Formosa Seafood Buffet
6304 E 82nd St
Indianapolis, IN 46250
Let me get this out of the way from the start: Formosa is not a good restaurant. The food is mediocre, the bathrooms smell, and on the one occasion I went there at dinner time the dining room smelled (although I cannot necessarily rule out some of that came from some unsavory looking patrons who probably considered this place to be fine dining). That being said, this restaurant accomplishes the one task I need it to: provide a decent sushi lunch buffet during the work week.
Years ago the same management owned a restaurant called 8 China Buffet. Located near Clark Appliance off 82nd Street and Allisonville, this nice buffet served decent sushi and a small but acceptable number of Chinese stir fried dishes and appetizers. I went there regularly for lunch as it was 10 minutes from my Indianapolis office, back in the days when charting was not as complex as it needs to be now and I could actually take 45 minutes for a lunch break. I recall the owners expanded into the space occupied by Formosa now as an additional seafood restaurant. Eventually, 8 China Buffet closed and Formosa became their sole location, a mere mile down the road. I eventually moved on to the new location, and have been able to form an opinion of this place based on a number of years of experience.
The name Formosa, I assume, derives from the name of a short lived republic created by the citizens of Taiwan in 1895 during a brief period after China ceded Taiwan to Japan following war losses and before the Japanese actually arrive to claim it. Taiwan seized an opportunity to declare itself a republic to fend off impending Japanese rule, a measure which was ultimately futile.
Upon arriving at the restaurant, one is rather surprised to see how large of a space the location occupies. To the left is a small bar where drinks are displayed, and to the right is a counter where to-go orders are apparently paid for and where small trinkets and Asian jewelry are sold. A host stand is front and center, with dining rooms off to either side and a large buffet space behind a fountain wall in the distance. ‘VIP’ rooms are present for large private dining parties, and TVs abound in each dining space. There is ample separation of seating, especially in the primary dining room, and the decor and overall look of the facility is clean and serviceable.
I am aware there is actually a restaurant menu that can be ordered off of with a large number of specialty items that comprise ‘real’ Chinese food. I admit I have not had this dining experience and cannot comment on it as part of this review. However, elements of this menu do make their way into the buffet, including dim sum selections and more adventurous Andrew Zimmern style fare including tripe, chicken feet, and organ-based dishes.
The buffet is how most people experience Formosa. The back of the house is where I make a dash to, as that is where the sushi lies. They offer a number of rolls, nigiri, and even some loose chirashi. Fried tempura rolls round out the selection, To be certain, the sushi is not of the same quality expected in an actual sushi bar, and on some limited occasions a number of selections can be dried out and unappetizing. However, as a whole, I have found the sushi here to be very acceptable in light of the buffet setting, and well worth it for an inexpensive work day lunch. I use their oversized plates to fabricate a large pile of varied pieces as my initial food selection before delving into the other offerings on a second helping.
The rest of the selections are extremely varied. It cannot be said this place does not offer variety. A dozen or so typical stir fry offerings are featured, including a mediocre version of General Tso’s chicken, a better selection of black pepper chicken and Kung Pao chicken, as well as some variations of Thai-style curry chicken, Mongolian pork, mixed seafood, and chicken with broccoli. They feature grilled fowl and fish in another section, raw seafood (not sure I’d advise trying this), typical Chinese-American fried appetizers in the form of egg rolls, spring rolls, wontons, as well as rice, mai fun noodles, and dumplings. A long line of soups and dim sum style appetizers are found near the front, and another bay is devoted to non-Asian food like fries, pizza, and other fare for those who find themselves in an Asian restaurant but for some reason don’t eat ‘ethnic’ food. A chilled salad and fruit section rounds out the meal, and even includes kimchi. Formosa even features a Mongolian-style grill with raw meats and vegetable to select and give to the cook for preparation, flanked by a steam table featuring steamed dumplings, fish balls, buns etc.
Beer and wine is served, along with soft drinks, tea, and some specialty drinks. The buffet itself also includes several desserts, jellos, and even ice cream
Crab legs and other fish offerings are featured at the slightly expanded dinner buffet.
The service is attentive and friendly, clearing plates and replacing drinks. The hosts, undoubtedly part of the management, are a bit abrupt and short on personality, but as their job is simply put your keister into a seat they seem to serve in that capacity.
There is not much else for me to reflect upon regarding this restaurant. At less than $10, the value is worthwhile for a brief lunch respite in a busy day. The quality of the food is acceptable for the most part, and only on limited occasions have I found something completely unappetizing. Remember, most Chinese buffets are of poor quality to begin with. This restaurant has a far greater variety than most, and generally better quality. It’s not great by any means, but its worthwhile as a cheap lunch. Come to Formosa’s buffet not expecting table service quality food, and you will find a decent and acceptable experience.