This is the happiest I’ve been with a holiday buffet in a long time in terms of price ($32), quality and ambiance.
It wasn’t one of those ginourmous Disney-esque holiday buffets. The selection was more focused, better executed and overall delicious.
It was an extra $10 to add unlimited sparkling wine or mimosas. I also liked that non drinkers didn’t have the cost for the alcohol built into the buffet price
It was a big notch above most buffet sparklers. Well worth the $10, especially since I wasn’t the designated driver and had three glasses.
Wolf Blass Sparkling Wine from Australia was the sparkler and it was very nice. I’d buy more Wolf Blass wines if I saw them based on this taste.
The buffet was very vegetarian-friendly and done so that both meat eaters and vegetarians enjoyed those dishes.
I’ve read a lot of Thanksgiving menus this year and it seems 90 % serve butternut squash with sage butter as the veg option, 8 % of menus had something awful-sounding. The veggie pot pie here was different and delicious.
Roast beef (Perfectly pink without being bloody. A tasty pepper rub and good meat flavor) Side bowls of horseradish and jus
Turkey (both white and dark meat were good. Not dry and tasty)
Regular Gravy (fine)
Wild Mushroom gravy (Fantastic. Lots of mushrooms. Lots of flavor)
Baked salmon – edges were a little too done, but moister in the middle
SALADS AND OTHER STUFF
Water chestnut soup (see comments below)
Duck mousse pate (or something like that … good, flavorful, and smooth)
Pan d’epi rolls (nice)
Crisp romaine with whole pecans and blue cheese vinaigrette (Very, very good)
Mesclin with sherry vinaigrette (fine but the romaine was better)
Quinoa (fine, a little oily)
Fruit salad (the only miss on the buffet. Typical hard, flavorless buffet fruit)
Yams (Spectacular. Lovely layers of brown sugar and spice flavor … mmmm)
Creamed spinach (very good with nice nutmeg notes)
Mashed potatoes (nicely done)
Green beans top with house-made, thin crispy onion rings … loved those
Veggie pot pie – more of a casserole in cream sauce but tasty with sage flavoring
Bread stuffing – nice sage notes, moist but mainly average.. Good enough though.
Glazed carrots (fine but a little too al dente. They had a vinegary edge)
Mac and cheese (a little gluey but ok)
There was a good whole berry cranberry sauce that satisfied my turkey day cravings. I didn’t have to open the backup can of Ocean Spray when I got home. This was so much better and did it for me for the day.
Desserts (in order of preference)
Pecan Pear bread pudding (a standout)
Whipped Cream (good thick, whipped cream)
Pumpkin pie (very good)
Pumpkin muffin cake (very good)
Chocolate dipped fresh strawberries (fine)
Apple tart tartan (fine)
The nit was that some items such as the beans, beet salad and quinoa were the slightest bit oilier than I prefer. Not excessively so, but noticeable. Then again I use very little oil at home.
What was interesting about the roasted beets and the quinoa was that to me it was an example of the difference of very good food and outstanding. These same two dishes I had earlier this year at Brix were memorably exemplary and so the Lake Chalet versions suffered by comparison.
The only out and out flop was the fresh fruit salad … cubed honeydew, cantaloupe, sliced strawberries and previously frozen blueberries. They had that tasteless, hard buffet fresh fruit quality. I’ve had worse, but they should either improve this or get rid of it. It wasn’t in the same class as the rest of the buffet.
The soup wasn’t really bad, it was just odd … the ladies at a table near me said what I was thinking … it tasted like gravy with a slight sweet/sour accent and very background spice. Gravy soup might not sound appetizing, but it was a bit lighter and ok-ish
That bread pudding was wonderful … warm, rich, flavorful and full of chopped pecans. I don’t even like bread pudding usually yet this was my favorite dessert … and the others were quite good
While the crust could have been better, the pumpkin pie filling was very nice with brown sugar/maple accents, perfect spicing and deep pumpkin flavor.
The dessert labeled ‘pumpkin muffins’ was a cake cut in squares and sprinkled with powdered sugar. It really was like a moist muffin that was packed with pumpkin flavor
This season I’ve had bad luck with all things pumpkin. These two desserts satisfied my seasonal cravings.
The strawberries were fine, but nothing amazing … still … nice with the sparkling wine.
The tart tartan was really chunky applesauce on top of tough puff pastry rounds. The apples were flavorful, but this really wasn’t what it advertised itself to be.
Beverages other than water were extra. However, coffee, iced tea and soft drinks were re-filled.
AMBIANCE AND SERVICE.
This was my first time at the Lake Chalet. What a pleasant restaurant with its beautiful views of Lake Merrit.
Three identical buffet tables were set up in three different areas, the Pumphouse room, the Lake Room and the Gondola Room. This made is more personal than some of the large holiday buffets that are held in sterile a hotel ballroom or conference room.
I have a difficult group to deal with. Some value quantity with below zero Chowhound tastes. Convincing them not to eat at Empire Buffet was a stretch. Others appreciate quality. The place couldn’t be too fancy. Meritage at the Claremont would have made them uncomfortable. However, it had to be nice and special-occasion worthy.
The Lake Chalet met all the requirements beautifully and said this was the best holiday buffet choice to date.
The service …
There are a lot of complaints about this on yelp. It wasn’t bad but it was a notch below what it should have been.
Some of the other servers were a little better than ours. He could have been more attentive. We had to ask for bread I asked a question and he said he’d get back to me. He never did. They need to polish the service a bit.
We got lost getting there. Something that is rarely mentioned is there is a free parking lot but it is not obvious. If you go straight to the end of 17th St., The 30 car lot (2 disabled spots) the parking lot entrance is directly across from the end.
This reminds me that the Lake Chalet isn’t totally handicap friendly. After years of dealing with my mom progressing from walkers to a wheelchair, I always notice.
It is fine for wheelchairs or those with limited mobility problems, but not good for someone struggling with a walker as one I saw. There is no direct drop off at the door and a about a longish block to the parking lot with no benches on the way.
Very pleased. They did a nice job with buffet food.
It was also pleasant for our groups to stroll along the lake after dinner.
The Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill
1520 Lakeside Drive, Oakland, CA 94612