March 30, 2011 | | Comments 58

Free All-You-Can-Eat: No Strings Attached

So I posed a question the other day.

I was telling you all in this post saying that:

Anyway, Suanne and I had plans already for an AYCE (all you can eat) place for lunch today. It’s a place where it costs nothing and no, this is not an invited media event. They don’t know us and you can get the same deal as us. This is exciting for us and we can’t wait to break the news to you all! Any one smart enough to know where this place is?

I got a few answers … very good answers. Before I go ahead and tell you where we went, I like to ask you where is your best and most memorable AYCE (all you can eat) or Buffet place?

In Vancouver, I seriously can’t think of any place that is good. Perhaps the closest to a good place is Ninkazu Japanese restaurant (post here).

Eagles Buffet in Tulalip Casino in Washington State

The other place I like is the Eagles Buffet inside the Tulalip Casino near the Seattle Premium Outlets.

Some of our other more memorable ones are the ones above. You can click on the pictures above and it will bring you to the post.

But the best buffets are the ones we had in Asia (picture above is clickable to the post). The buffets in Asia have a wider variety of choices by far.

So back home, Suanne and I decided to do a little experiment. We had been debating between us about this place we had been visiting a long time already. I am sure many of you had been there before. 

Yeah, Costco.

We go shopping in Costco quite a bit. Each time we go to Washington state, we always stop in Costco to buy groceries on the way home.

I wanted to go to Costco because I was telling Suanne that each time I go there I end up feeling full. It is because of all the samples they have.

Suanne said it is just in my mind. There is nothing much that will make one full. So I need to quantify this. I need to prove it once and for all.

We both had just a toast and coffee that morning. We made our way to the Costco in Richmond at 1:30 PM on a Saturday afternoon. We thought that would be the best time to go because they have the most customers and my theory says that they have the most free sample stalls opened up.

I had a game plan. First and foremost in my mind is to avoid detection. I don’t want Costco’s security to find out that I am taking pictures. Who knows they might have issue with that and then ban me for life from their warehouse store. So naturally, I can’t use the SLR. I had to use the iPhone.

Gosh, I felt like a thief. I had to get samples, then go to a quiet and bright enough corner to take pictures of the food. Yeah, some people were looking at me funny wondering what I was doing. I just flash a grin at them nosey customers.

We had to pretend to be shopping. We did not need to get anything since Suanne had done her shopping already a couple of days ago. So we just got two bottle of milk. The chocolate ones for the boys and the 1% ones, well, are to make Purin. Our boys loves the chocolate milk and can finish the bottle in two days if not for Suanne’s nagging that they finish it too fast.

You know, the milk from Costco is much cheaper especially the chocolate milk is about 60 cents cheaper than Real Canadian Superstore, Safeway or Save On Food.

Anyway … Wow, it seems like it is quite a balanced meal too. Look at what we had.

We started with bread with strawberry jam.

Then we had two servings of yogurt. One strawberry and another with granola.

The mains were really good too. There is:

  • Gourmet Chicken Burger
  • Bradwurst sausage
  • Baked Butternut Squash
  • Egg Rolls

It was hard work. One has to be patient with the buffet here. Since this is free, you can’t complain. We wanted to try the Instant Noodles. Rather it was I who wanted to try it. Suanne thinks I am crazy to wait by the book section for 15 minutes for the Kimchee noodle stand to open for business. The things she put up with marrying me.

Yeah, I do actually feel like a beggar. I was pretending to browse the books while observing from the distance. I don’t want the security people notice us behaving suspiciously. I can’t be thrown out before I accomplish my mission.

All we got for waiting 15 minutes was this small serving. The good thing is that you can go multiple rounds. However, if you choose to go multiple rounds, there are a few ground rules you must observe. Firstly don’t ever let them know you are there for seconds and thirds. Try not to make eye contact. Don’t ask questions. Quickly grab it and go.

Preferably take off your jacket or something the next time round so they cannot recognize you. If you do not have jacket, no problem. Just go to the jacket section and borrow one.

Bringing along sunglasses is a good idea — once with sunglassess, once without. If you do not have sunglasses, you can also go borrow one from the shelves somewhere.

We rounded up our meal with some cookies and choc bar.

That was our 11 course buffet. Absolutely free. I swear that the Costco buffet have a bigger spread last time we were there. I remember I had so much food there that I had to skip lunch. Maybe it was in the Costsco in Bellingham. Maybe it was the American version of Costco that had more food to sample.

I still have room in my tummy.

There was a long queue at the Costco concession. Since I could eat more, I decided to get something there while Suanne wait in line to pay for the two bottles of milk.

I always like Costco’s fries. It is extra crisp and bigger and longer. One thing I find is that the American Costcos does not have fries. Only the Canadian ones does. Yeah, I learned about this the hard way. I used to queue to order fries in the Costco in Washington state and even in Atlanta and was told they don’t have fries.

One other thing I like about Costco’s fries is that they have big paper cups that is able to hold lots of ketchup. I like lots of ketchup with fries.

Even the fries was not enough. We had time. I suggested that we visit another FREE All You Can Eat place I know of.

No. I strongly do NOT recommend the Free AYCE in T&T. Not only are the choices too few, the portions are stingily small too. There was nothing substantial to the food there. Maybe for a light breakfast but certainly not for lunch or dinner.

“Happy now?” Suanne asked.

“Yeah”, I said.

“Can we get real food?”

“Sure”

So we headed up stairs to the food court. We were surprised to see more stores opened since the last we came.

Although we wanted to also try the other stalls, we decided to just stick to our old favourite — O’Tray. We used to blog about O’Tray in this post. You gotta read it.

We got the Spicy Lamb Noodle from O”Tray.

It was creamy and nutty. Really nice.

This just proves that the buffets in Vancouver is not any good.

Costco Food Court on UrbanspoonT & T Supermarket on UrbanspoonO’Tray (Tianjin Flavours) on Urbanspoon

 

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  1. LotusRapper says:

    Hahahaha, AYCE at Costco :-D

    Part of me wants to say: “Oh you’re SO Chinese”, lol. But hey, who am I to argue ? ;-)

  2. LMAO! Too funny.
    You could always widen your AYCE selection @ Costco by “borrowing” an employee’s uniform, grab whatever product tickles your fancy and man one of the empty food stations ^^

  3. Marike says:

    *like* :)

  4. Cecilia says:

    When it comes to buffet, there is no place like Las Vegas. You can have buffet any time at most hotels on the strip. So far, I think Wynn has the best buffet.

    Back in town, other than the holiday buffets at Pan Pacific, I think the seafood buffet at the River Rock Casino is pretty good. I was there a month ago, they had very meaty crab and fairly tasty prime rib. It is a bit pricey, $30 per person (if you have the BC casino card, you get 10% off), but it costs more for a three-course dinner anywhere else.

    • Ben says:

      Thanks Cecilia. I had been reading reviews of the Buffet in River Rock but I did not see many positive ones. Yeah, $30 is a bit too high to chance it! :-) Ben

  5. mo says:

    costco in washington has bigger portions and less chinese = supersize me!

    next time, get the fries or poutine to go so that you get a container with a lid on before doing your shopping, that way you can pile on multiple samples in your container keeping your hands free. or if the samples are sauces/dips, you can ask them to scoop it on top of your fries.

  6. 4SlicesofCheese says:

    :D Do I win a prize haha

    About the US costco are there certain things you cannot bring back?
    I would have thought they wouldn’t allow fruits and meat and dairy.

    • Ben says:

      Hi 4SlicesofCheese: We never had problems bringing back milk, meat and general groceries into Canada from the US. We declare everything and I think they do trust us in their database. They always wave us through. We normally would have $400-$500 worth of purchases each trip if there are no major purchases. When at the border, we have the receipts ready in hard and I do ask the border agent if he/she wants to see the receipts. I also do mention that I have “groceries” when asked what we bought. I think they are more interested in tobacco and liquor which we hardly ever buy. Here, check out this article: http://goo.gl/L8XpK … particularly the last para. Ben

      • Sedap Makan says:

        There are $ and pound limits on Dairy and Meat products. I think its something Like 10 lbs of beef per person but I have never had any border person ask in that much detail. I do like the US prime which is more marbled. If you were to show up with hundreds of lbs I’m sure there would be an issue. Groceries have no Duty or HST so they are automatically a non issue at the border. We always come through with around $500 of which about $200 will be food (mexican stuff is soo much cheaper) and we have not had to pay in a long time but you never know.

      • mo says:

        we used to bring back dairy products as well but patch found out that the food regulations in the us are not as strict (ie. farmers can freely inject whatever into the cows, etc). I don’t have all the details since i don’t have the same level of interest to read up on these things, maybe he can tell you about it tomorrow.

        have u been to trader joes?

        • Lissa says:

          My kids don’t like Costco milk. They say it tastes funny. So even if it’s cheap, it’s no go for us. Target has homogenized milk on sale last week for just $2.29.

          I think if you are buying groceries the most, you are usually waved through. That said my friend has bought over $400 worth of vanity table and shower door from HD. She declared and was waved through both times. I wasn’t so lucky with my small appliance valued at $180. :(

        • Ben says:

          Hi Mo: Yeah, we had been to Trader Joe’s before. http://chowtimes.com/2006/07/28/seattle-trip-trader-joes/ Ben

  7. Maggie says:

    The main reason U.S. Costco stores do not have fries is that poutine is not a big seller in the States. The biggest seller in their food concession is pizza, slices and whole. People will phone orders in, and leave with 4 or more pizzas at $9.99 each. So, no grill and no deep fryer, but a huge pizza oven dominates the food prep area. Some other items that can be baked are also offered, as well as local specialties, like churros here in Arizona.

    • HR says:

      thanks for the explanation…

      it’s funny though, because when my American friends came up for the Winter Olympics they LOVED poutine… well the fact that she was originally from Wisconsin, might explain her love of cheese curds… lol…

    • Ben says:

      Hi Maggie: Oh yeah. The pizzas in Costco Canada is also very popular. We love the huge size of it and we do buy them to bake at home too. Churros sounds good! Ben

    • My local Costco in Southern California also happens to have two types of bakes (carne asada or chicken, both with vegetables and enclosed in dough and baked), mocha/berry shakes, frozen yogurt sundaes/ice cream bars, 1/4 pound hot dog + drink, and salad in addition to what Maggie has said. Those fries look good though!

  8. Nanzaro says:

    SO this is my parents when Arkensen and I aren’t around

  9. Jane says:

    lolllll.. that’s what i always do when i go to TnT on weekends. i do it so often that i kinda remember the staff preparing the samples. i hope they dont remember me. so embarrassing! i didnt know costco do that as well. does Stadium Costco serve samples too or is it just at Richmond Costco?

    • Ben says:

      Hi Jane: Why? Are you planning on having AYCE in Costco too? Yeah, I assume it is in ALL costco where they have multiple food sampling stations. I don’t think I had come across one that doesn’t. Ben

  10. Dave says:

    It’s not really free AYCE. You forgot to take the Costco membership into account.

    • flown says:

      You don’t need Costco membership to get into Costco. Just tell them you are going to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions. I do not have a membership card but I go to Costco each time to pick up drug prescriptions. During the 20-30 minutes wait for my medicine to be ready, it is samples galore and window shopping time =)

  11. timetochow says:

    Lol… Fun post. Buffets in major hotels in large asian cities like in the Shang seem to have a great selection of fresh buffets. I think LV has good buffets too but not as fresh. This is one that has AYCE seared foie gras:
    http://www.foodnut.com/587/conrad-hotels-nicolinis-sunday-brunch-on-the-eight-restaurant-review-hong-kong/
    i agree that the T&T portion are too small. Bet Suanne was happy when she finally had a proper meal after this adventurous post. :-P

    • Ben says:

      Hi TimeToChow: Now that is what I call a BUFFET! Gosh … for $80+ it better be that good. You know what? I WOULD spend that kind of money for this kind of really high-end buffet. Ben

    • Agreed! Island Shangri-La for breakfast in Hong Kong had a very good cooked to order noodle, congee, and egg section, tons of fresh juices and milks, lots of bakery choices (w/ cooked to order waffles, toast, and pancakes), curry station, traditional american/asian breakfast, cold cut section, Japanese section, dim sum, cereals, and more last time I visited (Bak kut teh too I think, but I didn’t try it) for about 30-40 dollars per person.

  12. Crispy Lechon says:

    I should mention that timing is important when dining at Costco AYCE food samples. Best time to go is around noon on weekends. Same with the Chinese AYCE at T&T.

  13. Sandy says:

    I’ve noticed that Costco has more samples on the day/weekend just before a major holiday. Super Bowl Sunday counts, too :-)

    They have churros in the California Costcos, too. But fries? I have to go to Costco next time in Canada!

  14. Betty says:

    I never had a chance to shop at Costco due to my job on weekend it always my husband and brother inlaw with my younger daughter who enjoy all the free sample they offer there in their store. It indeed like a meal going there and that why my family head there early to get to try all there is in store.

    Maybe now I will check out Costco on my own on weekend since I now am a E Commerce business doing at home person.

  15. Doris Jung says:

    Too funny!

    I guess one of the perks or down-side of being a food blogger is that everyone – including your kids, knows where you really were! Ha ha ha..

    Nanzaro and Arkensen – at least you know where you parents were, better than a lot of kids apparently – according to a sociology experiment conducted by a college graduate student in the States.

    Another type of AYCE, my friends and I actually had a contest of who got the most and tastiest. This would be from the American side Costco:-)

  16. Angela says:

    For AYCE, I like the one in Tinseltown, don’t know if it’s called Kenti Zen or Zen Kenti.
    It’s $ 8.99 on weekdays, $ 13.99 on weekends & stat holidays.
    There’s also a take out AYCE lunch box for $ 6.99

    They open at 12 noon.

  17. HM says:

    LOL Ben! Nanzaro’s comment is so hilarious, so pls don’t ban him! AYCE at Costco & T&T used to be my sons’ fav activity when I go grocery shopping on weekends, but now that they are older, they no longer tagged along. I find the buffets in Hk & Macau very good but expensive.

  18. wanda says:

    You’re suppose to bring the whole family to Costco for samples…..now that’s being Chinese. LOL!!

  19. Sybil says:

    As far as AYCE buffets are concerned, I heard Blue Fin in Seattle is very good. Has anyone tried?

    • Ben says:

      Hi Sybil: I have never heard of Blue Fin before. Tried looking for them on Urbanspoon Seattle but there is none called Blue Fin. Do you have a link? Ben

      • Erick P. says:

        Sybil and Ben,

        The place is called Blue Fin Sushi and it’s located in Northgate Mall in Seattle. It is like Richmond Sushi in concept and emphasizes Japanese food and sushi, but you don’t order from the paper, you just get up and get your food. I’ve never been, but I heard good things about the place. I’m not big on buffets anymore as I can’t eat as much as I used to and I don’t feel it’s worth it for me to try and stuff myself to get my money’s worth. Another buffet worth going to is in the new Snoqualmie Casino, called Falls Buffet if you’re in the Seattle area. On Sunday night, they have Prime Rib and King Crab.

      • Sybil says:

        Hi Ben,

        My cousin and his family went to Blue Fin last weekend and picked up a business card. Check out their website, everything looks quite yummy! http://www.bluefinseattle.com.

        Sybil

  20. Pinoy Gourmet says:

    HaHa Ben Ben,But actually your AYCE Buffet was paid for by your Costco Membership Fee,So its not Free

  21. Foodprints says:

    Hey Ben
    I do a AYCE buffet at Whole Foods daily (cambie & 8th in Vancouver). Go around lunch and just before 5pm. All organic and FREE. They also have a free drink fountain by the smoothie stand. Check out their website for special events and it’s the best free feasting you’ll experience!

  22. Bette says:

    There is only one thing better than shopping in Hong Kong, and that’s eating. From small noodle joints to upscale French restaurant, you will locate all sorts of restaurant, eating hall and snack stall on earth in Hong Kong. Here I found small amount of Hong-Kong-styled snacks online (http://yummiexpress.freetzi.com/). This is definitely a good choice before I have $ for another trip.

  23. Peter E says:

    LOL too funny! Thanks for the great post Ben!

  24. [...] see, he visited Costco and T&T, ate their free food samples and posted about them.  See Free All-You-Can-Eat: No Strings Attached (See? I am not the only posting about free [...]

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