There is beauty in the honesty of a buffet. There is no time for pretense.
They are in-your-face-you-can’t-ask-that honest. They are the answer to – and possibly the cause of – the question: do these pants/shirt/skin make me look fat?
For the love of all that’s holy, whatever you do, never answer that because the answer is “yes!” We all know the answer. But don’t blame the pants. You ate six plates of meat and a pound of fat and then three desserts and you’re trying to blame Levi Strauss? The German tailor, that is, not the French anthropologist. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves …
Buffets are awesome because no one’s pretending they’re there because the chef earned a ‘hat’, or the salad is ‘to die for’, or someone spent Five Minutes being embarrassed about a cupboard full of two-minute noodles.
The truth is: the chef didn’t, the salad never is and everyone loves noodles*. Get over it.
Buffets, as you can tell, are for people who mean business. No chit-chat. No small talk. Let’s eat!
Diners are there because they want to make a profit and greed is good.
The restaurant is there because they want to make a profit and greed is good.
Both will be happy. Both will believe they won. Both will be right. The system works!
But as with a casino (excuse the analogy-shift), the house always wins, but if you play your cards right, you have a good time and while you may not lose your shirt at a buffet, you may have to loosen a button. That’s the point.
In Canberra, the king of the buffets is the Star Buffet at the Burns Club. On a weeknight, an adult can get more than their fill at dinner for $30.80 and $33.80 on a weekend. That’s a bargain. Children under-12 cost just $2 per year of age (buffets are about honesty, remember? So if your child was born in 2012 they are not five … but you might get away with seven, no judgment).
Maybe some old-timers remember the Burns Club before Star’s arrival. As with so many suburban clubs, especially if they’re hidden away as the Burns Club is, it had the smell of death and it seemed their modus operandi was separating pensioners from their next meal through one-armed bandits. It was not a happy place.
That’s changed. Not just at the Burns Club.
Clubs, realising gaming machines are not long-term business strategies, have branched out. Dining was an obvious choice and the standard and variety is now exceptional.
The turning point for the Burns Club was the Star Buffet. It’s breathed new life into an old club.
The layout seems to have changed with every lockdown as the owners came to terms with their COVID requirements. And with every iteration, their menu seems to have expanded but the fundamentals have remained the same: meat and lots of it.
Too many buffets think they can fool you with bread and pasta. You’ll find both at Star but no one yet knows why they’re there. Probably for the kids. Avoid (the bread and pasta, that is; kids are your choice).
Pros hit the meat hard and early. Star knows this which is why meat is in the first station you cross: Chinese sausage and lamb forequarter.
Don’t think about what’s in the sausage or how that’s not a ‘meat colour’, just pile up the sausage and lamb forequarter chops.
Pro tip: Forequarters can dry out under the lamp. Get ’em hot off the grill as soon as possible. You shouldn’t be waiting more than a minute or two. The turnover is rapid. It’s also tempting to get a well-done chop. Best not to. They can get tough. You’ve been warned.
Rounds 2, 3 (stop counting, it’s rude)
The warmup’s over, now it’s time for business.
Skip the roast meats section for the time being. A few stations down you’ll find the Chinese meat section. Move over, Walt: this is the happiest place on Earth.
BBQ pork. Roast pork. Soy chicken. Roast duck.
If you’re eating for fun and profit, this is where you’ll make some gains. Star knows this but doesn’t skimp. The bays are empty for mere seconds between restocking. Is it up there with the Tak Kee Inn? Not quite, but it’s a bottomless plate and that more than compensates, and there’s also the theatre of the cleaver. Dinner and a show!
Pro tip: Avoid duck legs, stick with the breast. There’s more bang for your buck and a better fat:meat ratio (ie, more fat).
Round 4: the cleanser
On the opposite side of the room is the salad section. Don’t worry. Salad doesn’t always mean vegetables. Pick out the beef from the Thai beef salad. It’s worth it. The beef is a great cleanser, especially coupled with a mound of smoked salmon.
This is also where you’ll find the oysters and prawns.
Pro tip: skip the prawns. They take up valuable eating time. Remember that time you went to a fancy restaurant and you got excited because it was seven courses? But remember how each course was half a mouthful, and sure you were full for a moment, but you had to get a burger on your way home? And it still cost you $140 (plus the burger). How did they do that? They slowed you down, that’s how. They used trickery. That’s what prawns are for. They slow you down. Skip the prawns.
Pro-pro tip: There’s also a sushi train. Catch the chef’s eye, ask for sashimi. Shhh. It’s a secret.
Round … you stopped counting when the shame kicked in
Somewhere between your last plate of meat and the pitiful regret of, “honey, this is the last time we’re coming here”, is dessert.
Dessert is itself an adventure.
The pavlova is as simple as it can get, as is the pannacotta, but they’re a good end to a meal … and worth another round or two. You deserve it – after all, you didn’t just have dinner, you did a lot of walking as well.
Pro tip: wait for a new crème brûlée. There’s a certain joy in being the first to crack the top. Avoid the chocolate fountain, though. When you watch the kids at it, you’ll know why.
The Star Buffet at the Burns Club is located at 8 Kett Street, Kambah. Check their website for lunch and dinner times and up-to-date pricing.