If I have faith in anything, it is my ability to find the buffet line. I get a perverse pleasure from buffets. I snagged Mister Tangible--one tall, lean, eating machine--for company, and drove out to Redmond Town Center, where we found the hot new Todai: "Mother of All Seafood Buffets."

An all-you-can-eat sushi bar? No problem. I piled my plate high with approximately 32 different kinds of mediocre sushi, prepared faster than step aerobics by an army of Latino sushi chefs. Seated smack in the middle of the dining room, I could keep one eye on the sushi machine (which spurted out 40 pats of sushi rice per minute) and the other eye on all the petite older Asian women delightedly swaggering to their tables with plates of snow crab legs. Bad strategy to eat all that rice-laden sushi right off--my stomach already felt strained, and I hadn't even visited the steam table, with its bacon-wrapped scallops, green mussels, and cheese-encrusted lobster.

For $22.95 (per person), I wasn't going to stop at one giant plate of sushi. We proceeded with diminishing joy through the hot food buffet, the Asian-inspired salad bar, and the udon and miso soup trough. The throb of speedy pop music, combined with nausea-inducing blue neon lighting, and the Tokyo airport/cafeteria ambience brought bile into my throat.

The serene old lady next to me steadily put away four platters of lobster, definitely getting her 20 percent off senior discount's worth. Inspired, we threw back some sake and weaved through the throngs of very un-gluttonous-looking seafood buffet lovers to the final nail in the coffin: a dessert buffet, resplendent with miniature cakes, cookies, AND made-to-order crepes.

Halfway through one green-tea cake, I shot up out of my seat and staggered toward the door. I was paralyzed with stomach cramps. As I groaned, I recalled some awestruck British friends who once recounted their virgin American buffet encounters to me. The buffet is both our national monument and our consumer mecca: Those resplendent displays of abundance and choice are erected from economic arrogance and our near-religious devotion to the idea of unlimited consumer options. For my English friends, it was their most vivid impression of the States.

Todai

7548 164th Ave NE (Redmond Town Center), 425-376-1922. Mon-Thurs lunch 11:30 am-2:30 pm, dinner 5:30-9 pm; Fri-Sat 5:30-10 pm; Sun 5-9 pm.

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