Todai Japanese Buffet in Houston
I might not give Todai Japanese buffet a medal for the most authentic Japanese dining experience, but I go there often and can recommend it all the same.
Oh sure, it has a Japanese theme about it, sushi, udon, little bitty desserts, all that. I don't think that is why most people go there however. They go, and we go, because it is simply a great buffet.
I know, if you read this whole site then you'd hear me rant against Japanese restaurants that aren't really Japanese. But I'm giving Todai buffet a pass on that one. The fact is, if you bring only your taste for Japanese food with you, you will find many items to keep you happy.
Better than average sushi for a buffet
At most buffets that serve sushi you have a limited selection and usually no sashimi. Not only no sashimi, but also a hand written sign that reads "We charge extra for leaving sushi rice on plate. Please eat everything you take". Point taken, sheesh.
Not Todai, they have sashimi, and not just so-so sashimi, they have the pepper-crusted seared tuna sashimi that you love, right? Add to that at least two grades of sushi tuna and salmon, all without the rice. If you're trying to get in shape then it doesn't get much better than fresh fish without the salt and fat of fried versions and without the starchy carby white rice. Pure protein. Eat up!
Confusing but awesome variety of foods
Let's pick something that really doesn't belong in a restaurant that calls itself a Japanese Seafood Buffet, how about Brazilian Churrascaria. Well in 2009 Todai added churrascaria to the menu, not really to the menu, they just serve churrascaria during lunch and dinner service. At first they did it true churrascaria-style by having waitstaff walk the floor with different cuts of different meats offerring guests who had their "Feed Me" buttons turned green side up a slice.
However, last time I went there in February of 2010, if you wanted churrascaria then you had to walk to that section of the buffet and ask for your choice of BBQ'd meats. I actually prefer it that way. No more calling out the location of the meat you want as it traverses the floor like a sportscaster, hoping it gets to your table before it runs out. Just walk up and pick the one you want. Plus they have two of my favorites - chicken hearts and lamb. Don't worry, they have a few cuts of beef for the more conventional diners.
They also have a made-to-order crepe station which is usually pretty good. Fresh crepes with your choice of cream fillings and fruit toppings. On my last visit though, the young lady tasked with making crepes clearly was not in a crepe-making mood and wanted everyone to know it. It was the only time so I'll overlook this one.
Lunch or dinner - They're not the same
The lunch buffet is more affordable but still a bit pricey for a Houston buffet. But the place is always busy, and it's a BIG place, so apparently others agree with me, it is still a good value. The lunch buffet will fill you up and offer too many foods to even try them all but the dinner buffet reigns supreme.
The dinner buffet at Todai probably has several difference from the lunch buffet but I only notice a few. They have fresh iced shrimp with a good cocktail sauce, snow crab legs, and depending on the day, they serve lobsters for an addition couple of dollars. I really mean couple of dollars. The crab legs and shrimp are part of the buffet so take what you want, but the lobster is to order. When you are seated you will be asked if you wish to order any. I suggest you do. I expect the prices to vary but last time I had the lobster it was $2 extra and very good. I ate 2 of them,
Dinner and a movie or games
Todai is located in the Marq-E Entertainment Center just off I-10, just outside the loop. Most of the shops in that struggling center come and go but Dave & Buster's and Edward's Cinema have clung on for years and offer a good date night entertainment combination.