Alright, I'll admit it. There once was a time that I feasted on all-you-can-eat joints. Yah, I was hungry and quality did not matter much. However, as time passed, it became apparent that this type of gorging was unhealthy and not very tasty. Mind you, there are some exceptions to the rule; but for the most part, we really do make compromises when we do a buffet. Naturally, there must be realistic expectations and trust me, I do go into an AYCE with minimal needs. Despite those minimalistic expectations, there are some places that just defy the point of a restaurant. You know, that place that you must travel to, spend money on and hopefully be an edible experience. If you've been reading this blog, you know that Kawawa would inevitably be mentioned. Yah, it's not a fine-dining experience nor is it even authentic Japanese food, so I should not complain right? That's what someone told me to do. Hello!?!? I'm paying well over $20.00 per person for unacceptable food. I don't care if I'm paying $2.00. If it ain't good, it ain't good. Okay, with that off my chest, I now bring you to the next candidate for worst AYCE in the GVRD. When you think that it can't get much worse than Kawawa, we have Il Uk Jo (or should I call it "Ill, Yuk, No!").
Proclaiming themselves as a Japanese and Korean buffet, I should've known better already. However, ever since I spotted the place quite a while ago and then being almost tempted to try it when I ate next door at Saigon Pho To Go, I finally did it. A few people had asked if I had tried it and were quite curious. Well, I think curiosity not only killed the cat, I probably would've done better eating it. So originally, Pomegranate and I were going to eat at another place; but due to certain events, it led us to Il Uk Jo. Either it was fate or someone wanted me to suffer today. Everything started alright as we got a good parking spot and were led to a nice semi-private booth. Unfortunately the place was devoid of natural light and I had to use the flash.
We had 2 choices for the AYCE lunch menu. There is the standard AYCE for $12.99 and the deluxe for $15.99 (or should I say "delux" like the misprint on the menu). We went for the deluxe since it included sashimi, sushi and prawn tempura. As with most Korean meals, we started with some Banchan which consisted of bean sprouts, stewed potatoes, kimchi and gomae (yah I know, that's Japanese, but I threw it in there anyways). Although it was a crunchy kimchi, I actually liked it, as with the other items. The gomae was a bit too sweet though. After that, this is where the roller coaster ride starts. Looking more like perogies than Gyozas, these pathetically oily things were terrible. Despite its deep-fried appearance, these are actually pan fried (in how much grease, I can only imagine). Pan-fried gyozas should not have the texture of fried wontons. Oh, it gets better (or worse should I say). The Tonkatsu sure looks alright in the picture; yet looks can be deceiving. The pork hidden within the crunchy breading had the texture of cartilage. Yes, it would've been okay if we were expecting cartilage... And don't even get me started on the sauce. Let's just say they make a great sweet & sour cartilage.
However, the Prawn Tempura was fantastic! Yah, you heard me right, it was excellent. Served hot and crispy, the prawn itself was sweet and cooked perfectly. Mind you, that was probably the eye of the storm passing through because the sushi was terrible. Okay, looking at the Dynamite Roll, it looks decent, right? Well, one bite into it and *crunch*. Oh, the prawn tempura must be crunchy, yes? Nope. Huh??? Look at the piece of avocado. It had the texture of an apple. For the love of... why put a severely unripe piece of avocado in the roll??? Were they looking for a textural contrast with the gummy rice, which was devoid of any flavour? No idea, but it sucked. Surely the rest of the sushi was better right? The picture sure looks decent! Yah, it does look okay eh? However, the rice, as mentioned, is just horrible. It was hard, gummy and dry all at the same time. Don't ask me how they accomplished that. As for the fish, the salmon was decent, while the tuna was not. I'm not sure if they were mimicking Lost because the Spicy Salmon and Tuna were in an alternate reality when spicy means sweet.
But the strangest thing of the entire meal was the Korean BBQ. All the beef and chicken (in its marinade) arrived on the grilling plate. So when placed on the burner (which was weaker than a hotplate), it essentially began boiling the meat in its own marinade. So, trying to prevent having a weird version of shabu shabu, we moved the meat onto the cooking surface (which was stone cold). As you can see, the result was essentially boiled meat that finished cooking on a lukewarm "BBQ". This has to be the most unsatisfying version of Korean BBQ I've ever had. We've had hot pot that is closer to BBQ than this (at Grand Honour).
Fortunately, the Chicken Karaage was quite juicy and flavourful. However, there was enough batter on these things to make Tammy Faye Baker's face look normal. I had to remove it so I could actually get to the meat. When the Motoyaki arrived, I was a bit confused at the serving vessel. Looking like French-Japanese fusion gone wrong, the various versions of motoyaki (oyster, mussel and fish) were actually quite decent. The tangy almost like "thousand islands" sauce with the fish was surprisingly good. In the same class as Kawawa, this unsatisfying meal was not to be unexpected considering the location. However, it had some extremely low points such as the sushi rice, pathetic Korean BBQ, gyozas and tonkatsu. Yes, there were some good items; but honestly, for the price we paid, it cannot be considered acceptable. Luckily for them, there is not much in the way of competition nearby.
- Good selection of items on the AYCE menus
- For us at least, the service was decent
- It made me forget about Kawawa
- Other than a few decent items, overall food quality is poor
- Hot items were not really all that hot
- The Korean BBQ is a joke