Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, December 12, 2002
Sesame Grill\r\nLunch buffet $5.95\r\nBo-Bo Duck $10.95\r\nCapitol Beef $8.95\r\nSizzling rice soup $5.95\r\nWonton soup (large) $2.50
Capitol Idea

If you like Asian buffets,you’ll flip over Sesame Grill.


Sesame Grill

Star Village Commons, 3980 Boat Club Rd, Lake Worth. 817-238-1888. Sun-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm. All major credit cards accepted.

look at buffets the way a British motor car aficionado looks at the new Jaguar X-type — fine for the masses but not for the connoisseur. Any dining experience that requires a sneeze guard isn’t really a “dining experience.” It’s an eating experience.

I therefore approached Sesame Grill with eyes narrowed, fully anticipating a mediocre meal. Boy, was I surprised. The food was fresh, the restaurant was lovely, and the service was unfailingly polite.

The space appropriately looks as though it was designed to be an Asian buffet restaurant, not a redecorated Olive Garden. The décor is lovely. A sky-blue ceiling hangs over the buffet area, and attractive biomorphic dropped ceiling panels shelter the dining room.

There are six components to the buffet: fried food, entrées, soup and salad, teriyaki, sushi, and dessert.

Although the fried egg rolls were as blah as you would expect from a buffet, one side dish stood out — sugar biscuits, simple store-bought roll biscuits that had been deep-fried and dipped in cinnamon sugar. You can get 10 for $2.95. I can’t think of a better food to fill up on than golden brown, deep-fried biscuits. These were delightful.

The entrée steam table of a buffet is where the rubber hits the road. The restaurant has to provide enough variety to please all tastes while also acknowledging the bottom line. None of the entrées should depend on pricey ingredients. Sesame Grill doesn’t seem to comprehend this logic — the restaurant offered a tofu dish and myriad vegetable and meat main dishes. We tried the excellent stir-fried green beans and broccoli in a garlicky brown sauce. The egg foo yong (a buffet no-no because the dish usually turns to greasy mush when exposed to moist heat) was light and fluffy like an eggy pancake. The brown gravy that accompanied the egg cake was loaded with mushrooms and onion. The Seafood Delight showcased whole shrimp, tender squares of calamari, and a few rounds of budget-stretching sea leg in a thick, white, clam-flavored stock. Chunks of crunchy celery, carrot, and napa cabbage helped make the dish a formidable feast. One of the more innovative dishes on the buffet was spicy-hot jalapeño chicken with green peppers and okra. The okra added a pungent flavor that underlined the simple chicken in a Chinese brown gravy.

Grilled teriyaki chicken and beef were nearly made to order. A grill cook stood by the table and turned skewers of cubed beef and peppers, marinated in a sweet-soy teriyaki sauce. Fresh grilling made a huge difference in the flavor. The beef was soft and tender, not buffet-weary (hard and inedible). Teriyaki chicken got the same royal treatment.

Next to the grill cook was the sushi cook. Understand that this was not still-squirming-fresh sashimi prepared by an austere sushi chef. It was a variation of the rolls (or maki) one would find in a grocery store. The oddest roll on the buffet was the canned tuna fish maki that tasted like a tuna fish sandwich with rice rather than bread. Odd but tasty.

My visit to Sesame Grill was not made under ideal conditions. Holiday travel robbed me of my favorite dining companions so your humble correspondent tried 95 percent of the dishes on the buffet (about 25 items) by herself.

To assess the full range of fare, I ordered four items from the menu to take home. The sizzling rice soup was wonderful. It was a soupy version of Seafood Delight but with more water chestnuts and chicken. The dish was as comforting as chicken rice soup. The title item of the wonton soup was a marvel of engineering. Each of the four wontons was made from a five-inch-square double-thick wonton wrapper filled with slices of beef. Usually one can eat a wonton in one bite, maybe two. These were four-bite wontons suspended in a pleasantly salty, beefy stock decorated with slices of green onion.

The Bo-Bo duck was serviceable, but not a dish I’d order a second time. A large serving of duck marinated in a five-spice powder (usually made from ground cinnamon, clove, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns) orange sauce, and soy sauce was served on top of napa cabbage in the now-familiar brown sauce that dominates the egg foo yong. The duck was hard and chewy but not wholly inedible.

Capitol Beef was the only real loser. The meat was hard and tasted like left-over teriyaki beef that had been deep-fried, then stir-fried in that ubiquitous brown sauce. The beef did not travel well (although I asked in very specific terms whether it would be good in a few hours) and was weighing down the trash can before the meat had cooled completely.

Lake Worth looks and feels brand-new. Unfortunately, “brand-new” also means “without street signs.” The neighborhood is home to large, stand-alone retailers like Home Depot and new strip malls with large parking spaces. I’m glad to see that, within the mix of fast-food joints and predictable chains, there is also a wholesome and popular Asian restaurant in this part of town.

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