The place serves more than just traditional Chinese; the food represents a tour of East Asia, or maybe the whole world, with food influenced by Japan, Korea, Mongolia – and New Mexico.
And eating there feels like going on a tour. The restaurant itself is sprawling and grand – the main dining room feels more like a concourse on a cruise ship than a buffet in a strip mall.
But the grandest part of Lin’s Grand Buffet is the food.
Diners can choose traditional Chinese and Korean dishes, Japanese sushi, Mongolian barbecue, even enchiladas made with New Mexico chile.
Because it’s a buffet, some items stand up to time better than others. I started with the fried rice and the house chicken, a phenomenal Korean barbecue-style dish with big chunks of white- and dark-meat chicken marinated in a sweet and spicy sauce, much like teriyaki but smoky and sweeter. It was the best item I tried, but a close second and third were the sesame chicken and the kung pao chicken, respectively.
All were hot and fresh, obviously prepared recently and not left to sweat under a heat lamp. Several items looked good but out of place – corn on the cob didn’t seem to complement much of the Asian fare, and potato wedges were probably included to appeal to younger and finicky eaters.
In a buffet, variety is hardly a bad thing. Lin’s also features an impressive salad bar, a dozen types of desserts (though not all were necessarily made in house), and a sushi station with a chef on site. The Mongolian barbecue station provides even more options for freshly made, piping-hot fare, but the buffet itself has enough options to satisfy any diner with dishes including sweet and sour chicken, lo mein, egg flower soup, several types of shrimp and fish, and those New Mexico enchiladas.
Even though it’s a buffet, the service is great and guests are seated right away. Although I visited during the dinner hour, when crowds were surprisingly thin on a weekend, I imagined Lin’s would make an excellent, speedy lunch for midtown office workers.
Lin’s is also more kid-friendly than some buffets, with dishes like personal pizzas and french fries, but kids would be most impressed by the dessert offerings, such as a self-serve ice cream station.
My favorite part of the meal was the most unexpected, though not uncommon at Chinese buffets: sugar-dusted, airy sweet rolls. Lin’s were hot out of the oven and deliciously sweet, better than any item at the dessert station. Like a lot of Lin’s offerings, these sugar rolls aren’t entirely health-conscious or diet-friendly, but they are absolutely delicious and worth the occasional indulgence.
Service, parking, atmosphere and price are all excellent. An adult can expect to pay between $10 and $15, depending on the time of day, with drinks included. The atmosphere is elegant and grand (like a cruise ship docked in Albuquerque), and the central location makes it easily accessible for anyone in town. They can accommodate (very) large parties, and they offer catering and takeout pricing as well.
Albuquerque might have better-quality sushi to offer, and Las Vegas might have grander buffets, but Lin’s is still a great local spot to fill up on all the Asian cuisine you can handle.