Food & Spirits: Hao Has Everything (Middletown, NJ)

Picture courtesy of their website.
Picture courtesy of their website.

UPDATE: As of May 23, 2016, Hao has been out of business.

It is featured on Greg’s new food blog here.

Restaurant: Hao Sushi and Seafood Buffet

Date: Cumulative Visits

Location: 1375 NJ 35, Middletown, NJ

Whether you want to try new things or pig out on sushi for two hours, the Hao Sushi and Seafood Buffet in Middletown has it all. Formerly occupied by Grand China Buffet, this new restaurant underwent a total revamp in both food and decor last year. While the old place was not bad at all, the cleanliness and service did leave a little to be desired, and the food selection was always identical. Granted, I only went once or twice a year, but after many years, hardly anything changed on the actual buffet lines. I have been to Hao twice within a couple of months and already I can see that the food changes regularly. There are the mainstays such as certain rice and noodle dishes, and “takeout” selections such as General Tso’s Chicken, chicken and broccoli, egg-rolls and dumplings, etc, but also other unique entrees. There is lobster in a ginger and scallion sauce, Alaskan king crab legs, teriyaki beef, three or four kinds of shrimp, and a chunk of rare prime rib you can slice yourself. They also offer stone crab and an array of fish dishes, both served whole or cut into chunks and sautéed. Not digging any of that? Then you can just stick to sushi and sashimi, where there are always at least ten different kinds available.

There is a 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. Going good on the side of that is something that looks like homefries: chunks of potatoes cooked with grilled onions and red peppers. There is a Hibachi grill where you can pick from an assortment of meats and veggies and they cook them for you at no added charge. The dessert bar has ice creams, cakes, cookies, fruit, and even a cotton candy machine. There is a lot of food throughout you would expect, and also a few things that might surprise you. I could go on and on listing them, but you are better off just going for yourself.

The actual restaurant itself is spotlessly clean. Bright lights, white walls, and those gigantic and tacky light-up pictures of Chinese landscapes have been replaced with dimmer lighting, painted walls, and simple but seemingly more elegant decor. It does not feel like a buffet where you should just jam as much food in your face as possible and leave in a hurry. Its a place where you can take your time and hangout for a while, sampling a bunch of different foods that extend to Japanese, Thai, and even American for the un-adventurous. What’s more important is the food is always fresh. The amount of people eating there assures that the food does not sit for a long time, and is always promptly replaced. It is a mega-sized buffet with all kinds of fish, meat, and poultry, with the price only $15.95 per person. You can cover that with just a few dishes of sushi alone. Hao is an incredible bargain, and a wonderful food journey you should take.

4 out of 5 stars. 

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