NAME: Café Sierra [called a “Café” but is a giant restaurant with hundreds of seats. Most seats filled when we were there.]
TELEPHONE: +1 (808) 284-4253
WEB PAGE: cafesierrahilton.com
RESERVATIONS: They accept reservations. They have room for hundreds of guests, but are very popular. Reservations may be a good idea.
DAYS/HOURS OF OPERATION: Varies by day. Check online. Their famous buffets are Friday-Saturday. We attended the Saturday Evening Buffet.
GREETING: None. We just walked in and found the maitre d' to sign us up.
LOCALITY: Hilton Universal City, 555 Universal Hollywood Drive, Universal City, California 91608
DIFFICULTY LOCATING: Do not know.
OCCASION: We were fortuitously staying at the hotel for other business, but The Pirate had scouted out local California seafood and local seafood restaurants. The buffets were famous and had received excellent reviews.
PARKING: There is a parking grange, but I did not check on this.
SPECIALS: They advertise specials on their mailing list.
VIEW: None. Inside the hotel.
ATMOSPHERE: Despite having hundreds of patrons along large tables, it is still nice.
FURNITURE: Real wood tables and chairs were comfortable and spacious.
BEER: I had a large, draft “Sierra Nevada” in a tall glass, which was good ($8).
WINE: My wife had a large glass of white wine, which was very good ($8).
BAR: They have a full bar service.
WATER: Provided in large pressed-glass glasses
MENU FORMAT: There is a brief menu online.
WAITRESS: Service was good, but she did not know anything about their beers or wines. Told me that Samuel Adams was a local beer! This is a shame with so many microbreweries in the area.
SERVICE: The server at the Taco Station was oddly grumpy. Another reviewer said he was grumpy in mid-November. Looked like his mood had not improved. Management posted that they had addressed this problem, but I guess not. The servers at the other stations were more positive and polite, but did not speak English. Surprisingly, they did not seem to speak Spanish, either. Go figure. They knew nothing about the seafood. Not even about the ones they were serving.
BREAD: I never saw any. There is house-baked bread on their breakfast menu.
APPETIZERS: Oysters on-the-half-shell (rather small), Makizushi, Sushi, and Sashimi [the pickled ginger was white instead of pink]. I only tried the shrimp sushi, which was ordinary. I make better; however, the other items looked good. The grumpy Taco Station Man had Fish , Shrimp, Beef, and Chicken Tacos ; Shrimp Dim Sum and Pork Dim Sum
SALAD: There was a simple green salad and an ordinary vegetable salad.
ENTRÉE: Lobster Thermador; King Crab Legs and Claws; giant, boiled, you-peel, shrimp; Cioppino (California Seafood Stew) , Ginger Dungeness Crab; Pacific Halibut ; Atlantic Salmon; Atlantic Salmon in Teriaki Sauce, Ahi (Yellowfin or Bigeye Tuna) (all excellent), Shellfish Ceviche ; Peking Duck (tasted gamey); prime rib (slicing Station), roast pork, pork ribs, lamb (without mint jelly). At least 3 kinds of lobsters, King Crab, Dungeness Crab, and Opilio Crab pieces in various dishes.
SIDES: Seafood Paella, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, several rice dishes, pasta dishes, fried rice
CONDIMENTS: Salt and pepper shakers on the table, the shrimp sauce was pleasantly spicy but needed more horse radish, lemon and lime wedges, wasabi, shoyu (soy sauce), white pickled ginger, no jalapeno pepper (in California?), no mint jelly, no hot sauce, no melted butter
SILVERWARE: Adequate. Good cracker for the crab and some interesting picking-out tools.
SERVING TIME: NA, but dishes were quickly refilled.
DESERT: Fabulous and intricate. Chocolate fountain and Cotton Candy.
BATHROOM: Did not examine, but I am certain they were fine.
COST COMPARISON: Seemed a bit expensive ($47), but the food was so great, who could complain?
BILL: Handled well.
SECURITY: Inside the hotel. Sort of open-air to the lobby. Not certain how they keep up with who is paying or not.
PROBLEMS: (A) Many diverse food bars and manned food stations are well spread out, which is good for serving time. The only problem is that finding everything can be confusing. Some things are hidden around corners. (B) The line at the Crape Station was always long. (C) The grumpy Taco Station man. (D) They no longer have their Sharkfin Soup , no abalone, Jellyfish, Snow Crab Legs, Shrimp Cocktail, Pâté Platter, Calimari (Squid), Octopus, Clams, Clam Chowder, Quail, Haagen Dazs icecream, Scallops, Cheese Baked Lobster, Escargot, Walnut Prawns, Coconut Shrimp
SUMMATION: Best seafood buffet that I have ever seen.
 Fish Tacos is a famous California product, which I wanted to try. I closely examined the bloody, chunks of uncooked fish. It was shark. May have been Common Thresher (Shark), Alopias vulpinus, which I also wanted to try. An excellent tasting fish and California has one of the few, may be the only, legal and sustainable fisheries for this animal.
 This stew is another famous California product, which I wanted to try. It had the traditional black mussels, ribbed clams, shrimp, white fish, and crab legs. However, it also had pieces of lobster, which it not in the traditional recipe. It should have had scallops, but I could not find any.
 Hippoglossus stenolepis, I would have preferred to try the California Halibut, Paralichtys californicus.
 Ceviche is fresh, raw fish marinated in citrus juices. Lemon or lime juice denatures the proteins and make the fish appear “cooked.” Unfortunately, most dangerous parasites are unharmed by citrus juices. They incorrectly call all kinds of cooked things in California “ceviches.” Jim Williams used to take Queen Conch right out of the water after a dive, out on the reefs, thinly slice the raw meat, marinade it in a lime sauce for a few minutes, and serve it in the boat. It was wonderful.
 I would have liked to have tried it. There is nothing illegal or unethical about making “Sharkfin Soup” as-long-as the entire fish is harvested and utilized. I suppose it could encourage the deplorable practice of “Finning.” They stopped serving this June 2013 and it is now banned in California.
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