My guest and I have been trying to dine here for over a year now. A few complications, including having the time off and the energy for a drive down to states, were a few of the road blocks we faced. This coupled with previously failed attempts, made today’s final visit all the more sweeter. Today the buffet wasn’t closed and the line to enter wasn’t a couple of hours long. After all the food was descent, but certainly not worth a two hour wait to eat it, in under one. The timing and our hunger finally lined up.
When you know you are about to indulge in a large meal, where eating all you can is the challenge, you set yourself up for success. This was done by grazing early to get our metabolisms going and then starving yourself hours before. So we were prepared to truly eat all we could.
The buffet is in the “Tulalip” casino attached to the “Tulalip” hotel. Easily identified by its killer whale mascot. Walking in and judging solely by the bodies in front of the spinning slot machines, this was a popular destination. Dim lights, bright colours, and the happy noises of bells and chimes. I made the mistake of trying to take a picture of my surroundings and was asked to immediately stop.
The actual buffet is tucked away in its own little corner, right on the casino floor. A convenient way for those needing to take a break from their gambling to refuel with a large variety of foods. Now after 2pm there were no bodies lining up against the velvet stanchions. We were able to walk right up to one of the two cashiers barring the entrance.
Here they ask you to pay before you enter, and give you the option to tip while you are at it. I truly believe tipping is a show of appreciation for service, and therefore should not be collected nor asked for until after your stay. So certainly not today, not now, not before we were even seated. Yes, I realize majority of restauranteurs view tips as part of wage and under pay their servers. (This I have learned first hand working a few years in the food and hospitality industry, for a few fairly large casual chains.) But that doesn’t make the expectation of a tip any better. Tipping regardless is the norm now, good or bad. Though how much given still lays in the hands of the diners. I give 5-10% for poor service and food, 15% as the norm, and 20-30% for an experience that knocked my socks off. (And yes this is after taxes.) We gave accordingly, to who we were appreciating, when we concluded our time. As a regular diner, I feel that without the use of tipping to reward behaviour, how are you going to guarantee you get good service during your stay? With an entitled generation entering the work force and their minds set on the thinking that an entry level role is an easy thing to replace, my hopes for elevation in the service industry seem bleak. It is a sad thought knowing you have to pay someone to be cordial when engaging in their jobs, and to treat you with a general level of respect while they are at it. This isn’t the case all the time, but I find when I don’t enjoy my stay at any establishment this is the main reason why. The expectation of reward regardless of behaviour. The expectation that 15% is customary and the feeling of entitlement when it isn’t present. I will garner arguments here, but keep in mind that this is humbly my opinion, and I am entitled to it.
Finally the total came to $43.29 after taxes, for two. At $20 per head this was a generous deal. We were directed to our seats and instructed to wait for our server before venturing out to serve ourselves. She took our libation order and reassured us that any juices or soft drinks were included with our meal. This, when we originally settled for water.
The dining area is a sea of free standing tables and sagging bottomed booths. I am told, majority of which are filled regardless of time or day. As the hotel’s main restaurant, it is seated by those staying in their accommodations as well as tourists visiting the area. Hearing of the value in an all you can eat, who can stay away? If not want an initial try. The ceiling was painted to mimic a baby blue sky with white powdered clouds. It was awe setting, but unimpressive when compared to the ceiling-ed sky of the Paris Hotel in Vegas. I suspect this is where they took influence from. The sprinkling of lights against this backdrop looked like stars hanging in daylight. The carpet was a swirl of colour against maroon. Red, yellow, and green mixed together like a ribbon of tye dye. What I found an eye sore against everything else a little more lavish, offered an easy way to hide debris or food fallen throughout the day.
The buffet is arranged by sections and themed by cuisine type. The “Asian section” included covered dumplings, freshly fried spring rolls, saucy noodles and dry rice, sweet and sour pork, Kung pao beef, and even wrapped fortune cookies for good measure. I found this food the best. Chinese food remains relatively the same, even when sitting under a heat lamp for extended periods of time. All the sauces and seasonings do wonders in hiding potential lack of freshness.
The pasta bar featured the option to have a single serve portion prepared for you at custom. Here two chefs stood idle and waiting. Shame they didn’t actively approach guests perusing the metal trays before them. As during leisure not many of us bother to read signs, and as a result miss out on great opportunities. And truthfully it is the role of the servers to be that reminder for their guests. Surely the made to order pasta would prove an improvement over the batch left to sit and mushify. Choose your pasta, a few ingredients, and what sauce you want to coat it all. Marinara, Alfredo, Rose, and pesto. Though for those not wanting to wait, as I eluded to earlier, you can help yourself to a troth full of premade noodles. Cheese stuffed shells or others coated in a salmon flavoured cream sauce, with chilled pasta salad available at the build your own salad bar.
Speaking of salad, before today I have always wondered the need for salads at an all you can eat place. I see the mix of greens as only a filler and rather get more bang for my buck, in the form of pricer items. My thinking is, you want helpings of things a little more intricate than diced vegetables coated in a simple vinaigrette. Though after a few servings of deep fried, and all yellow and brown, I could have definitely use the freshness a spring salad offered.
At the Mexican themed bar you helped yourself to a heated corn tortilla and filled it with either mixed vegetables, sautéed meats, or seasoned rice. Side offers to this included chicken taquitos, onion rings, chicken wings, fried chicken, and other dishes more common to pubs fare.
At the meat station a chef stood behind the counter with several cuts before him, this is rotated regularly. His offerings included a whole prime rib and large beef brisket, he slices off sections for you on spot. This guarantees a certain succulence and a moistness in the meat. Like at the pasta station, it was your responsibility to engage the staff employed and draw their attention to helping you. Although I felt bad “bothering” the chef with fork and knife ready, I found the service he provided made a world of difference. And as a result this was indeed one of the better things I tried during this meal. I just wished he was friendlier and the cuts he gave me weren’t the ones sawed off as scrap. Sections laced with fat and tendons and ends hard from over cooking. I suppose I could have asked for better, though he already didn’t seem happy serving me. He stood unmoving, having me reach my plate under his sneeze guard glass and right under the potion he was willing to dole out.
In hind sight, I wished I by passed the above grief and just grabbed a slice of pizza. This didn’t look in house made, but more believable as the frozen kind from the large “Walmart” a few doors down.
The stir fry section saw two chefs sizzling up portions of raw foods on their circular grill. You choose what you wanted out of a selection of precut and uncooked vegetables, meat, and noodles. The concept is identical to the “Mongolie Grill” or any food-court wok services. Except here your portion is not weighed and you have the freedom to pile on as much as you like; with no metal dish as base weight. This too was left unadvertised, worked by two men more concerned with talking to one another than addressing guests. Though truth is, I guess it doesn’t matter if such services are known. From the perspective of the employees it is all you can eat, and their extra labour comes at no additional cost to us, and benefit to them. Either way they get paid.
Desserts took up the most real estate. Refrigerated showcases of sliced pies, coolers of ice cream served by the scoop, and waffles pressed on sight. There was even a section for those needing sugar free options. The cakes, pies, and squares included what looked like: apple pie, lemon meringue, nanimo bars, fruity granola bars, brownies, chocolate cake, angel food cake; and many others I couldn’t identify, as they all were left unlabelled. You definitely pointed and choose with your eyes. Cupcakes and cookies were ready without the need for assistance, left out in the open. And the ice cream selection came with a build your own sundae bar. Pumps of syrups and scoops of ground up cookie, chocolate, and nuts. There was even a whipped cream machine doling out fresh strands of the white stuff.
Round one is sussing things out and trying a little of what catches your eye. Here you get more than you can finish and take bites of what you want, leaving the rest on your plate. The hope is that this plate will be bussed by the time you come back with a clean one filled. This potion included prime rib, turkey and cranberry stuffing, mashed potato with self labelled beef gravy, ricotta cheese stuffed jumbo shells, smoked salmon pasta, Mexican corn, pork pot stickers, fried chicken thigh, and a beef taquito.
Round two is now knowing what you like and going back for more, while willing to try what you consider the second best of everything. Beef brisket with barbecue sauce, mashed potato with turkey gravy, onion rings, buffalo wings, and fried rice.
Round three is giving up on the idea of renewing flavours and is the refusal to waste precious stomach room by trying new things. Here you stick with what you have tried and consume only what you like. More fried chicken, potato, beef brisket, onion rings, and a sweet and sour chicken nugget.
Round four is your smallest portion. Here you are trying to fit more food in, but not so much that you can’t enjoy a healthy dessert. A plate more for show, it reassures yourself that you are eating all you can and that you are really pushing yourself to your bodily limits. The Asian theme, what I found most enjoyable. Potstickers, teriyaki noodles, fried rice, sweet and sour pork, Kung pao beef, and stir fried mixed vegetable.
Desert started with what I liked the most: an ice cream sundae in a waffle bowl, with a side of buttermilk waffle and fresh machined whipped cream. I spotted a bucket of waffle bowls behind the counter and wasn’t shy to declare my want in one. Luckily the gentleman working the ice cream station was delightfully friendly (even more so when compared to his peers at the entree stations). He added humour to our interaction and asked me to come back when I was done with number one. With full intention to deck this ice cream sundae out with every topping available, I carefully selected vanilla as my double scoop. Bypassing the familiar chocolate, green tea, mocha, and triple berry; and the more exciting “raspberry velvet cake”, “killer whale”, “Mukilteo Mud”, and “cherry almond fudge ripple”. On my sundae I had strawberry syrup, chocolate sauce, Oreo crumbs, crushed peanuts, and rainbow sprinkles. As excited as I was for this, it was the most disappointing ice cream I have ever had. It tasted watered down, more foamy milk than rich creamy vanilla. And the additional toppings offered no help. The waffles were cut into quarters and left to stay warm in a heated basin. I was too sheepish to ask for one fresh based on the service I have been getting. Though with both waffle presses free, it would have been a possibility.
A chocolate cheese cake rectangle and a chocolate brownie square. This was overkill. I wanted to nibble, and couldn’t afford the stomach space to devour. At the place I was, this was too decadent and offered no eating value. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that this too was purchased premade else where.
There was just too much. I ate too much. Too much to have to describe each element in the vigorous detail I usually get into. Instead I will best describe things as a lump sum score: food 4/10 and overall 7/10. My guest ranked the former higher at a 7 and the later at a 7.5. The turkey was dry, the beef brisket barely seasoned, the taquitos burnt; and I am sure the onion rings, potstickers, spring rolls, and pizza were all the store bought frozen kind. Though keeping the price in mind and knowing the genre before hand, you get all that you expect. How else do you get to try this much with no consequence for this little? You get what you pay for so no complaints here. After all nothing was bad enough to spit out. It was all okay.
I was surprised to see smoking in the restaurant, as the gentleman at the table next lit up an after meal smoke. Taking Canadian law for granted and the inability to smoke in restaurants as a fixed thing. The same scene was replicated in the casino washrooms.
Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Everything was good, nothing overtly bad; but none of which I need to try again. I took what I wanted from that experience. All the greasy starchy-ness I could handle. I left full with the longing for something fresh, but feeling too bloated to satisfy this urge. Though I wonder how anyone is capable of making ice cream less enjoyable, or would want to
Though once again, for the price of the lot, I can’t complain. I certainly got what I paid for. Food that fills and goes through you. Don’t deny your cravings.