1/2 Makkoli’s fluorescent glare, strip mall location and impervious daycare flooring suited for a carpet sweeper, do not mask an hidden suburban jewel. This all-you-can-eat Japanese buffet is exactly what you would expect for unlimited $20.99 sushi. Perhaps strangest of all, this is not a chain.
I was hoping for a Minado (whatever happened to the proposed Edison location?) but this canary yellow room with only The Weather Channel on mute for distraction, didn’t quite make up for the disappointment of being quoted an hour-plus waiting time at Bonefish Grill one parking lot over, my original plan.
That’s not to say that throughout my stint there weren't waits for seats; long tables were filled with Asian-American families with New Jersey accents, Chinese-Chinese whose only English consisted of “Pepsi,” a gaggle of bikers staking out the corner and more than a few middle aged, date night couples with bottles of wine.
Alcohol did not appear to be on the menu, there is no menu, so the wine confused me. It never would’ve occurred to me to bring wine into a buffet, though it would certainly elevate the experience. I would’ve gladly downed a few glasses of Charles Shaw.
The seaweed, octopus and jellyfish salads were fine. The sashimi was mushy and they oysters weren’t chilled sufficiently.
This is a small sampling of the cooked food row, which contained more Chinese dishes like prawns with walnuts and mayonnaise, scallion pancakes and dumplings. I picked up shrimp tempura, a rib, a breaded, fried crab chunk (I never understand coating on top of a shell) and a grilled prawn. The hit of any buffet is always the king crab legs; people will shove for them. I just can’t get excited about cracking and picking.
Sushi round. The variety and flavor is better than what you’d find in most NYC refrigerated cases. Ok, that’s not saying much, but if grab-and-go lunchtime rolls are your benchmark you’ll be fine with Makkoli.
I didn’t photograph my dessert plate. You can choose from Jello, those unsatisfying but pretty chiffon cakes you find in Asian bakeries and scoop-your-own-ice cream (I’d never seen green tea that brightly colored before) that created a traffic jam in the dessert section. Don't they know that buffets need soft serve machines?
More interesting to me were the Phil-Am (fortuitous, because I needed bagoong for a kare kare recipe the next day) and closed Russian Restaurant (I’ve never encountered Russian food in such a setting) in the same mall complex.
Makkoli * 415 Rt. 18, East Brunswick, NJ