Surprising Asian Oasis in Simi Valley

Panda 1 Buffet
2022 1st St (Corner of New L.A. Ave)
Simi Valley, CA 93065-2820
(805) 579-9555    ($$)

Okay, so Ventura County isn’t exactly the Dakota Badlands but it isn’t most people’s idea of Asian Food Heaven either.

Well, buster, cruise on over to the Panda 1 Buffet in Simi Valley for an Asian feast you aren’t likely to find anywhere else at anywhere near the price.

Late one Tuesday morning we stumbled into a big empty restaurant whose ambience was about like any generic Chinese restaurant, albeit a very outsized one. Once my eyes began focusing on the offerings on the buffet counters, I forgot that I wasn’t in the warm center of L.A. County. There was sushi, kalbi, pizza, beef pies, roast pork, about 5 kinds of Asian chicken and an entire corner of the restaurant devoted to a well-stocked Mongolian barbecue grill.

You’ll swear you’re in seafood heaven. And squeeze in two must-have favorites: the garlic green beans and the napolean dessert.

The seafood offerings were exceptionally generous — squid, shrimp, mackerel, mussels, salmon, battered whitefish —the list goes on. An impressive array of fruits and vegetables are available to kick off your feast: Chinese pickled radishes and celery, excellent cole slaw and carrot slaw, kimchi, tossed green salad, pineapple, grapes, watermelon, strawberries, bananas, fruit salads, jellos and even bananas foster.

What really touched my heart were the desserts. There were three kinds of buns filled with red beans for starters, fudge, fluffy little cakes, pudding, 8 flavors of real ice cream (not the soft stuff that comes out of self-serve machines) and (my personal favorite) napoleons you dream about — crispy outer layers cradling a light, fluffy, filling just sweet enough to satisfy.

So it was no surprise that by the time I looked up all sweaty from my third plate the place was packed with families and office lunch brigades. The tab? Precisely $8 a head including tax! I walked out of Panda 1 Buffet with new respect for Simi Valley and mulling excuses to return, possibly for dinner.