Ling's Buffet, Lakeland
So, we finally visited a buffet I'd been told about soon after moving to Lakeland, Ling's on South Florida. You have to understand, the coworker that told me this was the best Chinese buffet in town also raved about how good Cici's pizza is, so I think that review made me pass Ling's by. Darn it, he was right on this one-and it took me four years to find out! I didn't even take pictures of food, because I fully expected this to be average stuff. I was wrong.
Despite showing up a half hour before closing time (they close at 9:30 Monday through Thursday), we found plenty of food to choose from. It is a little spendy for Lakeland, in that you pay 14 bucks a head, but that includes crab legs. Yes, crab legs.
Honestly, I didn't have any traditional dishes, but GameTeen filled up on Orange chicken he really enjoyed. Ed and Chef picked out a variety of things, and I started with a salad and wonton soup. Both of them were raving about the crab rangoons, which I got on my next trip up-these are not sweet and are delicate little fried pockets, rather than the large things we get with our takeout. Next up, I went to get some crab legs. If I'm paying for them, I want some-but none were in the steam table. Not to worry, the nice lady manning the tables told me she'd have some fresh ones up in a moment, so I turned to the sushi.
There was a decent variety of rolled sushi, though I didn't see any sashimi (for those who prefer it.) I chose a california roll and a spicy tuna roll, both were chilled perfectly, had great flavor and tasted fresh. As soon as I was done perusing the sushi, the server came to tell me that the crab legs were out. I got some, and next to it, there was gorgeous medium rare prime rib, so I sliced a small piece of it.
All I can say is Wow. I went in, expecting mediocre, and I got some nice Opelio crab, a very tender and well seasoned piece of beef, and some fantastic sushi. Three of us ended up with a respectable amount of crab legs on our plates and enjoyed. I also had another small piece of prime rib for dessert, because it was so tasty. The desserts Ed and Chef got were small elephant ears and cookies that were clearly made in house (according to Ed). I stuck with my fortune cookie.
If we'd had time, we would have tried the grill, but we avoid doing that to those chefs right before closing time. Probably next time.
Yes, there will be a next time. Late Monday evening is not the best time to try a Chinese buffet, because the food has usually been sitting out for most of dinner service. That said, everything we sampled was fresh and full of flavor-so we will make it a point to come down to Ling's the next time we're in the mood for Chinese.