drinks a long time ago and also they refill hot water for free. Besides, carbonated drinks fill up my stomach and I like to consume more of the food than the drink. Most places provide a small pot with loose tea/tea bag steeping in hot water. They either charge one price for the number of pots or the number of people. So if you have a party of 8 and they all want tea, either you will be charged for 2 pots that can serve 8 people or pay the individual price per person even if you are given 2 pots. At one place my wife and I actually paid for our own separate tea bags in separate cups.
If you don’t need anything special, tap water will always be free.
5. AYCE Sushi plus other foods and fusion
Most sushi places are now mixing up their menus by offering Chinese, Korean, and Thai.
With Chinese, I try to stay away or limit my steamed rice or fried rice. I figured if you’re eating sushi, you are already having good portions of rice. Do try their dim sum (steamed dumplings) as they are slowly making their way into the sushi restaurants.
Most Japanese AYCE buffets mixes in several Korean dishes. If they offer kalbi (small strips of marinated short ribs) give them a try. Koreans know that it can be difficult and expensive to make kalbi so make it worth your while to have some. It’s delicious!
Tom Yum Soup is my go-to Thai dish. I have always enjoyed a little sour taste in my mouth to warm me up for a sushi fest. Any noodle dish such as Pad Thai should be ordered with caution because it usually tastes either very bland or very sour.
6. Types of Sushi and Sashimi
I used to eat a ton of red tuna. As time passed by red tuna became less available and salmon started to be the norm. Now I’m hooked on white tuna (or butterfish). Just thinking about the butterfish melting in my mouth makes me want to go out for sushi right now. Yum!
I have also started to love octopus and surf clam sashimi. They have a slightly rubbery texture to it but the flavor is starting to grow on me.
Some maki rolls make its way onto my plate. I love dynamite rolls (tempura inside), spicy salmon crisp, and Red Dragon with salmon toppings.
Hand rolls are the biggest flop in my book for AYCE buffets. So much rice and veggies are stuffed into the seaweed wrap that you can barely taste any fish at all.
7. Fresh means everything
Once you bite into any sushi, it should not have a fishy taste. Nor should it smell fishy either. Sushi and sashimi is meant for you to enjoy the moment without having any difficulty of forcing it down.
With any fish sushi, not only should it be chilled but it should also be easy to chew. If you find that you are chewing non-stop, then it is far from being fresh.
8. Price can make it or break it
How much are you willing to pay for an AYCE lunch or dinner buffet?
For lunch, I am willing to go between $15 – $20 and that’s if they are offering sashimi for lunch on the higher end of the price range. I find that even with higher prices, the quality is still the same.
Some restaurants will give you a 5% discount if you pay the bill cash. It doesn’t hurt to ask your server before you order if a discount is available.
9. Old style/New style menu ordering
Pen and paper menu ordering is slowly being phased out. Most of these places don’t have a picture what each dish looks like. Unless you have eaten at this sort of place several times and ordered everything on their menu, then you really wouldn’t know what to expect. Also, it is so hard to get your server’s attention if they don’t check up on you from time to time.
iPads now made their way into AYCE sushi buffets. Order the quantities of dishes by tapping away at the pictures on their slide bar menus. Food should arrive within 5 minutes as this system is supposed to increase efficiency. If they don’t serve your food within a good amount of time then either the restaurant is busy or the iPad is broken.
Most AYCE have credit card machines with preset amounts on how much tip to add onto the bill. I will tip depending if I have to go up to get my own food or if they will deliver it to me. Factor in if they bring my food quickly, take away my empty plates before I return from the tables. I always consider if I am treated like a paying customer.
Most importantly, the food has to meet my expectations.
So I hope my list helps all of you decide on what you will look for at any AYCE sushi buffet.
If you love sushi as much as I do, it is always satisfying to walk out of a sushi restaurant smiling saying that I ate well and having that ‘Life is Good’ feeling. If you can say that, then you definitely achieved the most value out of your sushi meal.
Thanks for reading my blog!
Want to get your sushi on? If you feel the need to satisfy your appetite for Japanese food then I know the place.
In one of the west buildings in Mississauga’s Heartland area is an AYCE (All You Can Eat) restaurant named “Heart Sushi”. They share the building with a few other tenants but if you find the Heart logo you can see they are placed at the very end. Grab a parking spot as quickly as possible because spaces are very limited on the weekends.
Like most AYCE sushi places today, their pen and paper ordering system is replaced with the iPad menu. Make your choices from a range of edamame beans to red dragon rolls or Korean kalbi slices to Chinese fried rice.
What I like about this place is the sushi and sashimi are fresh. For lunchtime sushi, they don’t stuff each piece with a fistful of rice. The same can be said for all of their maki rolls. At dinner, the thickness of each sashimi is cut just right. The best part is the presentation. When your appetizers arrive one dish at a time, you can’t wait to sink your teeth into some sashimi. But when it arrives in an illuminated bowl of ice with some fancy decor, it totally makes the experience so much more enjoyable. I used think “meh, just feed me the sashimi on a plate and serve it to me as quickly as I order it” but my outlook changed when you see all your sashimi light up! And when you sink your teeth into a cold fresh piece of fish doused with soy sauce and wasabi? Whoa!!! You cannot help but order more!
Like many other asian restaurants, there are some minor downsides. Sitting down in the booth seats often leaves feeling the impact of the person moving around behind you. Some of the Chinese dishes are a little bland. Besides, why would I stuff myself with rice or noodles when I’m there to eat sushi??? For the most part your dishes come quickly, but even the iPad system might leave one or two items lagging behind.
There are a few unexpected dishes I particularly like. Available during lunch and dinner, order up the Tom Yum soup. It has a piece of simulated crab, slices of mushroom and one shrimp swimming in a slightly tangy soup base with a small garnish. No coconut milk, so it will never taste like the original in Thailand. White tuna for sushi or sashimi melts in your mouth and tastes far better than other types of fish. Available for dinner only, you must try the chopped spicy salmon sashimi on top of a Pringle chip! I ordered it thinking how crazy it was to eat but surprisingly it was really good! Just think, fish and chips right?
I’ve eaten at several sushi restaurants but this one surpasses a lot of them. Some have their own unique features, much like Heart Sushi, that makes them different from other places like their service or their decor.
So after eating here, I have a pretty good idea how to satisfy my cravings. Stay tuned for my next blog about the DO’s and DON’Ts on eating at AYCE sushi restaurants.