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You don't have to choose between quality and quantity, and these seven restaurants are serving up the best of both
To some, the all-you-can-eat (let’s refer to it as AYCE) concept may seem a little crass in these days of artfully prepared small plates, but several places still serve the never-ending meal. There’s the special occasion buffet that offers some Vegas-style sparkle, casual joints to satisfy big appetites, and ethnic eateries that invite people to be more daring with their choices. Plus there are other unspoken benefits. Tired of your dinner companions? Uncomfortable conversation? Grab a fresh plate and head toward the chafing dishes.
Visit Cafe Pacifica in the Pan Pacific Vancouver hotel on Saturday nights and escape to Italy – at least for a little while. The Grand Opera Buffet brings dolce vita to patrons with its take on an Italian bistro, complete with antipasti, seafood dishes, pasta and sumptuous entrees. And, of course, there’s live opera.
$49, adults; $24.50, kids to 12; free for kids 4 and under
300–999 Canada Place, 604-895-2480
AYCE Rule No. 1: Tip your server well. After all, someone still has to clear plates, assist with cocktail or wine choices and refold your napkin when you’re off drooling at the desserts.
True, there’s no shortage of sushi joints in Vancouver, but AYCE spots are contented to let you fill up on farmed salmon maki or California rolls stuffed with fake crab. And while bargains can be had at sister restaurants Tomokazu (Vancouver) and Ninkazu (Richmond), the deluxe dinner is where the value is, with high-end seafood selections such as lobster and mirugai (geoduck), plus a dozen types of raw fish, from toro and spicy salmon sashimi to oysters and octopus.
Deluxe dinner, $25.95/$26.95 (weekdays/weekends), adults; $14.95 kids
Tomokazu, #201 – 1128 West Broadway, Vancouver, 604-677-0434
Ninkazu, #205 – 4231 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond, 604-279-9077
AYCE Rule No. 2: One of the most important rules at Tomokazu and Ninkazu: no sharing. And to make sure you don’t, patrons are prohibited from ordering a la carte dishes alongside AYCE.
At C-Lovers, you don’t need to limit yourself to the usual one- or two-piece fish and chips combo that leaves you yearning for more tender fish ensconced in crispy goodness. This family-friendly spot has been churning out battered fish and Kennebec chips since it opened in 1984, so you know its recipes are down to a science. The all-you-can-eat menu may be small but so is the price. Eat your fill at one of the many locations for the princely sum of $11.99 and for just three bucks more, round out dinner with a pint of Okanagan Springs beer.
Daily AYCE (dine-in only), $11.99
AYCE Rule No. 3: Waste not. There really aren’t enough fish in the sea, so be responsible and don’t order more than you know you can eat.
A Brazilian rodizio, which typically consists of AYCE and more, is a carnival for carnivores. Family-run Rio Brazilian Steakhouse in Vancouver’s West End grills an array of beef, chicken, pork, lamb and even fish, which is brought to your table on a spit. Your server slices off a portion, so you can sample a little of this and a little of that, without even leaving your seat. Need some veggies to go with? Sidle up to the salad bar – it’s all-you-can-eat, too.
Lunch daily from $16.95; dinner daily from $30.95
689 Denman Street, Vancouver, 604-568-7722
AYCE Rule No. 4: Sample, don’t gorge. Pacing yourself is not only a good idea, it’s essential at Rio. Flip up the red side of your coaster to let your server know you’re taking a break or prepare to suffer from the dreaded meat coma.
Indian food may be the best example of when more is more: there’s the laundry list of spices that makes each dish complex and the sheer number of items on the menu from korma and paneer to masala and vindaloo. And at buffets, such as the one at Salam Bombay, you get the best of slow cooking without the wait. Here, the room is elegant enough for business lunches. The buffet is well stocked with crowd pleasers such as butter chicken, plus there are a la carte options for people who want something special, like the smoked eggplant or prawn masala.
Lunch daily, $18.95
Second Flr., 755 Burrard Street, Vancouver, 604-681-6300
Rule No. 5 about AYCE: Share the wealth. Only a few samosas left? Leave some for the people in line behind you and come back for seconds. Remember, sharing is caring.
If you’re one of those never-sated big-and-tall types who could happily devour two entrees and still feel your belly grumbling, Wednesday nights at Montana’s Cookhouse restaurants were designed for you. Especially if you love pork ribs. On hump day, slabs of hickory-smoked pork ribs are on endless supply, so wear your eating pants and chow down.
AYCE ribs (Wednesdays only), from $27
AYCE Rule No. 6: Mind your manners. While it’s perfectly acceptable to eat with your hands, don’t treat rib-eating like a caveman competition to see who can gorge on the most racks. Take a breather, wipe the excess BBQ sauce off your face and give the server some room to discard the bones.
To the uninitiated, Korean barbecue could be very loosely compared to a fondue, in that you take thinly sliced pieces of marinated meats – chicken, pork and beef – and cook it yourself at the table. Thankfully, there’s no pot of boiling oil to worry about. Shabusen on Burrard Street is one place that serves all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue (and sushi) and its location amid the downtown mecca of boutiques makes it an ideal spot for hungry shoppers to settle in and get cooking. That’s right: a charcoal grill is built right into the table. Simply order up a selection of meats and grill until you’ve had your fill.
Lunch daily, $13; dinner daily, $23.
Shabusen, Second Fir., 755 Burrard Street, Vancouver, 604-669-3883
Rule No. 7 about AYCE: You’re cooking raw meat here, so be careful about cross-contamination when using your tongs, and remember not to use the same plate for raw and cooked meat. Eat up.