Ah, in addition to Mie Thai, two other restaurants I liked also bit the dust in 2016. The first was Hao Sushi and Seafood Buffet, and the other Melody’s Cafe. Each offered something special, and each will be missed. I never got around to reviewing them here on Eating New Jersey, but I did on my personal blog when I was doing food-writing there. So I have included some commentary along with highlights from my original post. Like Mie Thai, I will add these to the Master List and give them the ratings I initially gave them earlier this year.
Hao Sushi and Seafood Buffet (Middletown, NJ): 3.5 out of 5 stars (review #63)
This place was a sushi lover’s dream. Their hot entrees weren’t bad either, but people came here for the seafood. Where else can you pig out on all-you-can eat quality sushi for $15.99? Yeah, not many places. It wasn’t your usual buffet sushi either. Rolls were not reliant on fake crab, or chicken and shrimp tempura, which is what you see at a lot of the more sub-par spreads. This was real fish, and quite a variety of it. They may not have had an overall selection as extensive as Teppanyaki, but everything was still of a high quality. As for offerings aside from the sushi:
There is the ubiquitous soup and salad selection, including a type of raw steak salad (almost like a tar-tar) which is outstanding. They also offer up a scallion pancake that is crispy, and quite a few vegetable-only selections (grilled asparagus, garlic green beans, and mushrooms in what seems like a butter sauce). As crazy as it sounds, you actually can eat healthy here if you wanted, between the sushi and veggie dishes. The assortment of deep-fried foods is also limited to a vegetable pakora, sweet cakes, and just a couple other items. It’s a far cry from the usual Chinese buffet, where everything is laden with grease and just screams heart attack. I have enjoyed pretty much everything I sampled. The teriyaki beef is excellent, cooked to perfection.
This was the second time a Chinese/Asian buffet occupied that location in Middletown, next to the Shop Rite. The space itself is gigantic, and maybe that’s why they closed. Hao (and Grand China Buffet before that) always seemed to have a decent sized crowd, but no matter how many people were there, they couldn’t put a dent in the amount of seating available. Rent must have been through the roof. However, there is some good news: they appear to have reopened (or just have a sister-location) on Route 18 in East Brunswick. Ironically, it is a short distance away from Teppanyaki and maybe a mile down the road from a third Asian buffet, called Makoli, which is in the same shopping center as Bollywood Tadka.
Melody’s Cafe (Lincroft, NJ): 4 out of 5 stars (review #62)
This was pretty much a diner with an openly Greek theme masked as a cafe. It was good. I think I had a wrap and a sandwich both times I went. Nothing spectacular, but it still had a great atmosphere. Clean, white walls with a blue light that ran across the top. But where they won me over was with something simple: the inclusion of complimentary pita bread:
Before your meal comes, they even give you a complimentary plate of pita wedges and homemade tzatziki sauce. I’m usually hit or miss when it comes to the Greek classic. I’m not a fan of cucumbers or dill, and that’s what the sauce contains. However, this one was amazing. It may be the best tzatziki I’ve ever had in my life. It was rich and creamy, not bursting with dill or cucumbers, and also thanks to the addition of a surprise ingredient switch: sour cream instead of Greek yogurt. The thought is almost heretical, no? Yet this Greek restaurant decided to make the switch, so the waitress informed us. It definitely paid off.
Since they closed, another Greek restaurant has opened up in its place. Same owners? Maybe, but their menu leans more toward traditional Greek rather than a diner with a Mediterranean spin. Melody’s also offered fantastic Baklava, and I was always looking forward to trying the place for dinner. We only managed lunch.