There are nearly 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia, and most, if not all, are represented within New York City’s diverse population. These communities bring with them their unique traditions and cultures that can be experienced in the five boroughs. A great way to immerse yourself in the diversity of Asian culture is through food. Can sampling 20 dishes be enough? How about 200 dishes across eight all-you-can-eat Asian restaurants, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and some Asian fusion? Dive into this boundless Asian culinary experience with these eight all-you-can-eat Asian restaurants in NYC.
Start at The Buffet (20-07 127th St., 4th fl.) in College Point, Queens. Founded in 2012, it has over 70 dishes and over 25 dessert options, including a dim sum bar, a carving station and a seafood bar. Try the fu qi fei pian (fu qi means husband and wife, fei pian means lung slice), made with sliced beef and trimmings like heart, tongue and tripe, bathed in Sichuan peppercorn, sesame seeds, chili oil, garlic, sugar and salt. Grab some stir-fried snail. Use a toothpick to scoop out the meat after slurping at the shell opening. Sample the salt-and-pepper frog legs, which have a tender texture softer than baked chicken and chewier than fish filet. Get the hand-carved Peking duck, a skin-on roasted duck dish from Beijing, sliced to fit into a bun and topped with shredded green scallion, cucumbers and a spread of hoisin sauce. Finish off with a sweet dessert soup: the papaya with white wood ear, a tasteless, translucent colored mushroom with a jellylike texture, known in Chinese medicine to promote health.
Wonder Pig K-BBQ
At Wonder Pig K-BBQ (37-08 Queens Blvd.) in Long Island City, Queens, indulge in Korean barbecue, in which meat is marinated with fruit juices like kiwi, pear and pineapple to tenderize the protein, and cooked on a grill over heated charcoal right at your table. Before getting seated on the knee-height ottoman, notice that the top is removable and can be used to store outerwear and bags. On the walls, there are flat-screen televisions playing Korean music videos. For starters, try gyeranjjim, a steamed egg dish, cooked in ttukbaegi, an earthenware bowl that maximizes heat retention. The dish arrives sizzling, and the egg has a silky texture with flavors of anchovy broth and green scallions. There are more than 10 grill selections for lunch and around twice that many for dinner, including seafood options like spicy squid. Order the pork jowl, which is chewy, tender and less fatty than pork belly.
Another Korean barbecue option is Picnic Garden (154-05 Northern Blvd.) in Flushing, Queens. Try the LA galbi, marinated bone-in beef short rib, and saeng galbi, prime beef short rib. Eat it solo or wrap it in the red leaf lettuce—so freshly washed that water droplets are still visible. Grill the marinated octopus and watch it curl as it heats. Dig into an assortment of fermented vegetables: kkakdugi, the spicy cubed radish, or oi muchim, seasoned cucumbers—all marinated with rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, hot pepper flakes and sugar for a flavor that is sweet, spicy and sour. The raw white radish is believed to help digest oil and fat. Meanwhile, slide the aluminum cup filled with shredded mozzarella cheese, whole kernel corn and vegetables onto the tabletop grill.
Jaew Hon New York
Stepping into the southeast region of Asia, head over to Jaew Hon New York (71-30 Roosevelt Ave.) in Jackson Heights, Queens, that serves Thai-style all-you-can-eat hot pot. Walk into the brightly colored venue with decor that includes elements like Thai calligraphy and foldable fans. Ingredients are cooked in a soup base and dipped in a sauce. For soup bases, opt for the yen ta fo (bean curd soup) or the mushroom option. Order the chicken, beef or pork broth. Try some organ meats out of the many selections: beef and pork liver or pork kidney. The experience lies in the variety of chewiness and texture. With over 10 vegetable selections, order the morning glory (water spinach), a crispy bite at its roots, a hollow stem and a soft bite at its leaves. Dip items in three sauce options, going from spiciest to least spicy. Do save room for carbs, such as the garlic fried rice. For drinks (not included in the price), have the butterfly pea iced tea. Once brewed, it develops a natural blue and purple coloring. Or try the longan juice, which arrives with the fruit, native to Asia, that tastes sweet and has a texture similar to that of lychee.
Spring Shabu Shabu
Another hot pot choice is Spring Shabu Shabu (136-20 38th Ave., 2nd fl.) in Flushing, Queens, a Japanese-style experience. Unlike places where a cooking pot is shared among a group, here each person gets an individual pot. There are options of a gluten-free soup base, the bonito flakes and kelp broth; or a vegetarian choice of mushroom and vegetables. The Chinese mala soup is another option, with spicy broad bean paste and soybean oil added to a pork bone base. Buffet prices here only include vegetable items, and add-ons are available for seafood or meat. Check out the noodle bar, which offers choices like spinach-flavored noodle, soba, fresh pumpkin noodle, ramen and udon. Get the lotus root, a crispy or tender bite depending on how long it is boiled. Toss in sliced taro—a bit denser than baked sweet potato. Meat add-ons include beef belly, beef top blade or lamb. Seafood options include white fish or shellfish, like top neck clams, crab and shrimp. Beverages range from domestic to imported ones from Japan and Korea. Cocktails and white and red wines are also available. Finish with soft-serve ice cream: matcha, vanilla or a mix.
For a Chinese-style hot pot, check out Laojie Hotpot (811 53rd St.) in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Inside, there are posters of women in traditional Chinese attire: qipao, a high collar dress that hugs the body and has side splits. Antique sewing machines, retro rotary telephones and a cassette player embellish the decor. In the waiting area, there are tables and stools to play traditional Chinese board games like weiqi, a strategy game for two players, and Chinese chess. Each pot has a divider, so pick two broths like the spicy soup made with about 20 ingredients including tangerine peel, star anise, dried chili peppers, bay leaves and cinnamon. Partner it with a non-spicy option such as the herbal soup or bone cylinder soup. There are over 20 vegetables from which to choose. Go for the tong ho, a vegetable from the daisy family that has an herbal and woodsy smell. Try the Chinese yam, a white vegetable that once boiled has a chew like baked potato. Among the seafood options, order the fish paste, which is minced fish fillet. Out of the almost 20 meat dishes, get the pork blood, which resembles and has a texture like that of firm tofu. An optional add-on is all-you-can-eat barbecue skewer, again with lots of meat, seafood and vegetable options. Ask for chicken gizzards or pork belly with enoki mushrooms.
Akino (82-80 Broadway) in Elmhurst, Queens, is an all-you-can-eat Japanese place. Start off with appetizers like the kani salad (imitation crabmeat) and tempura. Order the squid or the sweet potato tempura. Try the sushi pizza—find out if it comes with cheese or tomato sauce. Sample the red snapper jalapeño. Move on to the sushi and sashimi section, and go for the escolar (white tuna) or ikura (salmon roe). There are dozens of rolls, not including the nearly 20 signature ones. Get the Akino signature roll, made with spicy kani, cucumber and eel.
Crab House All You Can Eat Seafood
Dine at Crab House All You Can Eat Seafood (135 E. 55th St.) in Midtown East, Manhattan, for an Asian fusion seafood experience. There are two prices for the seafood buffet—one including lobster, one without. The entire table must order the same buffet option, and dishes are made to order and brought to the table. Opt for the salt-and-pepper or garlic-butter lobster. The roughly 20 selections from the sea include raw, wild caught oysters; snow crab legs; Dungeness crab; crawfish; and fresh, raw clams. Try the flounder with sweet-spicy sauce that arrives sizzling on a plate. Get the whole steamed sea bass, seasoned with ginger and green scallion slices. Order the flat iron steak and some baby back ribs from the meat offerings. Complement your choices with sides of broccoli in brown sauce or some items to munch on like Cajun fries or edamame.