In Chicago, a lot of the Korean-run sushi places are all-you-can-eat. You sit at a table, you order a couple of rolls at a time, you eat, you order some more, you eat some more. I hate all-you-can-eat sushi. It’s frustrating, like a high way with speed bumps. At Minado in Little Ferry, New Jersey, it’s not nearly as frustrating. Because it’s sushi buffet. They set out a ton of sushi, and you go up and eat whatever you want, and you eat it as fast as you want, which is the point of buffet.
Minado is located in a weirdly huge parking lot that it shares with an H-Mart and a motel. To get there, you have to drive past the Bergen County prison and countless bail bonds places. I’ve never eaten at a shipping port before, but if I ever did, it would probably remind me of this. Very industrial.
We got seated at Minado quickly, as usual. The place is huge. My father tells me that ownership of the place has recently changed hands. It used to be Korean owned. Now, it is Chinese owned. But the food and decor all pretty much stayed exactly the same.
The only difference I noticed is that, before, the patrons used to be all Koreans. Now, Asians seemed to be in the minority. Either the new owners are doing a better job at advertising, or sushi, as a theme, is gaining momentum in mainstream, buffet-eating America. The nice thing about this change is that you no longer have to worry about getting blindsided by tiny old Asian ladies lying in wait and then springing into action whenever more crab legs are brought out. Although, I’m pretty sure my mom was throwing bows that night.
Minado has a sushi section, a rolls section, a salad section, and a hot food section. For my first plate, I was all over the place. I got some king crab legs, some “takoyaki cakes,” shrimp skewers, tempura veggies, and raw oysters. Everything was very good. The crab was more annoying to eat than crab usually is. It seemed really salty and waterlogged, and yet, I couldn’t get the shells open fast enough. It was deliciously messy.
Takoyaki is japanese street food that is a mix between corn dogs and fish sticks. The “takoyaki cakes” at Minado were good, but why they didn’t just call them crab cakes is beyond me.
For my second plate, I got some udon noodles at the noodle station. At Minado, they have a guy whose job it is to boil fresh noodles on demand and then add it to a wonderful broth and add tempura, tempura flakes, fish cakes (the kind that is white half moons with pink outer borders), and some other things to order. The udon is really satisfying. My sister gets hers with double noodles, which is really smart. The dishes at Minado have a little ridge in the center, which secures the bowl in your dish so you don’t spill as you’re walking around. Also smart.
To go with the udon, I had some crab shumai, some sushi rolls, skirt steak, fried shrimp, and unagi, which is one of my favorite kinds of sushi. The skirt steak was really good. There was supposed to also be brisket, but it always seemed to be out whenever I went up to look for it.
For my third trip, I focused on raw. I had a couple kinds of tuna sashimi, more unagi, a sushi that had a super chewy piece of white something on top (I felt like I was eating a tongue), an oyster, and several kinds of rolls (they have over a dozen different kinds to choose from). One of the rolls had intentionally purple rice, and it was not good. Bleh. And the spicy tuna roll tasted like it had canned tuna fish inside. Rare missteps for Minado.
On my fourth trip, I was going to get dessert, but I got distracted by teriyaki flavored salmon sashimi. Next to it was a “beef tartare” which was seared on the outside, raw on the inside, and pretty fabulous. I got some pork dumplings, a whitefish cevice-style sashimi, and a couple pieces of pork belly. The pork belly tasted like wood and brown sugar. And it had the texture of soggy fat, which makes sense but was not all that great.
By now, my parents, my sister, and her husband were all pretty much tired of watching me photograph/eat food. But it’s a buffet. You have to have dessert.
Minado has a cake/tart bar full of weirdly dry cakes cut into tiny little pieces, as is frequently seen at Asian buffets. I got an oreo cheesecake piece that had frosting and a slice of kiwi on top, which rarely makes sense on desserts but seems to be ubiquitous here. To go with it, I had vanilla soft serve.
Minado also has green tea soft serve, which my wife thought was quite tasty. And to everyone’s dismay, there was no way of swirling the vanilla and the green tea.
After dessert, I wasn’t exactly hungry, but I could have eaten more. However, I didn’t. Everyone else at the table had finished eating about three rounds ago, and I felt bad making them wait.
On the drive home, we passed a bbq place with an ambulance out front. Presumably, one of the patrons ate so much, his stomach burst.