How fitting, in the same year of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, that a new venue in Kansas City's restaurant community aims for the majestic. This town already has a Princess Garden, King's Dragon, King's Chef, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Fried Rice King, and China King. Last Thursday, Royal Buffet opened in the former Fuddrucker's location at 8725 Metcalf. Buffet mavens must have been eager to check the place out because the parking lot was packed all weekend.
I couldn't resist and stopped in for dinner myself on Sunday. If Fuddrucker's was always disturbingly dark, the new incarnation is sunny, light and spotlessly clean. As for the cuisine, it's on a par with the Calypso Buffet at the Isle of Capri. But instead of the clanging of slot machines, there are TV monitors tuned to the Food Channel.
The sign in front of the building isn't inaccurate. The steam tables inside are heaped with a wide array of dishes, including several variations on the spaghetti theme: spaghetti in cream sauce, spaghetti in tomato sauce, a "Cajun" spaghetti with tiny shrimp and green peppers, and a vat of spaghetti swimming in a bright-orange cheddar-cheese sauce. The greatest hits of any popular Chinese buffet are here, too, including the ubiquitous General Tso's chicken, sesame chicken, shrimp and vegetables, crab rangoon, egg rolls, dumplings (fried to the point of no return) and egg drop soup.
The ethnic choices - including pizza with a puffy, yeasty crust - are somewhat more successful than the traditional American standards. The woman at the "Grill House" station takes requests for steak temperatures, but fans of well-done beef are going to be more pleased than someone wishing a bit of pink in their grilled meat. The tiny portions of beef appeared to be available in well done, nearly well done, really well done, and a little over medium well. The cheeseburger sliders didn't have any cheese on them and seemed to be tucked into biscuits. The compressed dinner rolls looked more like slider hamburger buns. The fried chicken wasn't bad, and the chicken fried steak can be drenched in a thick cream gravy. There are baked potatoes, boiled Brussels sprouts, stewed cabbage, and broccoli that's been cooked to the point that it no longer looks like broccoli. The pea-sized bits of fried okra were so heavily breaded, it was like eating fried marbles.
The sushi station was so popular that the sushi chef could barely keep up with the demand. Patrons (lots of families) appeared to be content with the selection and returned - again and again - to the different stations to load up their plastic plates. My meal, with a beverage, tax and tip, totaled about $19. Not a royal price, but maybe a bit high for a less-than-imperial-experience.