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Ming Kui Lau Chinese Buffet – A Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

This was one of our favorite places to go for a casual, cheap family meal on the weekends before my gastric bypass surgery.  It probably was a big part of the reason I NEEDED gastric bypass surgery.  Ming Kui Lau is in the same parking lot as our bank, and I have to admit, when we pulled into the bank last week to make a deposit, and Jim suggested we go in and have dinner, I was nervous.  I was afraid that I wouldn’t find anything pouch-worthy to eat, and I was really nervous that I would find too much that I could eat and fall into old patterns and bad habits that would affect my current weight.  How this affects my habits from this time forward remains to be seen, but I did find a few things I could eat.  And I enjoyed my meal.

I try generally to avoid fried and breaded foods.  Well, it’s a Chinese buffet, so half the stuff there is going to be fried/breaded/drowned in sauce.  So after deciding I might have to eat some fried stuff, I sought out the things that would be most beneficial to me.  When you go in, there are 5 buffet stations.  On your left, there is a salad bar and cold seafood bar (okay, there were only peel and eat shrimp and mussels), and a hot buffet with a selection of soups and some very UN-Chinese entrees.  This particular night, there was pre-made fajitas, shrimp scampi, roast turkey breast, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and some other offerings.  The one thing on this part of the buffet that I enjoyed were the steamed crab legs.  You definitely got tiny pieces of crab, and I had the misfortune of going to this buffet on the same night as some jerk who felt it was his right and obligation to COMPLETELY EMPTY the tray when he went to the buffet, but it wasn’t over cooked and crab is a food I can eat pretty easily, so I enjoyed the few small pieces I was able to grab in between the jerk’s visits.

On your right, there is a buffet against the wall that offers most of the fried foods.  You’ll find fried chicken, egg rolls, french fries, onion rings, chunks of hot dogs wrapped in bacon, fried scallops, fried imitation crab leg meat, and fried crab claws.   I chose two scallops, which didn’t appear too heavily breaded, and one of the crab claws, figuring they were both foods that I knew I could comfortably eat that would be packed with protein.  If worse came to worse, I thought I could peel the breading off, and just eat the seafood underneath.  I also took one piece of the fried faux crab, mostly because you could see the pink color under the breading, so I assumed that would be a safe choice.

Alongside the fried food, there is a selection of fresh fruit, jello, pudding, and what looks like flan.  Behind this buffet, there is another station of all Chinese food.  You’ll find typical Americanized Chinese food here – sweet and sour chicken, dumplings, chicken teriyaki, boneless spare ribs, Chinese vegetables, fried rice, lo mein, etc.  I cruised through the line, and picked out some more artificial crab out of a dish called simply “seafood in butter”.  It looked like the Krab, small shrimp, and some thin white fish floating in butter, but I let the butter drain off as much as I could back into the tray before dropping it on my plate.  There were mussels in black bean sauce, which I used to enjoy, but mussels can be a little tough, so I skipped them.

Also on this side is the dessert and sushi station.  The desserts include a smooth and creamy soft serve ice cream – vanilla, chocolate, or swirl; a collection of bite sized cakes – which tonight include a carrot cake and a yellow cake with a white and raspberry frosting, and at least two other selections.  Then there are premade sushi rolls – simple ones, but I didn’t try those because rice is not always my friend.

The food I tried tasted good – with the possible exception of the fried Krab thing.  I chose not to finish the fried crab claw, because it was not really “breaded” so much as it was probably crabmeat, chopped up, mixed with breading, and deep fried.  There was no way to separate the crab from the bread.  The scallops were really tasty, and I ended up eating them with the breading on them, because it wasn’t that heavy.  The seafood in butter was tasty, but I knew I was limited to one small portion of that due to the amount of butter sauce it was in.

Jim stuck to the most benign things you can find in this type of environment – seafood options and vegetables – but this is certainly not the best place to go for healthy food choices.  I think even he realized, though, that we cannot go back to eating here like we used to, but for a once in a great while treat, it was okay.

Eilis, who loved this restaurant on previous visits, loved it again this time.  She tried more things, I think, than she has in the past, and she really steered clear of the American foods and opted for more of the Asian things.  But, she is her mother’s daughter and found the most appeal in the fried and heavily sauced things.

It was $12 for Jim and I, and $7 for each of the kids.  That puts it around the same price as the diner, but you have control over the amount you put on your plate here.  The biggest difference is that we usually end up with a few doggy bags from the diner, so for the same price, we generally eat another meal out of the leftovers.

I say go.  They seem to keep it pretty clean here, and you don’t have one dedicated waiter – anyone who sees your glass is empty will come by and fill it for you.  The food is good, typical Chinese American food, and even if you are watching what you eat, you can find SOMETHING to eat here.