Monday, March 6, 2017

Fan Favorite ‘China Buffet’ Not Renewed For Fifth Season

Local Lunchtime Mainstay Will Not Return For Addt'l Episodes
Of Acid Reflux From Those Who Overdo It On The Garlic Green Beans.
By Blythe Moorcroft, Quilt restaurant / entertainment desk.

‘China Buffet,’ a restaurant popular with a largely blue collar and laborer crowd, has been canceled. 

The restaurant premiered to mixed reviews in March of 2013 and worked hard to build an audience of diners but ultimately never connected with its target demographic — a dinner crowd unwilling to pay anything higher than weekday 'lunch special' pricing. Critical darling 'Arby’s' on Topanga that serves food at the same time also made getting a larger market share difficult for the Asian fooder. Strong numbers from long-established 'Jack in the Box' and the similarly-themed 'Royal Dragon' also prevented 'Buffet' from cracking the Top 20.

Staff photo.
Some blame the eatery's failure on the inclusion of a large and elaborate dining room set piece and expensive banquettes at the cost of a more compelling menu, described as “pedestrian” and “patronizing” — even by some of the pedestrians who patronized the restaurant.

“I used to walk down there for lunch once every three or four months,” says neighborhood gourmand Téodor Pasternak. “I always regretted it.”

“It’s not that the food was bad,” he explains. “It was all-you-can-eat and I never knew when to stop. And then it sat in my stomach like a rock and I never got anything done for the rest of the day.

“I liked their walnut chicken though — you know, that stuff covered in the white sauce.  

“...It was chicken, right?”
"Yup, that's a feather!" comments former 'Buffet' patron Dawn. Photo: Yelp/Dawn D.
Others felt that the restaurant had problems dating back to its freshman season. 

“It’s like it can’t decide what it wants to be. The name says ‘Chinese Buffet’ but they have sushi which is Japanese, then there’s pizza, which, hello, last time I checked is Italian. Um, pick a genre!!!!!!!!” wrote Jeanne S. on industry insider website Yelp just a month after 'Buffet' debuted.

She updated her review in November of 2015: “When they tried to introduce taquitos at the end of last season, they really jumped the baked tilapia.”

The final food trays of ‘China Buffet’ were rolled out and available for bingeing in the summer of 2016 to lukewarm ratings (though still earning a respectable 'B' from the LA Dept. of Health), at which point the restaurant went on hiatus. A notice posted inside the foyer advised viewers peering through the locked doors that they were "temporarily closed for renovations."
A rare, behind-the-scenes look at how they made the magic happen:  'Buffet'
kept prices low by eschewing traditional, more expensive means to dry dish rags.
Despite plans for a major retooling, many of the 'China Buffet' ensemble moved onto other projects, all but dooming future meal production. Eagle-eyed diners may have even noticed fan favorite, The Guy Who Stood Behind the Mongolian BBQ Counter, now at 'Hunan Garden' in Van Nuys, sitting outside the back door on an upended plastic milk crate chain-smoking cigarettes and shelling peas for shrimp with lobster sauce.

With its wait staff, crew and semi-bustling lunchtime crowd gone, the long, deep dining area of
China Buffet's main room stood empty and silent, the laughs, tears and belches now a memory.
Others, such as The Woman Who Really Took Her Time Bringing You Your Soft Drink, was open to coming back if the rest of the staff was on-board. But with signs advertising the property for lease going up on the closed restaurant last week, even that seems unlikely. “I guess I’m just [going to] continue working here at my cousin’s dollar store in Van Nuys,” she said as she unpacked the second of three pallets of marinade injectors emblazoned with unlicensed, off-register images of a green Spongebob Squarepants.
What will fill the hole in many Canoga Park residents' lunch schedules and replace 'China Buffet'?
Experts say thrift stores have traditionally done well in this slot but wouldn't rule out the possibil-
ity of a late summer high profile 'event' lease such as a limited-run Halloween store.   Staff photo.
“Let’s not give up,” reads an anonymous post on a discussion page of the 'China Buffet' Wiki. “Maybe if we get enough signatures on a petition, we can get them back for a limited run in a smaller venue, like at that vacant dry cleaner’s place on Saticoy across from Walgreens.”

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