Stepping Out: Dynasty Hibachi Buffet
When I heard that the new Dynasty Hibachi Buffet now open one storefront down from the AMC Esquire had figured out a way to do all-you-can eat sushi, hibachi and Chinese food for about the same cost as a Domino’s pizza, I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical. But when my friend offered to drive us to dinner last week and I realized all I had eaten that day was two slices of leftover pizza, I decided to stuff away my worries about food poisoning and give it a try.
Occupying a building previously home to an Outback Steakhouse, the first thing you notice walking into Dynasty is that it’s huge. A sign on the host’s stand says it can hold about 350 people, but when we were seated at our table I could spot fewer than half a dozen other patrons. For a restaurant that still has a “Grand Opening” banner on the door, it’s not exactly the best sign, but they are competing with a St. Louis Bread Company across the street and you have to enter their restaurant, not from the sidewalk, but from an isolated parking lot in the back.
The waiting staff was friendly, but considering Dynasty is entirely buffet-style, all that our waitress had to do was bring us drinks and take our used plates. If you want a sophisticated atmosphere and trendy Chinese cuisine, the buffet label no doubt would have turned you away.
Dynasty has four different stations—the main buffet, the dessert buffet, the sushi station and the hibachi station. My friend and I started at the main buffet, where you can find a selection of everything from chicken and broccoli to General Tso’s chicken to cheese sticks and fried chicken wings and miso soup. I piled about eight varieties of chicken onto my plate before somewhat accidentally sloshing sweet-and-sour sauce on top of all of it.
Fortunately the sweet-and-sour sauce was the perfect consistency and degree of tanginess. The chicken generally tasted a bit dark for my taste, which may not have been a problem if not for the fact that a number of the sauces (i.e., the sesame sauce) tasted like they had been watered down. The spring rolls were a bit thick and overstuffed, but then again I’m not exactly the world’s biggest onion or cabbage fan. They also had some fried potato wedges, which looked and tasted like the frozen McCain seasoned wedges I ate in middle school, but I can’t necessarily say I was disappointed.
After the main buffet my friend and I moved onto the hibachi station. I can’t honestly say I was expecting Benihana but I kind of felt like I was in the Bear’s Den stir-fry line as I filled my plate with ingredients for the cook to prepare on the metal flatbed stove. Not really feeling in the mood for fish or shrimp, I went fairly plain with some steak and soy sauce. It wasn’t actually the worst cut of meat I’ve ever had—more than I expected from an all-you-can-eat buffet I’d already gotten at least my value’s worth out of already—but whether it was the meat or the soy sauce, it was bit too salty.
To the left of the hibachi station is the sushi; there were about six different varieties. Considering my knowledge of sushi is more or less limited to shrimp tempura, the “Oh My God” roll at Tani in Clayton and the Dinosaur Roll at Ginger Bistro, I can admit that without name tags, I had no idea what any of them were. I tried one that my friend and I decided was probably a California roll with eel wrapped around it, and it was OK, not too different from value-priced sushi I’ve tasted before.
By the time I got to the dessert bar, I was almost wishing I had just paid the check and stuffed some chicken wings in my coat pocket for later. There was pudding, bananas in some sort of cherry sauce, cheesecake, jello and a host of other desserts easily served buffet-style. And then someone apparently had decided that the dining experience would be incomplete without frozen deserts, and I somewhat begrudgingly picked up a vanilla ice cream cup as I forced myself to avoid the other flavors—the part-owner had somewhat uncomfortably urged us to try the strawberry kind—and the ice cream sandwiches.
It doesn’t exactly read cultural dining experience, but at less than a minute’s walk from Schnuck’s or the Esquire, it’s hardly a trek from campus or the typical off-campus excursion. And if all you really want is cheap Chinese food, and a lot of it, you really can’t scoff at an $8 lunch or $12 dinner buffet.