China Pearl Super Buffet

Written by on May 28, 2011 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

(No website found at time of publishing) – North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa, Florida

How I heard of this place: Flora recommended hitting up the Chinese buffet on our way back from two hours of sun and swimming at Clearwater beach. It sounded like this was one of Carl & Flora’s go-to restaurants; even Chris recognized the newly renovated interior.

Type of cuisine: Chinese, sushi, American. Everything from General Tso’s chicken to Crab Rangoon, gyoza to fried plantains, boiled dumplings and fried chicken to crinkle-cut fries, fish sticks and won ton soup. Two large buffets of meats and vegetables, and one smaller buffet for the sushi, fruit (limited to watermelon) and desserts: cake, ice cream, coconut macaroons, chocolate pudding, fried sesame balls with red bean paste and Asian-style donuts tossed in sugar.

Ambiance: The red and yellow exterior, from signage to roof to outside walls with green accents surround an almost completely windowless, one-story building. The entryway opens up onto a small foyer with a brown, wooden shelving unit ornamented with Chinese artwork and a gold, waving cat figure. A small, jade elephant holds sprouting bamboo on its back, as patrons make their way into the restaurant. The large, open, newly renovated seating area, offers chair and booth seating around thickly laminated wooden tables, some in a deep burgundy, others in lighter cream colors. Waist-height walls are built to separate spaces one from the other, creating more intimate settings where larger parties can maintain boundaries. Red-cushioned and backed chairs with green legs or red faux-leather booth benches sit next to the tables, which are set far enough apart to allow for ease of getting up and sitting back down with new plates of food, piled high. Staff are always readily available, but inconspicuous, which gives the impression of empty plates mysteriously disappearing as you are taking your last bite or are at the buffet for your second, third or fourth helping. The music of Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey can be heard overhead, set to elevator-themes creating a light lounge feel.

What I ordered: The four of us eating at China Pearl enjoyed the buffet. I sampled nearly one of everything: Crab Rangoon, General Tso’s Chicken, Sesame Chicken, Bourbon Chicken, Sweet & Sour Pork, Broccoli & Beef, chow mein, rice noodles with spring onions and egg, a chicken nugget, grilled potatoes, fried bananas, mushrooms, green beans, broccoli, stuffed mushrooms, Pepper chicken, teriyaki chicken, and then I made my way to the dessert bar. I had two Sesame Balls, one and a half donuts, tasted the coconut macaroon, a bite of white cake with a thin layer of cream & strawberry preserves, and a spoon of chocolate pudding.

What I loved: Of the main entrees, I most enjoyed the Pepper Chicken. One of my dining companions agreed, with General Tso’s getting our third dining companions rave review. Our fourth diner enjoyed the fried chicken and desserts! I always like the sesame balls and this occasion was no different. But the thick, fried dough(nut) was delicious and warranted a full one to myself, rather than solely the first, shared donut.

Why I loved it: I loved that the food was served in smaller dishes so that it could be freshly topped in less time than many buffets I have visited. The space was clean, quiet and open. Our dishes were picked up quickly, inviting us to return to the buffets for more…and more…

Cost: Average

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