Not too flashy, not too sweet
COLUMBIA, 3/1/12  (Review) --  A new Chinese food buffet has emerged on the Columbia restaurant scene, and it is a welcome one. 
Unlike some competitors who are overpriced, gaudy, or whose food is too sweet, Eastern Harbor Buffet and Grill is a good value, easy on the eyes, and less heavy-handed with the sugar.   And as the name suggests, the menu is heavy on seafood offerings.  Early on a recent Tuesday evening, my family and I sampled Eastern Harbor’s buffet and grill.

Occupying the former Bandana’s Bar-B-Q location on North Providence, the Buffet is easy to find, but unassuming from the outside.  The interior is open, with ample seating, and unlike many of its competitors, is not terminally neon-afflicted.   With artwork of fish and lobsters adorning the walls, and an orange and brown, Cleveland Browns color scheme, the stage is set for a more mature buffet experience.

Seafood!    Granted, we are dealing with the usual buffet issues of heat and potential drying, but offerings such as the salt-and-pepper squid were delicious, and in the specific case of the squid, not overcooked as often happens.   Mussels, scallops, clams, and shrimp also appeared, many with multiple offerings.  Shrimp abounds, and the sweetness of the coconut shrimp was surprisingly understated.
The crab rangoon were not the miniature cheesecakes, as so often happens around mid-Missouri.  These are flat, tangy, succulent wedges.   The hot and sour soup was actually hot and sour---no extraneous sugar to be found.  These two offerings are big ones for my family, and Eastern Harbor did not disappoint.  

For vegetable lovers, the Mongolian grill should have particular appeal, with ingredients including mushrooms, carrots, okra, celery, noodles, and several sauce options.   The sushi was not sampled on this visit, but we saw it being made fresh. 

The service was inconsistent, with staff at the beginning seeming confused as to whom was responsible for our table.  But that was sorted out quickly.   A few promising buffet items were victims of the heat.  The scampi shrimp were nearly dessicated, and difficult to peel.  Others, like the braised beef, were tasty, but could be quite tough in spots.

This Chinese buffet is good value for the money.  Those sick of sugar, sugar everywhere will be delighted in its diminished presence here.  With a little better attention to the condition of all buffet offerings, Eastern Harbor will be a sure winner.
1705 N. Providence
Columbia, Missouri   65202
This week's Mystery Reviewer is a Mizzou scientist.