What: The weekday lunch buffet
Where: Emperor Buffet, 69600 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage
How much: $9.99
Why: It’s cheap with a lot of delicious stuff.
I know that some of you have read the headline and instantly determined that I must have lost my damn mind.
Is he really giving the high honor of an Indy Endorsement to a free-standing Asian buffet in Rancho Mirage?! Why, yes, indeed I am. Here’s why.
I concede that not everything available at Emperor Buffet is great … or even good. The desserts, for example, are bleh, and the sesame chicken—one of my favorite gringo-ized Asian entrées—somehow approaches flavorless. However, similar things can be said about the menu items at many restaurants: You’ll have hits, and you’ll have misses.
And there are some definite hits—home runs, even—on offer at Emperor Buffet. On the plate above, at the top, you’ll see some pork with snow peas. This dish is flat-out fantastic: The peas are crisp; the pork is tender; and it’s all delicious. If I went to any restaurant, paid $9.99 and got a whole plate of this, I’d be a happy camper.
But instead, for $9.99, I got that and a whole lot more: serviceable sushi rolls, tasty potstickers, compelling crab Rangoon, moist teriyaki chicken, etc.
Look, I get it: Buffets aren’t for everyone. Some people are squicked out by self-serve food at steam tables. Others are food snobs, pure and simple. But for foodies who aren’t paranoid or snobbish—especially us foodies on a budget—trust me: There’s some truly great stuff to be found at Emperor Buffet. You may find some duds among the dozens of options … but you’re also going to find some true gems—and you’ll do so in a way that leaves you money left over for your next foodie adventure.