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University Buffet, a Chinese food glutton's paradise, opens near Capitol

My fortune cookie at the University Buffet said, "Think about your own mistakes rather than blame on other's faults" (sic). Had I not received this advice, I might have tried to blame someone for the soggy wontons in the soup or that weird fried thing at the sushi bar. But the wise fortune cookie saved me from these uncharitable thoughts. It was, after all, my mistake that I went to lunch at 3:30, when the lunch dishes were perhaps a tad past their prime. Even at that transitional time of day, however, I and my fellow gluttons found a wide array of tasty items, all for a grand total of $9.14 (including tax and an all-you-can-drink Pepsi product).

The sushi rolls don't have a lot of fresh fish, but they're good anyway
The sushi rolls don't have a lot of fresh fish, but they're good anyway

This is an ambitious buffet, with every standard American Chinese restaurant dish you can think of, plus some Korean (well, kimchi, maybe that's it) and Japanese (sushi and edamame). The quantity is as overwhelming as Old Country Buffet's, although the people in the line aren't nearly as fat. I managed to stuff myself silly with sushi rolls, salmon (swimming in some unidentified salty liquid), shrimp in various guises (the coconut shrimp was the best), dumplings, garlic mushrooms, jalapeno chicken, spring roll, wonton soup, a macaroni salad with crab, and--surprisingly--fresh, tasty grapefruit, oranges, melon, and other fruits: quite the opposite of the tired-looking fruit options at most buffets. Desserts were aplenty, including several tubs of ice cream. Kids must love this place.

Manager Erik Kwok adjusts the sushi bar's decor
Manager Erik Kwok adjusts the sushi bar's decor

About the sushi: Well, it ain't Giapponese, but it ain't packaged-grocery-store-caliber either. There was a nice variety of rolls, and they looked pretty. The sushi-ya is standing there rolling them all day long. You could easily get your nine bucks worth just shoveling in these babies.

Such a deal!
Such a deal!

Because I paid for the $8.49 lunch buffet while they were starting to bring out the $11.99 dinner buffet items, the hostess warned me sternly that I was not to have any of the snow crab or she would charge me another $3.50. She kept her eye on me, too. Aside from that minor intimidation, the atmosphere of the restaurant, in the Hmong Minnesota Professional Building, was pleasant and clean. General manager Erik Kwok says that business has been steady since the grand opening five weeks ago. Don't worry about finding a table: The place is humongous (200 seats). You can also order off the menu. They're still working out a few kinks, but overall it's a fabulous pig-out, so take that cookie's advice and don't blame on their faults too much.

UNIVERSITY BUFFET Sunday - Thursday: 11:00 am - 10:00 pm Friday & Saturday: 11:00 am - 10:30 pm 225 University Ave. W. (at Marion), St. Paul (651) 366-6858


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