Given some of my fascinations and tawdry eating habits, I sure as hell am not the guy to be pooh poohing the buffet as a food delivery option. However, when looking for an actual pleasant dining experience, buffet lines are not usually the first place to turn. In every suburb around, you can find those giant Chinese buffets, often named for Pandas, Dragons or Golden something-or-others. Usually the menu is expansive – just as often, the menus are terrible, with dry fried rice and Crab Rangoon – the darkly ironic cream cheese filled dumpling (which is tasty, but decidedly not authentic). But, like anything else, there are exceptions. For instance the buffet at Minerva is just about the best Indian food you can find in this neck of the woods – and recently I discovered another buffet, a KOREAN buffet called Heebeen, that has the deft touch also.
Now Heebeen is a tough place to find off of Little River Turnpike – being hidden in a very productive intersection and all. For instance it is near the unremarkable Tempt Asian Cafe, but also near the very remarkable Yamazato. However, that does not mean that this place should be ignored. We went here at 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon for the lunch buffet which ended at 3:00 PM, so we were not privvy to the best of the best in a lot of cases. Certainly the fried rice had been out a long time – the crustiness showed. The sushi selection was also rather meh – but of course it’s buffet style sushi, so any expectations one might have there were low to say the least. The soups were tasty but largely ordinary.
So, after such an unremarkable paragraph, where is the awesomeness? It’s in Korean BBQ. This is the part about HeeBeen which makes the $16 per person lunch worth it. The buffet has the full gamut of Korean BBQ, quality beef and pork and the entire suite of side ingredients – Kimchee, radish, watercress, squid and other pickled spicy things to go with lettuce leaves. The telltale heating elements are at the table, so the meat is prepared while you wait and you serve yourself. To be able to have the Korean BBQ experience for that price and with good quality alone allows HeeBeen to be a find. In particular the beef was well seasoned, and when added to lettuce wrap and sides made for a terrific quick lunch. Further intrigue came when I walked to one side of the buffet and saw that they did Shabu Shabu. Alas, it was almost 3:00, so that will have to wait for another time.