Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fortune Star Buffet in Jessup

At the new Fortune Star Buffet, the dishes are so good that the fun is how many you can eat, not how much.

Fortune Star breaks new ground for "all-you-can-eat" by filling four serving areas with dishes that you'll actually want to try. Dumplings that came steamed and pan-fried. Steamed fish with their heads. Stir-fried dishes with real flavor, but little oil. A few vegetables. There were some easily-avoided glop (french fries? fried wontons? salad bar?), but this was fun Chinese for me. I sampled through four plates, trying little bits of whatever looked good and discovering that my second choices were often the best options.

For example, the black pepper chicken was delicious. Stir-fried cubes of meat with vegetables, it had a peppery, lighter taste more like Vietnam than what I expect in Chinese restaurants. But I only tried the black pepper chicken after the hot pepper chicken, which was good but battered like a General Tso's. I enjoyed all four of the dumplings and buns: Shanghai, napa & pork, shrimp & pork and pork. I was surprised that my favorite was the steamed pork bun,
which was light and slightly sweet with dark, pork filling the size of a peach pit.

On top of those, I liked the salt-and-pepper squid and the green beans. There aren't many vegetables on the buffet, so I had some green beans on each plate. On Chowhound -- where I learned about Fortune Star from a post -- people posted about dishes like roast pork, ma po tofu and chicken feet that weren't on my lunch buffet. I get the idea that the dishes rotate regularly. Ironically, my favorite single item was a dessert. I passed the many cakes for a
yellow bun that turned out to have a sweet filling inside. I couldn't identify it, but I ate the whole bun.

For me, the fun of Fortune Star was exploring. I don't order squid often because few friends want to share. This was my chance to try them and a half crab and a head-on shrimp and some sausage with sweet rice. This buffet is large enough that I found something that I couldn't eat -- fish cakes on a skewer -- but that was just because I didn't like the flavor. All of the employees were nice. They all spoke English, and the sushi chef was happy to describe what he had laid out in his display.

Frankly, the price is a bargain: $7.99 for lunch and $13.50 for dinner. They advertise a $13.99 dim-sum buffet on weekends and holidays.

(Update:  Definitely read the comments.  People have written detailed -- and mixed -- reviews about their Fortune Star comments.)

Fortune Star is in the "Columbia East" shopping center on Rte 175 next to the My Organic Market supermarket, which is great for whole grains and other organic products. There are also a Starbucks and Ritas in the shopping center and a joint called Cocos Butter Cafe. The cafe was closed when I visited, but there were chocolates for sale and advertisements for jazz on Saturday nights.

For a classy night of Chinese, I recommend Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro on Rte 108 in Ellicott City.  For another adventure in Chinese -- this time authentic, I recommend Grace Garden in Odenton.  There is also a summary post about Chinese Restaurants in Howard County.

If you like Asian food, check out posts about Thai cuisine or Vietnamese cuisine. Or click for a working list of the best restaurants in Howard County.

Fortune Star Buffet
7361 Assateague Drive, Ste 1000
Jessup, MD 20794

NEAR: This is the Columbia East shopping center at Rte 175 and U.S. 1. There is a Starbucks and a Rita's facing Rte 175, and you'll see Fortune Star right in front of you when you pull into the parking area.

Fortune Star Buffett on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

i went with a group of friends for the lunch buffet. they enjoyed it, considering there's 4 lanes of food. however, i wasn't happy with the service and it was crowded! some of the food choices were great, and excellent frozen yogurt!

Anonymous said...

I ate at this restaurant on Sunday, October 12, 2008. It was truly awful! The food was second rate and cheap quality. I have been to the one in Rockville which was excellent, but I haven't been there in 2 years. The name may be the same, but the food is much worse in Jessup. There was quite a crowd at lunch, but I was seated promptly. I will never return to the Jessup location.

Anonymous said...

I went with a big group on Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. The staff was RUDE! and the food was substandard at best. Worst of all, all our hot dishes were cold--I'm talking egg drop soup, beef, chicken, etc. When we mentioned this to the manager he got cocky and refused any refunds, or any portion of a refund. Instead he offered gift certificates. No thanks!

This place is a house of food poisoning. Save your $15 per person!

Sheri said...

We've eaten here twice, and it's been WONDERFUL!! We're going again tomorrow (6 Dec) with a huge group (over 60 people) will let you know how it is.

Sheri said...

Okay, so once again, for the third time in two months, we ate here on a Thursday night. The food was GREAT, the service was FANTASTIC, and because we were a group of 68 people (half of them young children), we all got a 10% discount and the entire back half of the back room was set aside for us. My parents came this time - they were equally impressed - and will be going back. Bottom line: don't believe anything you read from someone who can't even include their name.

Anonymous said...

I am quite shocked by the negative reviews. My wife and I ate there recently (on a weekend) and the food quality was actually better than I expected for a buffet. The food was well prepared and each dish tasty. The selection was excellent as was the choices for fresh fruit and desserts. There were no large groups there when we were there and perhaps that made a difference because the service was also friendly and helpful. I look forward to going again soon.

Anonymous said...

I too do not understand the negative reviews. I absolutely loved this place. I went during lunch, and there was a huge amount of choices. Some things were OK, but I absolutely loved some of the foods.

OK, so I had a hard time understanding the waitress, but she was far from rude.

I will definitely be going back to this place. I am a big buffet fan anyway, but this is one of the best buffets I've been to of late.

Anonymous said...

Three words:


DAS said...

I, too, don't understand the negative comments. I've been here twice (going for the third time tonight) in the last four months, and every time the food has been better than the average Chinese buffet around here. (I'd rate the food little better than the Panda Buffet in Ellicott City, my former Chinese buffet favorite.) The variety is excellent, most of the food isn't gloppy (damning with faint praise, I know), the service is sometimes inefficient but never, in my experience, rude. The price is very reasonable.

Jelena said...

We ate at Fortune Star on a Saturday night recently and it was rather disappointing.

Salad bar was the worst I've ever seen. OK, that's not what we came there for, but c'mon - there were no tomatoes at all and only a few uncut leaves of wilted lettuce. "Fresh fruit" was in form of cut oranges, obviously spoiled cherries and some tired single grapes that you'd usually find at the bottom of a bag. Desserts were your usual mix-box variety cakes and some glow-in-the-dark jelly-like substance.

The food stations were: real (I imagine) Asian/Chinese food, more familiar "glop" (wontons, fries, etc.), sushi and some mystery station, were, as we realized too late, one could order noodles a la carte.

Since neither of us eats red meat or seafood (except fish), we had to bypass the whole "real Chinese" station. For some reason it consisted only of pork and shrimp dishes or things like "duck feet in oyster sauce", which might have been delicious, but sounded and looked just gross.

Fish was represented by steamed tilapia (mostly heads) and salmon, which was floating in some smelly liquid and looked under- and over-cooked at the same time. Usually I can rely on vegetable lo-mein and chicken dishes at any Chinese buffet, but here chicken was available only as greasy chicken and broccoli and sweet-and-sour, which was just absolutely tasteless. The only vegetable in lo-mein was onion and noodles were broken into small pieces.

But the worst thing - everything was cold. There was steam rising from some stations, but any dish we would bring to our table was either already cold or getting cold faster than we could eat it. The secret - all food was served on plastic (!!!) plates.

We haven't experienced rude service, but there were no smiles either and everyone just seemed very indifferent.

Our favorites were cheese wontons, some sweet "rolled buns" with sauce (served by french fries for some reason) and frozen yogurt.

Considering the price (about 33$ for two with tax and some poor-quality green tea), we will definitely not be coming back. I'd rather go to Best Buffet in Glen Burnie, where drinks are included for 11$, everyone smiles and at least the usual "glop" is warm and delicious.

But, if you are into duck feet and pork duplings and don't mind just having tap water, it might be worth one visit.

Unknown said...

My wife and I, at first enjoyed this resturant, its not the greatest but not the worst. Then in July 2009 we found a fly in my wifes food. We recieved a certificate for a free meal. today 9/14/09 my wife and i went back and again there was a fly in my wifes food. not only did the Manager not speak english at all he could bearly understand what were were trying to tell him. I suggest to everyone they do not eat here. Fly me once shame on me Fly me twice shame on you Fortune Star. Ewwwwwwww!

Julie said...

I just went today for lunch with my friend and my 2 year old daughter. I was thoroughly impressed. I plan on going back many times with my family and friends!

Humpty Dumpty said...

Having read the mixed reviews in this blog, I decided to give the Fortune Star Buffet a try to find out about it myself. The outcome? Not satisfied.

I ate there on a Friday evening, at about 7:00pm. The place was about 1/4 full which is already a bad sign. The best I can say about the food is that it was good to fill a hungry stomach but certainly not good enough to please the palate. The food was plentiful but I found most dishes quite unappetizing. "Fortune Star Hash House" would be a more descriptive name for the place.

The admission cost for dinner was $11.99 plus and optional $0.99 for beverages. This seems to be lower that the price noted by some other commentators here, so perhaps they have dropped the price recently.

For a significantly better Chinese buffet I recommend the Empire Buffet on Rte 1 in Laurel, just south of the Laurel Mall. On a scale of 0 to 5 stars, I give 2 stars to Fortune Star Buffet and 4 stars to Empire Buffet. The admission price there is comparable, $11.99 if I recall correctly, and beverages are included. The food is much more appetizing and the atmosphere is more pleasant. I am surprised that Empire Buffet has not been reviewed in HowChow. True, Laurel is not in Howard County, but going to Laurel is not exactly going out on an expedition. I found out about it by reading the reviews in here.

HowChow said...

@Humpty -- No one has a problem with Laurel. I just had never heard of Empire! What dishes stand out there?

Humpty Dumpty said...

I don't want to hijack this thread on Fortune Star and turn it into a review of Empire Buffet. But since HowChow asked, here are my comments.

Some of my favorites at the Empire Buffet:

Small and tender crabs legs: Deep fried. Delicious. They had them during the summer but they were not available in my two recent visits. Perhaps they are seasonal.

Fish: Various sorts. My favorites are the whole steamed fish and the little (about 8 inches long) deep-fried fish.

The Mongolian Grill: You fill a bowl with the raw ingredients. They cook it for you.

Stuffed crab shells.

Squid rings: Steamed with vegetables and imitation crab. I take the squid and leave the imitation crab behind.

Steamed clams.

Shrimp on ice + good cocktail sauce.

Steamed vegetables of various sorts.

Real ice cream: The kind you scoop out of a bucket. Several flavors available.

Fresh fruit: Melon, watermelon, oranges, bananas.

They have several chicken dishes. They look good but I haven't tasted them because I don't care for poultry.

The restaurant is hard to see from Rte 1 because it's offset from the main road and partially hidden
behind a tall multi-story office building. You will get a glimpse of it if you know where to look. As you head south, it would be on your right, just after Cherry Lane.

HowChow said...

@Humpty -- Don't worry about highjacking. A cell phone photo and two more suggestions, and you could write a great Trolling post. I'd love it.

Anonymous said...

anyone know why this place closed?