When it comes to ethnic cuisine, most people in places like Australia, New Zealand, North America and much of Europe tend to think of Chinese, Vietnamese and, more so in Europe than anywhere else, Indian.
At least in Australia, New Zealand and North America, you can drive into any town with a population more than 1500 people and not see an all you can eat Chinese place. The popularity of all you can eat Vietnamese places is only now growing, with much of the world outside Southeast Asia and Polynesia only now becoming familiar with Vietnamese cuisine as a whole. Still, you see these places everywhere, and some of them even offer cuisine from all over Asia, including Indonesia, various regions of China, Vietnam, Laos and many others. In fact, any sort of all-you-can-eat location is not likely to be entirely “authentic”, but that’s not actually a bad thing in and of itself, and many of the dishes are guaranteed to not be specifically Chinese or Vietnamese, but dishes, and too much of Asia, often owing their origins to significantly different cultures than the ones the restaurants represent. This is the case with just about any kind of themed or ethnic cuisine, even high-end, staunchly “authentic” cuisine, truth be told.
So, that said, what should you be looking for in restaurants like this? What are the warning signs that it won’t be very good, and what are some immediately obvious things you can spot that indicate that it will be good? Well, I hate to say that none of these are guaranteed to apply to every case, but I will do my best to give you both red flags and white flags in regards to Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants, especially the all-you-can-eat variety.
The biggest red flag with these places is going to be the presence of Western cuisine featured prominently anywhere on the menu aside from maybe some basic fast food items for picky small children. If they serve adult -sized hamburgers, mashed potatoes, French fries or other such common Western foods, there is a very good chance that the ethnic cuisine they are marketing isn’t going to be very good either. There are exceptions, and there are a couple of things that you will commonly see in these restaurants that are sort of “American” specifically, such as the bread was steak and cheese, sometimes the presence of some basic French fries, that sort of thing.
Another big warning sign is if they have menu items that aren’t available via the buffet, as that means that they are either putting more energy into cutting corners on the buffet, or simply not paying enough attention to it in lieu of focusing on high-and menu items instead.
As for good indicators when it comes to an all you can eat Chinese or all you can eat Vietnamese place, the biggest one is if there are actually Chinese and/or Vietnamese people working there. Don’t feel like this is any kind of racial profiling, you want people who grew up living, breathing and eating this type of cuisine to be the ones making it, as they are the ones guaranteed to get it right. You want French chefs to produce the best French cuisine, why would you not want Vietnamese and Chinese cooks, staff and so forth handling their peoples cuisine as well?