I’m a big fan of the buffet. Not any particular buffet… just buffets in general. I like the style of eating. I like the variety. I like the extent to which I can embarrass myself by eating a ridiculous amount of food. Chinese would have to be my favorite kind of buffet, because I find it very hard to order just one thing at a Chinese food restaurant. I’m actually a huge fan of any kind of Asian food in buffet form. Sushi is not ideal (because of the freshness), but I have found a couple that I enjoy (like the Korean/Sushi buffet Arang, in Koreatown). Indian buffets are great. All you can eat Naan is an added bonus… and the only time I will lower my “don’t eat the bread” buffet rule.
American buffets are ok, but they are definitely my least favorite. The buffet that a pregnant Frances McDormand ate at in Fargo (with the meatballs) looked pretty sweet… but unfortunately fictional buffets don’t count… and even if it does exist- I doubt I’ll ever be in that small town in Minnesota. I love the buffets in Vegas- but I usually end up eating the Asian food- so that doesn’t really count as an “American” buffet. I haven’t been to Charles Southern Kitchen (a Soul Food Buffet in Harlem) but it’s pretty high on the list. Fried chicken on a buffet is the greatest and worst thing of all time… but I did survive a KFC buffet off I-95 in Florida once, so I’m sure I’ll be ok.
So on Friday, I was walking in an area of Midtown I had never been before and stumbled upon something very exciting (to me, because I’m fat and love buffets). The place was called Al-Baraka, and it was something I had never seen before in all my buffet eating… a Turkish Buffet. It passed the price test ($9.95), and the look test (the best part about eating at a buffet is that you can go in and take a peek at what you’re paying for) so I decided to check it out.
What I ate, the food porn and the +/- all after the jump…
I am not really a Turkish food expert so I don’t know exactly what each of the dishes on the buffet were, or if it was even traditional Turkish food (the sign outside actually says “Mediterranean Cuisine”) but I can tell you this… if you are fan of veggies- stick with one of the many Indian buffets in Midtown. This is more for the meat eaters. There were a few vegetable dishes (a chick pea dish, a zucchini dish, and a broccoli dish) but none of them were good enough to warrant the $10 you’d be better off spending at an Indian buffet where the veggie dishes are just as good as the meat dishes.
On my first plate I started with a little of the stewed beef dish which was good. The meat was super tender. I also tried a stewed chicken dish which was fine, but forgettable. The real treat of the buffet was the lamb shanks. That’s right… lamb shanks, on a buffet- all you can eat. The meat was fall off the bone tender, and it was clearly the big money item on the buffet. Sort of like the Shrimp and Crab legs at a Vegas buffet. If you are not going to eat the big money item(s), then it’s probably not worth going to that particular buffet. Well, in this case- if you like lamb shanks, then this buffet is worth the $10.
They had a baked chicken dish (which I can best describe as being a spicier version of tandoori chicken) that was also really tender, and delicious. It was also the only thing on the buffet that was even remotely spicy. There was also a soup (which I didn’t try), salad, all you can eat hummus (which was nice) and they bring you some warm pita bread, and yogurt dip (with dill) to the table. There was also two kinds of rice… a rice pilaf, and a basmati rice, both of which were good.
For dessert there were two options, both of which I tried- so I could report back to you about it (well… that’s what I tell myself anyway. There’s nothing wrong with eating two desserts… Get off my back!). There was a really nice rice pudding, which was less rice and more pudding (if you are into that)… and there was this amazing cake that was soaked in this honey-like syrup and topped off with pistachios. I believe it’s called Ravani, and it was delicious!!!!
So if you like buffets, and you like meat (especially lamb) this place is definitely worth the $10. Although it might not be better then your favorite Indian buffet, and it will probably not be the best Turkish food you’ve ever eaten, it’s a nice change of pace.
- It’s a buffet, so it’s all you can eat. There’s not really a bigger plus than that…
- Turkish is a nice change of pace from all the Indian buffets in Midtown (and most of the dishes are not spicy at all)
- All you can eat hummus. (There aren’t many good vegetarian options- but the all you can eat hummus is great)
- Lamb shanks. All you can eat. (Did I mention it’s all you can eat) Although I was there on a Friday- so I cannot guarantee that there are lamb shanks every day.
- The two dessert options are pretty awesome.
- Not all the dishes are great, and the vegetarian options are not good enough to warrant the $10 price tag. The broccoli and zucchini dishes were cooked to a mush… and the chick pea dish is not as good as what you would get at most Indian buffets in the city. The meat is definitely where it’s at.
- Not sure if it’s the same dishes every day. I was there on a Friday- and can’t guarantee tha the lamb shanks, or the baked spicy chicken are available every day of the week.
- You have to really love buffets… I’m sure there are better Mediterranean meals to be had in Midtown, that will totally fill you up, and will be much less than $10 (but they are not buffets!)
- At 12:45 when I walked in, it was pretty empty. By the time I left it was packed. Might be harder to get a seat after 1pm…
Al Baraka, 154 E. 55th St. (btw. 3rd & Lex), 212-546-9007