As it turns out, paradise does indeed exist on earth. And as a matter of fact, it has a precise location and address: the second floor of a commercial center at 16 Novoslobodskaya, where the East Buffet offers mountains of buffet-style Chinese food. One can find paradise by getting off the metro at the beautiful Mendeleevskaya station, turning right, and walking down the street until one sees its red and black Ист Буфет sign beckoning with promises of bliss. Upon entering the building, one sees a sushi bar to the right, which is also part of the East Buffet complex, but most people looking for lunch will be ascending to the second floor (i.e. heaven).
If you go to East Buffet between noon and three on a weekday (and you should) the first thing you’ll likely see outside is a considerable line which, you would assume, is a testament to the restaurant’s quality (and you would be right). There is a large dining room with a fancier aesthetic than what one would expect from a place with meals on the cheap. Televisions abound amidst decorative columns and, to the right side of the dining area, there’s even a large fountain. The only complaint I had was the cheesy nineties music they had going on an uninterrupted loop. But one could weather old J. Lo songs all day for this food.
After being seated, a waitress will come to your table, pour you some green tea and inquire about your order. I’d recommend the red-plate buffet special. There are two such specials at the lunch hour: a small green plate for 249 R, and a much larger red plate for 299 R. I really, really recommend the latter; it’s a much better deal. Upon receiving your plate you will be directed to the large buffet area lit with unearthly and transcendental light. They have every kind of eastern cuisine you can imagine and then some: rice noodles with veggies and meat, sweet and sour everything, fresh vegetables, salads, sushi rolls, fried filets of pork and fish, various varieties of rice, the list goes on and on. I saw that most of the Russians there were doing impressive balancing acts with six-inch piles of food. Perhaps mistakenly, I followed suit. I built a gargantuan tower of rice noodles, vegetables, pot stickers, rice, fried fish, pork, tomatoes, cucumbers, and rounded it all off with an interesting tomato-flavored miso soup filled with seaweed and egg noodles. It was all delicious, though the pot stickers were a bit cold and stiff, but I devoured it with absolute relish.
A dining experience that is at once fun, extremely filling, and fairly easy on the wallet considering normal prices of sushi and the like. I will definitely be returning.
For groups and faculty-led tours, this can be a great option. While it’s not exactly Russian or even former Soviet Union food, this can be a great way to introduce students to heavy Asian influences in Russia – both in terms of the popularity of its food in Russia and in terms of Asian investment. The holding company that controls this restaurant was begun with Asian investment, specializes in Asian food, and is #3 in terms of market share in Russia for restaurants and cafes…