January 14, 2019:
I really love exploring new vegetarian restaurants these days. Thus, we checked out “My Meat Run Buddy”, a direct translation of the words “走肉朋友” which is a pun in Chinese. It was a vegetarian all-you-can-eat buffet and they had good online ratings. One of the reviews mentioned a 90-minute dining time only though.
We arrived at 7 p.m. on a Monday and the restaurant had a lot of people dining in already. I signalled to the server standing by the doorway that we were a party of two, upon which she gestured to the staff behind the cashier next to the doorway. This female staff appeared to be the owner. She asked us for how many and then for my last name. She proceeded to check a list of names. I then told her we didn’t make any reservation and were walk-ins. She gestured to the four-person table near the door and said we could sit there but only on one side as the other side was reserved for another two-party. We were okay with that. Then the owner said “236”. I didn’t understand what she meant until I realized we had to pay first.
After we paid, the female server who had been standing by watching the whole thing took the receipt and gestured us to the assigned table. She mumbled something that I couldn’t hear (she had a soft voice). I did hear her say there were hooks at the side of the table upon which to hang our bags. She asked if it was our first time here and then explained the process.
Basically, it was another one of those self-serve buffets. The water and drinks and cups are self-serve at a station and also for the cutlery and plates. What was different for this buffet was that after you were done eating entirely, you had to return the dirty plates and utensils to a designated collection station.
The actual selection of buffet items was not that much. It was an island in the middle of the dining room with hot buffet tables and cold plates and a few dessert items. The place was small but every table was packed with people.
When I went to retrieve items from a hot buffet tray, one of the kitchen ladies blocked my way as she was wiping the counter and replacing the food trays with new ones. This happened at least a couple times during the evening. I found it disrespectful and unprofessional that she edged herself in first before the customer.
A few of the cold dishes and dishes without the warmers were tasty and creative. This included pizza, “sand salt chicken”, burritos, and fried taro blocks. A few of the hot buffet items seemed repetitive with sliced carrots in every dish. There weren’t a lot of imitation meat dishes either. Overall, the hot buffet dishes weren’t very hot in general and tasted lukewarm.
Since we were sitting right by the door (glad it wasn’t windy that day), I observed a lot of interaction between the owner at the cashier and incoming guests. A lot of people made reservations to come in. One couple that arrived with a baby stroller did not have a reservation. Upon asking for a table, the owner commented that they had space for the adults but not the baby stroller. The couple was thus turned away.
In my opinion, that is a form of discrimination. It’s probably less obvious because it was an infant stroller but to decline a customer entrance because of having no room for it is like declining a customer because they are in a wheelchair. It’s discrimination.
The vibe of the restaurant seemed very snobby, uninviting, and appeared trendy for young people. Ninety percent of the customers that evening were people in their 20s and 30s. It seemed like a “hip” place to hang out, eat some plates of salads, and catch up with your friends.
After my first plate, I was ready to get up from the table to get a second serving of food. My mom pointed out that the restaurant posted a sign that said only one set of cuterly and plate each per customer. This meant that you had to use the same plate the whole duration of the meal to retrieve buffet food. This idea was unattractive to me. I despise having my food touch previous sauces that is a different flavour. This makes the new food taste different. If you have leftover sauce on your plate, you can’t put dry food on it otherwise it’ll turn soggy. Also, an important point is that there could be cross-contamination between someone’s leftover plate and the serving spoon from the buffet table. It’s entirely unhygenic.
I understand their point is to be environmentally friendly by cutting down on the number of plates that they wash, but for a buffet business, hygiene is paramount and overshadows any environmental savings. It’s from a public health point of view. (Personally, we also thought they were being cheap so that they wouldn’t have to wash extra dishes.)
We were unnerved enough with this idea that my mom flagged down the server and informed her that the leftover sauces left on the plates would interfere with the next round of food. The server replied that they want to be environmentally friendly but if we insisted, we could still grab a new plate to use.
Despite receiving this reassurance of having a new plate to use, I still felt bad. I looked around and tried to see if anyone else used a new plate when they went up to get food or whether they used their old one. A lot of customers indeed used their dirty plates to get more food. However, I noticed that the table next to us of four people had double the number of plates on their table. Clearly, they didn’t follow the one plate “rule” either.
Thus, for our third round of food, we grabbed a new plate. Who cares what the restaurant’s policy is in this case. -_-
Another item worth mentioning was “fish balls” on a skewer as well as some other “meat” on a stick. These were quite tasty and akin to the real thing. The fish balls were so bouncy and smooth.
There were only a handful of dessert items.
Throughout the night, we saw how the owner and the female server would approach various tables to look at their receipts at the entrance timestamps. We weren’t informed of the dining time limit and so we weren’t exactly sure how long the buffet time was (save for me reading the online reviews, no one had told us). I found it awkward for the customers to be searched on their receipts as if they were being scolded for staying past their dining time.
I really disliked how the female server kept hovering around our table in close proximity the entire night. It was so uncomfortable and unnerving to dine with someone hovering over us and the other tables like a hawk. I wish she would have better waitressing skills.
The worst part of this dining experience came 6 hours after we left. During the night at 2 a.m., my mom experienced diarrhea and vomiting (three times). She had never experienced persistent diarrhea like that after a meal out.
She went to see the doctor the next day. The doctor, from discerning what she had eaten at the buffet and the time difference of when she finished eating to the time that the vomitting and diarrhea began, pointed the issue to being the food at the restaurant. It apparently takes 6 to 7 hours for food poisoning to show itself, which was consistent with what my mom experienced.
Needless to say, I did not enjoy my dining experience at My Meat Run Buddy at all. The food wasn’t particularly that great, the service staff were terrible, the environment was not truly vegetarian in a Buddhist fashion but more so for hype, and we had a food poisoning incident result from it.
Unless you like trying trending restaurants (hype instead of quality), go to another vegetarian restaurant instead for better value and a much better dining experience (and authentic Buddhist ideals).
(Their washrooms are located outside the restaurant in a dark alley. Be careful when you go because the alleyway is wet from the water taps. You can see how the kitchen staff compiles all of the dirty dishes in the alley and packs it away into big blue bins to a company for cleaning — we also saw the same blue bins at Hing Noodle.)