Got hunger? Get buffet

Columns What's for Lunch?

November 4, 2013

Story By: Rachel Breit | Photos by: Rachel Breit

For an empty stomach, a buffet is a welcome sight. An all-you-can-eat buffet is even better. What about an all-you-can-eat Korean yakiniku buffet? Well, like Camellia Buffet manager Kelly Park says, “If you like meat, this is meat heaven.” Camellia Buffet is also a welcome sight to bargain seekers with big appetites. At $17.95 for lunch, “you can eat all you want at a lower price,” says Park.

And have fun, too, which is evident as soon as you enter the eatery. The interactive cooking experience fills the restaurant with mouthwatering smells and sounds of chatter and laughter between bites. “You can get experience cooking here,” Park says. “Here, if you burn something, you can try again — try different meats and different styles of cooking.”

The buffet hosts all the desired fixings. Of course there is the variety of marinated meats and thick sliced veggies ready for the grill, but also available are assorted pickles, kimchi, salads, soup, rice, jello and fruit, not to mention condiments like miso sauce and garnishes of whole cloves of garlic. In addition to the elements of a DIY lunch, you’ll find some standout dishes ready to be dug into.

“While you’re waiting for meat to cook, you can munch on orange chicken,” says Park. Coated in house-made sauce infused with whole fresh oranges, the moist “chicken nugget-kine” chunks will bring out the kid in you, without the gooey, overly saccharine syrup that other orange chicken recipes boast.

Chow fun, another Chi-nese classic, was recently added to the buffet to pro vide those who can’t stand the heat — the peppery fire that dominates Korean cuisine — with a reprieve. The minimally seasoned, thick flour noodles are combined with julienned vegetables and laced with a hint of smokiness in a hot wok.

One more refreshing dish is the traditional Ko-rean jap chae, which features springy translucent sweet potato noodles, fla-vored with nutty sesame oil and oniony chives, paired with ribbons of vegetables and thin slices of marinated rib eye. Prefer a vegetarian version of the dish? Just ask.

“When you make man-doo by hand, you put your heart into it,” says Park. This is at the core of what makes Camellia Buffet’s fried man-doo stand out from others. Also in the mix is beef, tofu, egg, bean sprouts, cabbage and secret seasonings. The labor-intensive dumplings are made fresh each day, but the prep work for them begins well in advance.

So on your next lunch break, grab your coworkers and friends and sit down to a social meal around the grill. You may even brush shoulders with visitors from as far as South Amer-ica while filling up your plate at the buffet. International tour groups from “all over” add to Camellia Buffet’s convivial atmosphere, and prove that enjoying a meal with good company is a universal joy.

Camellia Buffet

930 McCully St.
Open daily, Lunch: 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner: 2:30-10 p.m.

Honolulu, HI 96826

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best