I was recently invited to a tasting session at TODAI, an international all-you-can-eat buffet chain restaurant located at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, and totally jumped at the chance. You see, I love buffets, and the many types of food that come with it. Variety is the spice of life, right. And oh, did this place have variety. From fresh seafood, to Korean, Chinese, Italian, Western, TODAI had these and more.
Personally, I felt that the highlight of the buffet was definitely the Alaskan snow crab station. Piled high on a bed of ice, these goodies disappeared at the blink of an eye but were replenished quite quickly by the staff. Biting into the big fat leg of the crab resulted in sweet, delicious juice bursting into song in my mouth, seriously making me swoon. Dry is definitely not a word that exists in the realm of this dish – each and every piece was so juicy (I had about 4 or 5 pieces), tender and sweet in a fresh seafood sort of way (not in the dessert or processed sugar kind of way). So. Good.
The freshly shucked oysters were of pretty good quality and taste as well – they tasted fresh, were fairly plump and juicy, and weren’t grainy or sandy. They only allowed people to take 2 pieces at a time; which actually if you think about it, is quite a good system, not only to prevent hoggers and allow more people to enjoy them, but also to help ensure that you get a positive experience which won’t happen if you leave them on the table for too long. Also tried the fresh mussels and prawns – the mussels were good too, nice and firm and fresh; the prawns were okay, fresh too but I felt were a bit bland, not sweet enough for me.
This two-each-time rule also applied to the chilli crabs – but they were so popular and had an insanely long queue that I didn’t try them in the end. The sauce was not bad though, had quite a kick and wasn’t too sweet.
TODAI had sashimi and also a very wide selection of sushi as well – but unfortunately although the variety and innovativeness (quite unusual flavours of sushi) for the latter was there, the rice and general presentation of garnishes piled onto them looked kind of messy and unappealing (and plus, the dish is really very carb loaded), so I just had three for taste – and they were just okay. As for the sashimi, there were only salmon and tuna available, and were also so-so as well – I’d say save the space for the other fresh seafood items.
Or even for the oven baked / grilled / fried items (all around the same station) or Chinese dishes – these were actually surprisingly good as well. In particular I liked the baked salmon, garlic chicken wing, beef shortrib, steamed fish, yam and red bean ball, and the caramel and fig duck (in the pictures below). From the Korean station, the thick glass noodles were yummy – light and savoury and the pan-fried fish coated in egg, delightful. The seafood pancake was a bit doughy though.
From the appetizers station, I really enjoyed the cold preserved seaweed, curry tuna mashed potatoes that were really tasty – and the rest were not too bad as well – sautéed mushrooms and garlic, smoked duck, and roast beef carpaccio. And from the churrasco section, the steak, roast pork and grilled mushrooms were pretty good, juicy and flavourful – but it seemed like a matter of luck as to whether you are able to get any of these; only if you happen to be there when the chef is cooking up a batch. But I didn’t really try asking though, as someone from our table was in luck and got a plate of each of the two earlier mentioned meats, so perhaps asking would yield some results.
So much food right? And there’s more – an Italian counter, which I never got around to trying. A small dim sum corner, which I took a token siew mai from – tasted alright. A Japanese zaru soba counter, a salad counter. There was also a comprehensive drink counter with a wide selection including soft drinks, water, green tea, flavoured teas and yes, you read it right, Milo. I think they were trying to add some local flavour – well, the drink was a hit at our table. Crazy amount of food displayed at this place – pretty much able to provide something for almost everyone, I believe.
And of course, we can’t forget about dessert! The spread for this was pretty impressive as well, with an entire macaron tower, a soft serve ice cream machine (that allows you to do the vanilla and chocolate twist, I’m sold), and also little plates and glasses of sweet treats. By this time I had really little space left, so I just had a small banana chocolate mousse and some tiramisu ganache looking cake, as well as a twist of soft serve smothered with lots of nuts. The little cakes were quite nice, smooth and lightly sweet, though I didn’t quite fancy the very cake-y base. The soft serve well… tasted like regular soft serve, but the nuts made it awesome – though some chocolate sauce would’ve improved it a bit further – it was a pleasant finish to a rather large, satisfying meal.
Overall I was really quite happy with the quality and variety of the food, the ambience, service (I heard most of the staff are Koreans, and while they may not understand English that well, they were all pretty friendly and efficient), and feel that it is good value for the price. My only gripe is that I spotted one or two flies hovering about in the restaurant – which is something I don’t quite like. However I also found out that the management is aware of the issue (which apparently came with the premises) and has been actively working on this and spending a lot of time and money on solving it, so that’s good enough for me. One or two flies are fine to me as long as they don’t get too near the food and the place is in the midst of getting rid of them.
Also, some items are seasonal and they try to refresh their menu once in a while to keep regulars interested, and they have a monthly theme as well – when I went last week there was a ‘kimchi’ theme and so there was an extended selection of various kimchi types available for diners to sample. They also stated on their placemat that no MSG is used in their food, which is great, actually. I was kind of thirsty after the dinner though; perhaps the food did have a bit more of other types of seasoning instead.
Comparable to and I feel, even better than some international hotel buffets.
For more details and pictures, please visit my food blog Ingredients Of Happiness at: http://bit.ly/IOH_TodaiSG.
For more pictures, please view here : http://www.ivyleh.com/2012/02/saint-valentines-2012.html
We opted for a buffet dinner over expensive/over priced degustation menus and the bf decided we should head to Todai to give it a try.
No doubt I was really spoilt for choices; There were plenty of cuisines available, from Italian to Jap to Kor to Chi and etc. However, most were just of average standard. The snow crabs and desserts were the only few that I went for more than once.
The exclusive dishes like crayfish and crabs were both cooked in the same chilli gravy and in small portions (only limited to 2 at a time but by the time you re queue, there's probably nothing left), nothing really special.
Would very much prefer 10 @ Claymore/Carousel/Triple 3 over this.
Service wise was good, plates cleared promptly though the restaurant was packed for the night. Complimentary parking was also given for UOB cardholders.
Having heard about this place for quite a while, it was an opportune time during my father-in-law's birthday celebration that we chose that place for our dinner. Having read the lukewarm reviews for this place, I was adamant to determine my own review.
Now one thing to note when placing reservations, is to place a reservation time some time later (abt 8 pm?) Considering that the restaurant was only 2/3 full, I expected it to be a leisurely stroll to the line. This was not to be. It was around 6.30 and inevitably, the dinner crowd started around the same time. The throng of patrons crowded along the buffet line, resulting in a very stressful experience for all. It did not help when one had to squeeze through the crowd to get the food as well as to return with the food.
Variety-wise, there was a wide spread of cooking counters to suit almost all taste: Seafood, Japanese sashimi, Brazilian churrasco, Korean, Italian pizzas and of course local delights. The names of the dishes seem international enough (and misspelled enough) with some exotic twist (e.g. lime onions, escargot, caprese etc.) Visually however, the food did not seem as palatable as the name suggested. Moving on to the taste test.
On the whole, the food tasted average enough. I did not have a stale adventure with any of the dishes, but none struck me as refreshingly fresh. Let's take the sashimi for example, the mekajiki (swordfish) tasted fine thought it did not look exceedingly fresh (not sure is it because of the lighting). Same goes for the tuna and the salmon, the latter looking light orange rather than reddish orange (looks more like the colour of salmon trout). This got me wondering about the source of the sashimi. Could they have come from a less-developed country that does not monitor their food quality?....if you know what I mean.
The snow crab legs were either salty or bland. Don't get me wrong, it was not stale, but it was not an experience that one would like to repeat unless your aim was to get your money's worth.. That was a dissapointment considering that it was visually appetizing. That explained why there was a pile of crab for the choosing despite the crowd. Oh yes, I did not get the eat the chilli crayfish for a simple reason of demand exceeding limited supply. Even the chilli gravy was mopped up as mantous were provided. The line alone waiting for the crayfish will deter many.
I had the caprese (which was sliced mozzarella cheese on tomato slices with olive oil, in this case pesto sauce) and an aficionado of caprese. Visually, the tomato looks bland against the pesto sauce with the mozzarella. And it did. The tomato slices were sliced too thick and the taste of the tomato revealed it to be of a malaysian variety: bland with a weak tomato taste. Of course that infuriated me since if one dares to present caprese as a salad option, one should choose to do it well.
At the churrascos counter, I was actually quite intrigued by one of the garnishes, i.e. lime onions. Not for onion-haters, it actually tasted refreshingly good along with the roast meat served there. The roast meat and sausage was average and the roasted mushroom tasted raw, a result of undercooking the mushrooms. Near the churrascos was a bowl of "sweet rice drink". Don't bother. It just tasted like sugared water despite the unique look with the rice cake floating on top.
Surprisingly, I thought the "skinny" pizzas were done quite well as they were quite fragrant. Now if only the cooks dare to lay on the ingredients more thickly.... The japanese (if they were japanese) sweet potato tempura was tempting with the golden batter but they were undercooked, again. It was tough to eat which really dissapointed me. Last of all to mention were the escargots served in a chawanmushi cup with a pastry cap. They were tasty but that's largely owing to the mushroom cream. Every cup has 2 pieces of escargots and 3 pieces of mushrooms. That however got me thinking: escargots are traditionally served in their shell (they had gong-gongs served in their shell at the seafood counter). Why this "creative" way of serving in a strong sauce? I would imagine that the escargots came from a less reputable source where they needed to be air-flown en-masse (frozen perhaps) from somewhere and thus without the shell. Again, the thought of the dubious source country came into mind....
Of course there were other food items which were unremarkably trivial. Would I return? Simply no if possible. At $50+ per pop, I would be better off dining at some better hotel buffets at maybe a slightly higher cost but better ambience and lesser crowd.
I was having a visit from my customer during last weekend.
Decided dinner place at Todai since has heard about the great spread there.
Made a booking & received another reminder or confirmation call from Todai a couple of days prior my booking.
We were wowed by the great spread on offered when we were there & my customer who was a picky eater even comments that the dinner was the best he had ever had from SEA region.
I started with the potato gratin which is suprising nice. I tried almost all the sushis (can't help with those different kind of combination), not forgetting the sashimi. Salmon was good & smooth, but the tuna tasted a bit tough which required some workout from my teeth. Snow crab legs were delicious & sweet.
Did not try the curry lobster/crayfish as it was empty, the sight of it did not look appetizing though the curry tasted nice with the fried bun.
Also tried a little of everything of chinese, korean & the churrasco section, korean food was nice but chinese & churrasco section did not meet up to my expectation.
Lastly was the dessert which has a long queue. Good thing is that the dessert on offered came in small portion as it enable me to try most of it.
Conclusion: a happy & bursting tummy.
We went to Todai in late November and these were the few dishes that stood out.
(in order of preference)
1. Roast beef and chopped sirloins
2. Potato gratin
3. Cheesy prawns & scallops
4. Sashimi and the huge variety of sushi
Nothing to rave about the dessert section though. Overall, it is a decent buffet if you like the entrees mentioned above.
Judging from the price, I think was about $70 per pax, I had a rather high hope of the food standard and food spread. However, I was largely disappointed with the quality and the selection of the buffet. Other than the oysters, I can't remember much about the rest of the spread. The sushi bar was not really impressive, variety wise was quite ok, however, it doesn't seem to be really nice as I walked passed the sushi bar and the food was just sitting there pathetically. Maybe I went on the wrong day where the restaurant was not at its best, but I expected much more especially being situated in MBS.