My family and I approached our dinner much like the Olympians prepare for a gold medal race. Except we do a lot more sitting around. Getting ready for a buffet is a mental preparation. We had five children, five and under, as well as six adults, so we also had a lot of practical preparation (in the form of colouring books and textas). Luckily for us, there is a small playground outside Shimizu, which helps to entertain the kids when they have finished their dinner.
Kids are provided with non-breakable and very bright plates
For a flat price of $42 (and $20 for children aged three to ten) you can help yourself to the buffet which includes four types of sashimi, a variety of sushi, and half a dozen cold Japanese salad dishes. From the hot buffet you can get plain and fried rice, miso soup, udon noodles, teriyaki beef, gyoza, stir fried vegetables, and katsu chicken amongst other dishes, and from the dessert buffet there is a limited selection of fruit, jellies, cakes/slices and icecream.
As well as the buffet, a number of dishes are made fresh to order and delivered to the table. These included another of my favourite - tokoyaki (Octopus balls). In the past we have raved about the seafood and vegetable tempura, and always ordered extra serves (at no extra cost). Yet last night even though we specifically requested it, we were only given crumbed prawns (Prawn Katsu) and crumbed sweet potato, which while tasty, was not vegetable tempura.
We were also disappointed that the icecream machines were out of order, and had to wait for the cake displays to be refilled on a number of occasions.
Shimuzu Grand is typically very popular and busy, and as such the staff spend a lot of time replenishing the food. However it isn't unusual to be helping yourself to some sashimi from a not-quite-empty platter to have it taken away from you mid-serving, leaving you standing there with tongs poised over an empty display of ice. The next (full) platter is usually not far away though.
You must pay on entry, including corkage ($6 per bottle). Drinks are available from a bar, although there is Japanese tea included in the price. The children (even the 'free' two year olds) were all provided with a plastic plate, cup and cutlery, and the staff also provided a bottle of tap water for the kids. A personal supply of sauce dishes, chop-sticks and serviettes are hidden away in drawers beneath the tables.
We were given the semi-private room, with 'tatami' style seating, which is basically where you sit on the floor on cushions, but there is a hole in the floor under the table for your feet. It makes the experience a little more authentic (and it's great fun for the kids to play under) but it does lead to certain unladylike behaviour as you try and get in and out without flashing your spanx.
All-you-can-eat buffets are great if you are adventurous and like a large range of food. It also helps if you are really hungry. They aren't such good value for small children, especially if some of the dishes you know they would eat (tempura, icecream) are not available.
Oh Shannon I loves me a buffet too! We had our wedding reception at a Japanese Restaurant so all you can eat sashimi with the kids in tow sounds like a dream! Thanks for another wonderful eating out option!