Budget vs. Palate
To all the mothers out there who have ever asked, “If all of your friends were jumping off of a cliff, would you?,” here is my answer: it depends. As much as we’d all like to think we’re fiercely independent, we are all susceptible to the persuasiveness of our peers at one time or another. Otherwise a stellar student in high school, I was once suspended for drinking on a school field trip overnighter. When asked by my parents if I was sorry for participating in the drinking, I wasn’t. I would have done it over in a heartbeat just for the camaraderie. These days, I’d like to think I have better judgment.
However, on a few occasions, I still find myself somewhere I otherwise wouldn’t be, had it not been for someone else urging me on. That’s how I made it to DJ Asian Buffet one night last week.
If what you prefer is quantity over quality, you’ll enjoy DJ Asian Buffet. For $14.95, you can eat to your heart’s content at their buffet of food stations, which offer a smorgasbord of sushi, tempura, fried items like orange chicken, seafood including crab legs and oysters, and desserts. There is even one station where egg drop soup, dumplings, and pizza share the same table. Although I fail to see the connection, I assume they figure someone is bound to bring along a picky eater.
When it comes to buffets, I count myself among the pickiest. My past experiences with buffets have been disappointing, with no amount of monetary savings having been worth the loss in epicurean satisfaction. So you’ll understand my reticence when several of my colleagues and family members raved about DJ Asian Buffet. Upon hearing my skepticism about the quality of all-you-can-eat sushi, a coworker insisted that DJ’s sushi was really good and made even better because of the affordable price. She was right – the sushi does make visiting this particular buffet worthwhile if you’re planning to eat a lot of it. The tuna and salmon sushi, the roe, and the various rolls with avocado were good and filling. Had I stuck to eating just these items, I could have easily gotten my $14.95’s worth.
Unfortunately, I decided to venture out beyond the sushi. The tempura rolls were limp, some containing octopus pieces with a rubbery texture to them. The fried shrimp balls, crystal dumplings, and sesame balls were squishy and filled with macerated mush. The desserts included fried and candied wonton strips, almond cookies, a mini whipped cream pie, a flaky-type of cake, and a spongy cake roll filled with vanilla cream. Most of the desserts fell short of hitting a final sweet note, and the wontons tasted like humidified frosted flakes. Besides the aforementioned sushi pieces, the only other saving grace was the bottle of Tsing Tao that only cost me $3.50.
Located in the Point Happy shopping center on the northwest corner of the intersection of Washington and Highway 111 in La Quinta, DJ Asian Buffet is the second eatery to set up shop in the shell that formerly housed The Falls Prime Steakhouse. There were six other small parties that came in and out while I was there on a Monday evening, which made for two large, empty, dining rooms. The white walls are devoid of much décor, making the rooms feel even sparser. The ambient music, a contemporary mix of Top 40 Urban hits, seemed out of place. There wasn’t much interaction between the staff and their diners, either. Mostly stand-offish, the servers appeared too shy to pick up dirty plates and ask if there was anything else I would like and only too eager to drop off my check and get me out of there.
It takes all kinds to make the world go ‘round. Although I continue to be of the buffet-averting persuasion, you might not be. If this is the case, DJ Asian Buffet may be for you. Unfortunately, I can think of several other local places that offer better sushi at affordable prices without the cost and obligation of a whole buffet.
Next time, when someone tries to convince me to go against my better judgment, I’ll go with my gut.
If You Go – DJ Asian Buffet. 78430 Hwy 111, La Quinta, CA. 760.771.9898
Sarah Romero wants to feel the love. Open up and send her your suggestions for restaurants to review to @iheartdates at http://twitter.com/iheartdates. You might just catch her in a vulnerable state of hunger.
(as originally published in The Bottom Line Magazine and at http://psbottomline.com/community/on-your-plate/budget-vs-palate on April 19, 2012, in Volume 31 Issue 17)