Thursday, July 10, 2008

New Century Buffet (Chinese) - 86 points

Let's be clear... normally you should run screaming when you encounter a buffet. When you encounter a Chinese buffet - you should also wildly flail your arms while screaming and making all sorts of contortionist looks with your face. New Century Buffet in Clarks Summit should change that a bit.

Functionality - not bad... I've been to this place several times... it's location is not bad (in the middle of the Clarks Summit business district, off Route 6 in the Abington Shopping Center). Plenty of parking, fast checkin / checkout.

Comfort - acceptable... it's Chinese restaurant in a shopping center (you start to see the trend here...) and you are not going to settle in for 2-hour seating... it does attract a very diverse crowd - contractors, office workers... i even had a priest ask me once if I was a truck driver and I looked really familiar... I did chuckle when I saw a guy sitting next to me come in with a small scale to weigh his food. My friend - I appreciate the focus on your diet... it's something I need to clearly do this some day... but I think you missed something when you thought you saw deep-fried sodium laden products in thick sauces on the Weight Watcher's cards today...

Service - very good... the waitstaff will bring you a beverage of your choice, thus necessitating a tip... and they even bring it quickly :-). Seriously - they do a good job of keeping the buffet pans stocked and keeping the serving areas pretty clean. What more do you need in this situation?

Connected - non-existent... this is the kind of place where I can get zero work done. Web site is not really needed - expect pretty much the same food you'd find at any other Americanized Chinese joint (although they do have a wine chicken which is quite good). No wi-fi connection... so get in, grab-and-go (with all due respect to John Pinnette), and get out.

View / Decor - acceptable... it's a Chinese Buffet in a shopping center. At least it's relatively clean.

Food - very good... if you like Americanized Chinese... and you can deal with it coming from a buffet... and you don't want to move upmarket to a PFChang's or high end at Tse Yang... then you'd be hard-pressed to do better than New Century Buffet. I don't think it's worth more than going 5 or 10 miles out of your way... but if you are in the area, stop by. The food is fresh and refreshed often... the vegetables are mostly fresh (i.e. not all frozen / prepackaged). They have all your favorites... plenty of chicken, pork, and seafood dishes... fried rice, lo mien... a couple different soups... vegetables... deserts (ice cream, fruit)... everything I've had has been quite good. Especially recommend the pepper chicken, the wine chicken, and the General Tso's (this is done in smaller pieces - not the large grisly pieces you normally get).

They do have a full menu, offer take out (including on the buffet).

Value - excellent... it's like $7 per person.

Would I go back? YES - as long as I am around the area... there are lots of great lunch places in NEPA... and if I am in the area and looking for Chinese - this is the place I am going. Not memorable enough of good enough to make the drive, but you should not be disappointed if you stop in.

Visited Wednesday, July 9 12:00PM
New Century Buffet Chinese Restaurant
1000 South State Street
Clarks Summit, PA 18411

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Carmen's @ the Radisson - Sunday "Champagne" Brunch - 84 points

Functionality - horrific... this was the 2nd time I have been at Carmen's (once other for a breakfast and the waffle w/ fruit at breakfast was quite good). In both visits it took what felt like 20 minutes to check in and get seated (and this is when it is not busy in the restaurant). Not to mention the clueless family who were standing a good 8 feet from the hostess desk and did not decide they were in line until we stepped up to the hostess desk. No problems parking... restaurant obviously easy to find.

Comfort - acceptable... nothing memorable... way too hot in the restaurant. Seating is a bit cramped, but not bad. Linens seem old. Dishes and silverware felt cheap and flimsy. Piano player was a nice touch, except for the "Happy Birthday" interruptions - when will this tradition end?

Service - acceptable... There is a manager (the guy with the ponytail) who *always* looks grouchy. Our waiter ("Freddy" or Wilfredo on the receipt) was very good. Prompt, attentive.

Connected - acceptable... free wi-fi from the hotel is a plus. The Carmen's website is useless. I laughed when I saw they called out their 2008 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence - I stayed at this hotel about 2 months ago and ordered a bottle of wine for room service. Crappy glasses, and they had nothing on the wine list (I selected three different bottles and none were available.

View / Decor - good... the lobby of the hotel is very nice. Interesting stained glass over the restaurant. Definitely worth seeing...

Food - good and not so good... the primary dishes were quite tasty... we had french toast, bacon, potatoes, pork loin, crab bisque soup, beef loin, roasted turkey, chicken fillet, fresh salads... all very nice. Not overcooked, refreshed often, serving stations stayed clean. But a lousy bread selection... no cheese plates... average desert selections (chocolate fountain good... strawberries good... pretzel sticks WTF)... no sorbet... and the "Champagne"? Some asti brand I've never heard of... overall the foot was quite good for a buffet, but we would have appreciated some additional selections - and clearly some items were missing.

Value - very good... at $25.95 per person - this cannot be beat...

Would I go back? YES - in a heartbeat. Sunday brunch is all about lots of different food, excess, live music, fun atmosphere... the food is *not* meant to be outstanding, and the value of Carmen's brunch is very good. Go for a visit yourself... despite the nit-picks - this is a good meal (just skip the "champagne").

Visited Sunday, July 6 10:35 AM
Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel
700 Lackawanna Avenue
Scranton, Pennsylvania 18503