When Nagoya Japanese Buffet opened its doors on Sherwood Forest Boulevard in Baton Rouge, many Asian buffet-style restaurants rushed to change their formats in competition. It’s that competition that finds so many of the area’s Asian eateries looking like clones of Nagoya. The Grand Asian Buffet is a prime example of that.

Except … the Grand Asian Buffet isn’t really impressive.

I dined with two friends. One is a strict vegetarian, the other will eat anything. I abstain only from beef and pork.

The Grand Asian Buffet, formerly Jing Du, formerly The Great Wall, looks no different than its predecessors. In fact, diners’ bills still read “The Great Wall” and the receipts say “Jing Du.”

We tasted as many items that looked remotely appealing as possible.

While navigating the large food area, we saw cooks constantly refilling buffet trays. There is a sushi assortment and a hibachi with a semi-present chef to cook up meals.

Collectively we filled our plates with cheese dumplings, crabmeat casserole, lo mein, chicken dumplings, sesame chicken, steamed broccoli, green beans, spicy cabbage, vegetable fried rice, grilled mussels in the shell, hot pepper shrimp, vegetable mei fun and buttered rolls.

The buffet was mostly stocked with all the classics you can find at Americanized Asian buffets, including French fries, fried chicken wings, salads and those vibrantly red short ribs.

Of the items we tasted, only the spicy cabbage stood out — sort of.

My friend, when asked what was outstanding on his plate, replied, “The spicy cabbage was okay.”

My other friend, the “eat anything” one, left a nearly full plate of food. He said everything was bland.

“I’m not gonna eat the rest,” he continued. “There was nothing remarkable about any of it.”

Laughter ensued because on the table was a piece of paper slipped into the napkin holder that read: We reserve the right to charge for excessive wasted food. But even the threat of having to pay for an extra place at the table didn’t make him want another bite. It did make us all wonder why there was such a need for the gentle threat. Is the food really that bad to everyone?

Even after watching him push his plate away in despair, I twisted my friend’s arm to try the sushi with me.

I would love to say which pieces of sushi we tasted but they weren’t labeled. I know for sure we had California rolls. I didn’t find them to be the best sushi rolls ever, but they were quite fresh and yummy for a buffet. Sushi condiment trays were also available and this brought my friend just a bit back to life after his dissatisfying first plate. I’d say out of everything we had, the sushi took the cake …. but the actual cake — as in dessert, however — eek!

When it came time to try desserts, the three of us walked back and forth by the assortment of airplane-looking snacks and no one wanted anything, but my vegetarian friend filled his plate with various melons and said that it all tasted fresh.

While on the positives, our server was very sweet and the table instantly cleared whenever we finished a plate. She even reminded us to take our forks and was sure to keep our water glasses filled.

She brought us four fortune cookies at the end of the meal along with our check. The cookies were standard and the fortunes confusing and a bit grim. Mine read “Action with a brain. Today you should proceed with caution.” My friends got fortunes pertaining to accidents, as if our table was to be damned, but at $6.99 a person for a midday lunch, I guess you’re damned if you don’t try it.

All in all, the quality is indeed in the price.