If the phrase “Chinese buffet” conjures vats of egg rolls and potstickers, prepare to be surprised by Sukishi Buffet, which opened in Amherst Oct. 21.
For $20 during dinner, and $11 during lunch, the bright, high-ceilinged restaurant lays out a vast spread of pan-Asian dumplings, soups, sushi, stir-fries and seafoods -- including lobster, crawfish, blue crab, clams and oysters at dinner.
The buffet is so extensive, in fact, that it’s hard to know where to begin. After ordering a pot of green tea (note that beverages cost extra, and Sukishi is still waiting on its liquor license), we headed to the towers of bamboo steamer baskets, which promised no fewer than 10 different kinds of buns and dumplings.
Expect the usual suspects, fluffy bao and steamed shrimp shumai, besides less typical buffet fare like zongzi: little packets of sticky rice and red beans, wrapped in banana leaves.
[Read Starters on another sushi buffet, Waves, open on Chippewa]
The surprises continue further down the buffet, which curves into an extensive sushi, sashimi and nigiri selection. Classic California rolls, salmon-colored tobiko roe, shiny slices of mackerel -- if you want it, Sukishi probably has it. (Plus a version fried in oil, a version topped with mayonnaise sauce, and a version wrapped in avocado.)
Sukishi is also big on its shellfish. A cold clam salad, tossed with sesame oil, sliced red chiles, ginger, and garlic, is bright and pleasantly chewy, with a delayed whiff of spice.
A crawfish dish saw the tiny crustaceans fried with slabs of bell pepper and onion, while shrimp are stir-fried in chili oil, minced and swathed in a doughy pastry to make coconut balls, and iced alongside oysters and mussels at the raw bar.
But no dish seemed to earn as many return trips to the buffet -- at least if our fellow diners were any indication -- than the chunks of tempura-fried lobster, bathed in a syrupy ginger sauce and garnished with scallions.
Once pried from its shell, the lobster meat was sweet and firm. And the sugary sauce makes an interesting departure from the drawn butter most Americans are used to.
There are risks inherent to the buffet business model, of course, particularly one as large as Sukishi. Some food appeared to sit out longer than ideal, and -- because the buffet labels were rarely in the right spot -- it takes some detective work to figure out what you’re eating.
Still, it’s hard to complain about all-you-can-eat lobster for $20. And Sukishi already appears popular with the nearby University at Buffalo crowd. On the night we visited, students occupied roughly half the tables; the other half were families with young children, clearly glad to choose from such an extensive menu.
INFO: Sukishi Buffet, 4224 Maple Road, Amherst. 832-8880. Hours: 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday for lunch; 3:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday for dinner; 3:30 to 10:30 Friday and Saturday dinner; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. for Sunday “brunch.”
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