Was running some errands nearby and so settled here with a friend for the steamboat buffet lunch.
Understood that this place has not been reviewed for more than 2 years and so just wanted to share briefly on my dinning experience and update food kakis about here.
The buffet started at 11.30am and end at 2.15pm. We arrived 5mins to 12pm and occupied the 3rd table in the spacious dinning table with at least over 40 tables.
Initially, we felt "dissonance" as the place was pretty "empty" and the food quality would not be good. There were more than 10 waiters/waitresses and yet so few diners. However, it proven us wrong as over the next 1 hour or so, groups of diners (most Korean tourists) took turns to come in to have their meals, occupying at least 10-15 tables and other local diners would occupy another 7-8 tables. Business was good!
Ambience wise! You could sense the "vintage" feeling here (the hotel is at least more than 30 years old), the setting, lightings, stage for performance and wedding, table cloths and curtains, would have brought you to the 70s or 80s. All these were supported by adequate lightings and sentimental music from behind, which was good.
We were seated at a right corner. You could choose either Chicken Stock or Spicy Stock (Ma La) as soup bases or both. We chose both and the steamboat pot came in 2 portions, one soup base each.
The Chicken Stock was ok but the Ma La was again not spicy for me. That stock did not come as Ma La but was the Chicken Stock where you have to add in a big spoon full of Ma Lu paste and added it according to your "spiciness" level. So the Ma La soup base was not authentic but mere "chilli water"!
Items wise. They do have quite a wide spread of greens and mushrooms, noodles, bee hoon, tofu, dumpling and for meat items, they have mutton, beef, chicken, pork, fish, squids, cuttlefish, cockles, flower crab (which was served to you by your waitress at one plate per table and was quite fresh), sausages, fishballs, meatballs, crabballs etc. Overall was ok, but the meat were not marinated at all and so tasteless and you will need to dip them into various condiments provided (different types of chilli sauces, seasame sauces etc). I noticed the meat were frozen hard and crumbled together and may have been in the freezer for a while. Still edible but not sure of its freshness level.
They also have cooked food like fried bee hoon, fried chicken wings (this is a must try, very well marinated and deep fried, crispy and flavourful), kimchi (ask the Korean diners and notice none of them tried it), archar, pork knuckles (big portion and tasted quite good), steamed mantou and tofu, fried egg and some others.
Finally was the dessert section. Today, they serve almon cocktail jelly (very nice and refreshing), green bean soup (ok), cut fruits of water melon (sweet and juicy) and papaya (not sweet and a bit unripe) and some agar-agar.
Overall they have more than 40 food items and quality wise was acceptable if you don't set a high expectation like you want a 4 or 5-star standard yet paying at a 2 or 3 star price.
Service was good. Staff was polite and cleared the used plates promptly without request, changed our plates and our Chinese tea and soup bases were also refilled regularly without a need to ask them to do so. In addition, they would also come by frequently to check and help us to control the temperature of the hot plates (the control was actually under the table where staff have to bend down to move the control switch) to ensure it was not too boiling or too slow to cook the food. Good service!
Value for money? Reasonable, as this place is located in a hotel and even if you visit a small eatery selling steamboat, the price difference may not be too much. We felt it was ok for us, as the service was good and overall food quality was fine too.
If they can provide more different types of soup bases (like ginseng, tomyam etc) and set the steamboat to include a BBQ element (like the one offered by other restaurants), it would be much better. Of course, the meat items need to be somehow marinated too (to add the flavour) when they will then fetch higher ratings. Also, by 1.45pm, they have already starting clearing up the food items when people were still eating and refilling the food, so maybe they should do so after 2.00pm and also good to inform diners about it, a common gesture restaurant staff will do so going around the tables to inform diners that the buffet will be closing soon!
The waitress told me the dinner offering will have more food items, which will include freeflow of soft drinks, ice creams and more food. Well, I am not sure if I will come back here again in the near future. Maybe if I am nearby here or a friend approach me to come here to try, I would like to try the dinner and see if there's any different (but of course be prepared to pay slightly more!).