CHOPSTICKS BUFFET  (CHINESE)




CHOPSTICKS  SUPER BUFFET CLEARWATER
2543 Countryside Blvd, Suite #1
Clearwater, FL 33761   10/19/2018  When they opened Chopsticks was very clean and inviting. I do not rate a place that I casually visited once, Over the years I have eaten there maybe twenty-seven or so times.   That was then and this is now... and now had a problem and now changed hands and was never the same four years ago. The owners of a this very popular Chinese buffet in Countryside got caught and sentenced for harboring, transporting, and exploiting illegal aliens after a Homeland Security investigation that began in 2011-2013  

I cannot discuss more on that issue, more in Hillsboro County.   I di see some of the reports.  But it was part of an “inter city investigation” that entailed these four places which I ate at were help-wise so alike. They were convicted in late 2013.  The place has deteriorated, gone down hill, the foods not as good and the shabby and they added a TIP fee for busing?  Now its closer to 17.00 for dinner,   and never enough of the crab you are paying for which their friends all grab.   Dirty etc, food not properly stored etc.  


THEN AND NOW - MANY YEARS AGO
Chopsticks uniquely for a crowded place,  very clean and inviting at one time. I do not rate a place that I casually visited once, I make three trips over time, noting the changes and trends, those portable tiny flash recorders are great for notes.  I rated it the best.  Over the years I have dined maybe twenty-seven or so times. We were always greeted, seated and drinks brought quickly. 

That was then and this is now... and now had a problem and now changed hands and was never the same four years ago. The owners of a this very popular Chinese buffet in Countryside got caught and sentenced for harboring, transporting, and exploiting illegal aliens after a Homeland Security investigation that began in 2011.

Three other Chinese Buffets got tagged also.  I always wondered why all of these four places which I ate at were help-wise so alike. They were convicted in late 2013.  Two were owned by one guy, thats collusion.

I hate seeing a place go down hill, and after last night I concluded that this place could not qualify for a buffet service in some third world gulags.   Some of the food I decided to not eat as when I turned it over, it was not fresh, and rather than get sick I passed. 

One example:  The Kim-Chee which is a Korean staple, not Chinese, looked “ contaminated”.   I love Kim-Chee but not that brave, it looked like last weeks and disgusting.  Lots of things I never saw in KimChee looked dirty and unknown...  The crab legs were terrible, from another planet, the shrimp, cheap quality and much of the food looked like it hd been there a few days.

Business is off and I think they are holding food over in the chiller and for service the next day as some of the crab legs were so mushy you could not get the inside out they just "mooshed into nothing".  I have no other word for it. I was cutting both ends off and shoving a straw to push the meat out and finally gave up. I pitched it, showed it to the girl and she smiled. I passed on the snow crab.

Last year, It was just that bad, worse than I reviewed it and even offered to suggest things they could do to improve. But I got the bank stare routine. Four years ago, I knew the origional owners and they did a good job, I could communicate with the two of them.  Not this crew.  

When Clearwater Immigration which was nationally praised for their investigation proved four of four of the Chinese buffets here were involved, and got tagged for various violations, not to mention the food police. Fines and jail time.

Two closed avoiding fines and one got sold.  Another eatery now offers Vietnamese - Lao style cooking. One reopened a year later. I’m not that brave.  The last time I gave them break. So a year later ( now)and the urge to go back to a place I visited a while back if I felt they had gone downhill a bit always believing they would wake up and do things right.

I was wrong. Nothing was right.  At one time I thought this was best in Tampa Bay for American Chinese dinner of sorts.     I have been to many places in China and this is not what they eat. You would probably would NOT be happy in an authentic Chinese street restaurant. No one is comfortable with food that stares back. Chinese street food is not bad, cooked in flame and in front of you,  and if you have a friend like Zimmern does to coach you and bring along the Zantac and Super-Tums.

In the old days they had everything usually found in US Chinese fare, from lo-mein, egg-rolls, spring rolls, chicken many different ways, shrimp, raw and cooked in various sauces. The roasted chicken, the oysters, the mussels and the snow crab were either ice cold or hot and fresh. 

REAL CHINA FOOD  IS AN ART
In a cuisine sit-down mid to high end, Chinese restaurant you may be served twenty or more small servings one at a time and it’s a long affair of delicious and unique dishes. Think of it as they bring the buffet to you one dish at a time.


SNOW CRAB WARS
The usual battles for the snow crab, some folks go there and try to steal the whole bin and not share. Thats normal so I wait and letting people know I’m next and if they jump the line you might just get to wait since I grabbed both tongs and they had none.  At six two and 215 and a shirt that says Ranger I did not get an argument.  Till one idiot pushed ahead of everybody.   I told him his name was “ six”  and thats where his position was in the line. 

My other pet peeve was when people inspect every piece of food in the serving bin. I told one woman if she played enough with the Chicken she would probably revive it.  She cursed me out in a southeast Asian language. I replied in her tongue and some English and threatened to call immigration.

Another occasion, just when I was ready to get some crab, One table of four just cleaned the whole tray of snow crab and all the crawfish. I didn't care this time because the ones I got seemed like leftover from the day before, they were mush. And the meal was deteriorating into a bad experience.

Let them have mush all they want. I waited again and finally got some and they're just the same...small and tasteless. Nothing exhibited anomalies that would deter you from trying them except they were so soft like being double cooked, no crisp breaks on the shells. Soaking too long.

NOT REALLY RIGHT AND FOOD WARS
😡  The extensive fruit, desert and salad bar was right on, cold and fresh. “Fresh” defines how the front manager tends the food and communicates with the kitchen. 
😡  Some hots were OK but the Chicken on the stick and anything not in sauce was not hot at all. And looked old.
😡   Some The salads were good and cold. Some needed turning as they were turning colors.
😡  But some of the dishes piled high like the Crawfish were not hot as they should be and that was solved by an Asian family that walked in and took the whole tray anyway. 
😡  The mussels were about half the size of the ones they served during the tourist season, very small but they were on ice, you just took twice as many. And the replacements were just as small, but were dried out.
😡  So much for the shrimp you-peel-em, they were small and tough. 
😡  The Sushi which I once raved about as the best in Clearwater is no more, it looked old, tasted old and the two Sushi chefs were in their own world. It did not have the the fresh enticing look of Sushi made well. Half were falling apart. 

Whatever...
😡  Basically the seafood side was not up to par as was the price for the buffet raised by two dollars and they added a 10% tip which does not show on the billing, another discussion I will have with them.   One must disclose that to a customer. $36 dollars for two on this buffet was a sham. 

😡  The quality of the food was sub-par and looked like much of it came from the lunch crowd. The food police if they had walked in would have stopped the serving on the service tables as not being within temperature. My visual thermometer told me it was not correct.  

😡  They average 26 violations on their last two inspections…I'm done with them, the place is getting weathered, doesn't look like its had a good cleaning for a long time... and the food was terrible, and no one ssemed to care. i'm hoping I'll be OK in 48 hours...