Chews Wisely: Sunrise Buffet

By Sam Forstner | 1/25/16 6:07am

It was a slow day at Sunrise Buffet in Lebanon. How slow? Only one other table was occupied, and sitting there was a single employee cutting the ends off green beans. I didn't mind, though. The lack of patrons gave me free reign over the buffet. I felt like a king.

I'd heard from my local #connects that Sunrise was the best Chinese food buffet in the Upper Valley, and the multiple award plaques displayed behind the counter seemed to confirm those rumors. A waitress immediately greeted my party, brought water for everyone within 30 seconds and…we were free to gorge!

I went for a cup of hot and sour soup to start—a staple on the Chinese buffet circuit—and was impressed. Its hot and sour undertones were easily detected, and the nexus of the two provided an enchanting flavor combination that lived up to the soup's name.

Next it was time for my main course. As a self-proclaimed veteran of the Chinese buffet game, I've learned that there are a few strategies necessary for tackling the sometimes overwhelming experience of all-you-can-eat dining:

Option 1: Eat multiple small plates, possibly sorted thematically, allowing yourself to set a healthy pace while savoring every bite.
Option 2: Attempt to build a Mount Everest on your plate of any and every food item offered, and eat it so fast that you feel gross and just sort of sad afterwards.

I began by building a foundational layer of pepper steak, sautéed green beans and General Tso’s chicken, topped with a heaping portion of coconut chicken and finished with a garnish of assorted sushi and crab rangoon. The sushi was (surprisingly) fresh to taste, and the rangoon packed a perfect one-two punch of crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Next up was the coconut chicken. The dish was essentially boneless wings dipped in a sugary, fattening sauce. But what on earth could be wrong with that? The green beans were delicious, though be warned that these types of buffets have a penchant for making all things unhealthy—even green vegetables.

To make a good meal even better, the bill arrived, and I learned that the lunch buffet costs only $7 per person. When I mentioned the price to a friend, he asked me a question that I’m sure many of you have considered while reading my column: Do you evaluate a restaurant based on cost, portion size or whether or not the food "tastes good?" The answer of course is all of the above, and Sunrise Buffet checked all three boxes.

4 out of 5 stars.

Sam Forstner