[PLEASE NOTE: The Mosaic Buffet in Kanata has entered the Dead Pool and is now closed. They still have a location in downtown Ottawa as of October '09]
When you mention the word 'buffet' two cultures come to mind. Chinese and Indian. Both well known, possibly the world over, for buffet restaurants. Now, what if you crossed those two concepts together? Would that create a super-buffet? One so powerful we would have to create some sort of counter-buffet-force to stop it?
Well Kanata built one. And it was huge. Parking for 150 cars. Seating for more. It was so big that other buildings could not be built near it. Mosaic Buffet they called it. Mosaic to reflect the many cultures of Canada (as opposed to the 'melting pot' of the US). On weekend nights, the buffet is $15.95, which isn't bad. $10.95 normally. $9.95 for lunch.
This is quite a place. Inside, it is dark, spacious, with murals of India and China across the walls. A diversity of food and a diversity of cultures. But no alcohol. That's right, no beer, no wine. Why? "As a family-oriented restaurant, Mosaic Buffet does not serve alcoholic beverages." That's right Italy and France and any other culture where the family partakes in alcohol, this is a family restaurant, so get some values. I find it a little offensive to be worded like that (yes, coming from someone who doesn't consume alcohol).
But I also understand the reason behind it: this is a halal buffet. Islam says no to alcohol and no to swine. So forget your Molson Canadian and your mu shu pork - it ain't here. But it doesn't need to be either. Well, I could have gone for some sweet and sour spare ribs, but they have sweet and sour fish instead.
This place is very family friendly. Too family friendly. Children run around the restaurant unsupervised and undisciplined. Literally running around. Everywhere. I did watch one mom yell at a rambunctious young girl in a nice dress who was running around with food in tongs scold her in French. The little girl laughed, turned around and dropped the food. She picked it back up with the tongs (from the buffet), was scolded by an 'aunt', but she laughed again and returned with everything to her table. A kid also left a half bitten desert behind in the bin. The ice cream station has a sign in bold stating for children to be supervised - but no one supervises them.
This is not the first time going to the buffet. LJ & I had gone to Mosaic some time last year. The first time, we were amazed by the choice of food. By the end of the meal, we weren't so amazed, but it seemed pretty decent. This visit things were really scaled back. At first there was only one staff manning the cash, the door, clearing tables etc. She looked tired and stressed. Eventually two more women joined in, but it was pretty hectic for everyone.
This time, tables were not cleared quickly, the buffet wasn't checked consistently, and also, there wasn't as much food choices. Sushi wasn't on the menu. The deserts were paired down. Canadian food was just french fries (not that I was there for North American).
Now, there is the salad/dessert bar, ice cream station, and two long tables spit into Chinese on one, and Indian on the other. Chinese had standard noodle dishes, chicken wings (oh yes), General Tao chicken, fried rice, spring rolls and a very unique egg roll. One thing that really disappointed me on this visit (aside from the lack of chopsticks this time) was the sloppy sauces. The vat of plum sauce looked like it had sat for a day or two with a film on top. Normally neon red sweet & sour sauce was extremely watery. This stuff should be thick, goupy, viscous.
The Indian side had standard Tandoori chicken, butter chicken, beef dishes, naan bread, garlic naan, curry, etc etc etc.
As for the salads and desserts I skipped them all. Even the ice cream. Usually I focus on meats at Indian and Chinese buffets. I know I know its not good, but nothing here looked appetizing veggie-wise.
The last time they had two types of chicken wings. I think. I'm pretty sure they had a spicy type not just dry salted. The wings; not worthy of a review. My first plate of them were cold and chewy. A fresh batch was much crispier, juicy. But oh so plain.
The tandoori chicken was dry and frankly, flavourless. General Tao didn't taste like any other GT I've had, being neither sweet or spicy. Fried rice and egg roll (which was also unique) were decent. Garlic naan bread was delicious. Everything else was a pass for me.
Final Thoughts: The concept is great, but things really seem to have gone down hill in a few months. Maybe it was an off night - they were clearly understaffed. But I just didn't want to eat anything more.
Our hostess/cashier/waitress rushed to ring our bill up, and was flustered to get fortune cookies, which they were out of. She had 4 Interac/Credit machines and I jested about them getting busy. She said lunch is crazy busy with the tech industry people, so lots of machines to avoid lines, separate cheques, and the elderly at their tables.
Things were very different from when we were here last, and all I could think of was the saying "time heals all wounds." Well, some wounds shouldn't heal. We didn't enjoy our meal, but the throngs of families, many of which who cannot get halal at normal buffets (especially Chinese) seem to enjoy themselves. The service was friendly, and if you have kids and want a place they can roam free, this is the place to go. Not for me again. Plus the wings weren't great, so there.