America held hostage! That was the aptly named title of an ABC late-night news program anchored by Ted Koppel from November, 1979 through January 20, 2001. For 444 days, the mighty United States of America was indeed paralyzed while 52 Americans were held hostage–tied and blindfolded–in the U.S. Embassy in Iran. The captors were student revolutionaries incensed at the United States decision to admit Iran’s deposed Shah for medical treatment.
The moment Ronald Reagan took the oath of office, those hostages were released. An adoring nation welcomed the returning heroes, lavishing them with gifts and accolades. Among the gifts was a tiny box from Major League Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Within that box was a lifetime pass to any major or minor league baseball game.
Upon hearing of this, then ABC college football analyst and avowed baseball hater, the irascible Beano Cook remarked, “haven’t they suffered enough?”
Beano’s sentiment is my first reaction whenever I hear of a new Chinese buffet restaurant launching in Albuquerque. In truth, however, Chinese buffet restaurants are so well patronized in the Duke City that the only suffering that occurs is after the meal. That’s when gastroenterological distress sets in which prompts diners to lament “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”
Chinese buffets–or buffets of any type, for that matter–are the arena in which ordinary Americans do their best to emulate the behavior of gurgitators, the competitive eaters who can eat more in one seating than most of us can eat in a week. It’s where belts are loosened, fabric is stretched and civility (especially table manners) goes out the window.
Bruce Balto, a much traveled fellow gastronome has commiserated with me on the state of Chinese buffets in the Duke City so it was a surprise when he told me of a Chinese buffet restaurant that was “overall not too bad, and in some areas, a real stand-out.” He emphasized that “if you can make your way past the gauntlet of the mediocrities, there are some unusual delights to be had there.” Considering Bruce’s sophisticated palate, that’s the equivalent of a resounding recommendation.
The restaurant to which he referred is the Evergreen Buffet on the northwest corner of Menaul and Juan Tabo. The inaugural Albuquerque version of the Evergreen Buffet opened in late 2003 at the site of the former Marie Callendar’s on Eubank’s Promenade Shopping Center but closed within months. Evergreen IV opened shortly thereafter on Menaul. Evergreen is owned by Wei and Yong Lu who also own two Evergreen restaurants in New York.
Although the Evergreen Buffet has a full-service menu, it’s the 150-item daily buffet that seems to ensnare most of the restaurant’s traffic.
The daily buffet features shrimp, beef, chicken, pork, fish, fried dumplings, BBQ boneless spareribs, Lo Mein, fried rice, soup, salad bar, ice cream, fresh fruit, sushi and several desserts.
The dinner buffet (also served all day Sunday) includes New Zealand green mussels, oysters, crab legs, clams, mussels, stir-fried shrimp, fried shrimp, “Happy Family” and many other items, including several dim sum treats.
For Sinophobes and unacculturated Americans, the buffet also includes such American standards as pizza, stuffed potato skins, a Westernized salad bar, garlic bread and a sprawling dessert bar featuring cheesecake, peanut brittle and a standard at every Chinese buffet in the universe–chocolate pudding. There’s also plenty of the mediocrity and boring “sameness” that plagues many of New Mexico’s Chinese restaurants–a homogeneity my discerning friend Bill Resnik refers to as “copycat menus full of candied, fried and breaded mystery meats that all taste the same.”
A sushi stations includes several standards while a Mongolian barbecue station allows you to select from among several raw meat items and vegetables for a custom stir-fry creation prepared just for you in a large Teppan grill.
Where the Evergreen Buffet surpasses its brethren is in its seafood offerings. The cost of the buffet is about half of what you’d pay elsewhere to have Alaskan King Crab alone. At Evergreen you can feast on that sweet, succulent decapod crustacean to your heart’s content.
Characteristic of King crab, the meat extracted from the legs is somewhat stringy (maybe courtesy of the scrawny crab legs) though you will find more firm and rich meat on the shoulder. Evergreen provides warm butter though not with a canned heat source as in many seafood restaurants.
There are several types of fish on the buffet including halibut in a butter sauce. Shrimp offerings include the usual peel-and-eat variety as well as a salt and pepper shrimp served round-eye style (a Bill Resnik aphorism) which means they’ve been beheaded so you don’t have to look into those dreamy shrimp eyes.
If you’re craving Cajun cooking, the buffet even serves crawfish, a New Orleans delicacy. The salad bar includes a colorful octopus salad, but if you’re not accustomed to seeing octopus that hasn’t been battered and deep-fried, it might not be something to which you’d gravitate.
The dim sum selection isn’t especially bountiful, but it does include several kinds of dumplings and steamed rolls, some of which are stand-outs.
One of my favorite non-Chinese items on the buffet is the kimchee, a fiery Korean staple heavily seasoned with chile and garlic. Evergreen’s version is not dumbed down for Western tastes which makes it appealing to a volcano-eater like me.
Aside from the ubiquitous chocolate pudding, one of the things that seems to define Chinese buffets is items which cool down considerably by the time you get them to your table–despite the fact that they’ve been under heat lamps for who knows how long.
That didn’t seem to be the case at Evergreen where buffet items are turned around regularly. In the case of a few dim sum items, the kitchen could barely keep up with customer demand.
Evergreen Buffet was surprisingly good (or at least a few items on the buffet were)–maybe not good enough to make me a regular, but if I am going to dine at a Chinese buffet, this will be the one.
11001 Menaul, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 28 June 2009
1st VISIT: 28 October 2007
# OF VISITS: 2
COST: $$ – $$$
BEST BET: King Crab Legs, Dim Sum
8 thoughts on “Evergreen Buffet – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)”
I loved this place wish they would open another location.
While this isn’t necessarily a recommendation, the AA Grill & Buffet is fairly nearby on Juan Tabo and Lomas, and is about as good — a little better, probably — than Evergreen, with a less depressing ambiance. I’ve had their weekend buffet (with oysters — no crab, though) a couple of times, and found the oysters to be fine. If you’re looking for an Evergreen replacement, this is it.
I agree..awsome buffet in comparison to others in ABQ. At least once a week…I want to know if they have opened up some where else.
Miss the place. Would go a least once a month. Best price for all you can eat chinese and sushi. Does anyone know where they moved to ? I heard they we’re looking on the west side, by coors & ouray. If anybody hears anything, please let me know.
Alas I passed by the Evergreen Buffet today on my way to a great bowl of Pho at Kim Long’s. There was a big poster in the window of the obviously deserted establishment, “Closed-Gone Away.” Even though it was only 3-blocks from my front door we had never darkened its door. Now there will be no more chance.
Fool me once, shame on you. For me twice,……..
Tried the Evergreen Buffet again today expecting to pig out on king crab. They no longer have king crab on the Sunday buffet. We were there so we decided to try it again anyway. Big mistake. Food was as bad or worse than the last time we went. Service was poor to non-existant. Won’t be back.
After your review we’ve been to the Evergreen twice for the Sunday Buffet with crab and other seafood. The first time was pretty good. Not outstanding but pretty good for an inexpensive buffet. Went again today and it was pretty bad. The oysters had a very strong, off putting flavor. The Alaskan king crab was stringy and the meat in the claws was falling apart and could not be extracted in anything like one piece. Both times the peel and eat shrimp were flavorless. Don’t think we’ll be back. They also served Kiwi fruit that looked beautiful but were so not ripe they were hard as bricks. Their buffet offers an extraordinary selection, regretably much of it just isn’t any good. Next time we wanna pig out on crab it’s back to seafood night at Islaeta –I guess now Hard Rock — Casino.
Wow, I’m surprised to see this review here, because I drove past the place the other day and I could have sworn it was shut down.
I have been to Evergreen a few times over the past year, prompted by Gil’s review, and let’s just say that I think Gil is being extremely generous in his appraisal of this establishment. I love a good buffet, and visited many of them when I lived in Las Vegas, NV, and while Evergreen is admittedly better than any of the horrible Chinese buffet chains around town, that really isn’t saying much.
For the most part, we’re talking standard steam table buffet fare, and it’s not much more edible than anything else you’ll find in Albuquerque. On a weekday, there might be one or two dishes that stand out, but even on weekends, there’s nothing here that would come close to something you’d get at an actual high-quality Chinese restaurant.
On top of that, the service is about the most sullen and apathetic I’ve seen in a long time. Not rude, just completely indifferent. That and the overall divey nature of the place makes the experience of eating there rather dispiriting. It’s not a place I’d ever go for a “dining experience,” but a fair-quality feed trough, well suited for mindlessly shoveling food into your mouth.
That’s the one aspect of Evergreen I think Gil leaves out of his review — how oddly depressing it feels to eat there. There’s a joylessness that oozes from every corner of the room. I’ve tried to give the place a few attempts, just because it is, sadly, the best Chinese buffet I’ve encountered here, but finally had to stop going because I felt so sapped from my visits.
On a brighter note, I tried out Lin’s Chinese buffet on the west side over the weekend. If I’m not mistaken, it just opened recently. A much nicer place that looks clean (Evergreen looks dingy and unsanitary inside) and attractively decorated, with a friendly and attentive staff. I’m not thrilled with the selection of dishes, but they have a Mongolian grill and a sushi chef on hand for those who like that kind of thing, and on my visit the offerings were all fresh and pretty tasty. I can see going back to Lin’s.
Anyway, although I probably won’t be going back to Evergreen anytime soon, I’ll admit it’s probably one of the better buffets in town. I would just warn people not to go there with high expectations. By ABQ standards it’s probably a B+, but by Vegas standards, no more than a C-.