Rule of 5 collapses at Ichiban’s buffet

by Brian Clarey

We can all agree that choice is a good thing.

Devo even wrote a song about it back in 1980.

But choice comes with a cost — at Ichiban Supreme Buffet in Greensboro it’s about 10 bucks, and the choices, frankly, are almost too much to bear.

The place is new, in a space about as big as a large grocery store with a cool water feature near the entrance. The dining room can seat hundreds, which is a good thing because it’s set up to feed about a thousand.

I am no stranger to buffets. I go so often that I have devised a perfect strategy for eating at them — my Rule of Five, five being the amount of trips one needs to take to the buffet line to maximize value and sample size.

But the spread at Ichiban is confounding. Ten separate buffet lines teem with mainly Asian staples, with a separate sushi station and a hibachi menu made to order. This buffet has meatloaf and frog legs, pot roast and pigs in blankets, a raw bar, six preparations of shrimp, three kinds of squid, two different pizzas and three types of ribs.

There’s just no way to try everything good on a single visit. My first plate was easy: hot-and-sour soup, a baked crab, some actual crab that was halved and fried and a few sushi pieces: spicy tuna roll, a crispy tempura roll and octopus a la carte. The baked crab was disappointing, made with imitation crabmeat, but the half crab was the real deal, unless someone went to the trouble to stuff a crabshell with fake lump meat. The hot-and-sour soup was tremendous, a real winner.

For my second lap, I loaded up with a couple dumplings and crab Rangoon, a chicken skewer, two sesame balls and something called “Philly steak pie,” a variation on the Philadelphia classic sandwich. Everything was pretty good, but the big surprise was the Philly, made with actual steak: delicious, but filling enough that it wouldn’t do to dwell on it.

By my third lap I was virtually paralyzed by the choices in front of me. I decided to go with shrimp, one of each type. I had cocktail shrimp, fried shrimp, stuffed shrimp, coconut shrimp, whole tempura-fried shrimp and butter shrimp, and I felt a little like that guy from Forrest Gump.

Generally, I use the fourth trip to the buffet to double up on favorite from my previous three trips, but the vast array at Ichiban thwarted my plan. I hooked up with some hickory ribs, a spring roll and a couple more of those sesame balls — I needed to save room for dessert, which takes up two separate buffet lines.

I could have taken my pick from two kinds of cake, two kinds of Jell-O, two kinds of pudding, a whole line of fruit and a tray of pastry, but for the life of me I wasn’t all that hungry anymore. I must be getting old. I chose a flaky sesame turnover, a small cup of green stuff that turned out to be a mint mousse and a couple scoops of mint-chip ice cream from a well-stocked freezer case.

Even with the stack of dirty plates I made, I still barely scratched the surface at Ichiban, Rule of Five be damned. I’ll have to go back, but I may need to do some training first. It will take at least seven plates for me to really assess the situation.


Ichiban Supreme Buffet; 3020 High Point Road, Greensboro; 336.854.7887