Editor’s note: We’ll take a peek inside restaurants and bars regularly in this space.

LEWISTON – The parking lot near the New China Super Buffet in the Lewiston Mall has been packed practically since the restaurant opened, so it seemed like the perfect place to start off this column on eating and drinking around town (and sometimes beyond).

But I made a mistake when I pitched the idea to the editors one recent morning. Only half-expecting them to accept, I had eaten breakfast before coming to work.

Note to public: Never eat breakfast before going to the New China Super Buffet for lunch.

It’s not that you won’t find something light (steamed white rice, steamed broccoli and a limited vegetarian sushi selection for starters). But to be faced with eight gleaming steam tables and more than 238 dishes (or so the paper placemat said), and to only have room for two heaping plates instead of three or four, well, that’s a travesty in the world of all-you-can-eat buffet dining.

All that said, the super buffet lived up to and even surpassed its name on some levels.

There were all the old standbys: egg drop, wonton and hot and sour soups; chow mein, lo mein and pork fried rice; General Tso’s chicken and beef with broccoli, and those pink pork spareribs.

But there also were surprises, which I went for first in the name of journalistic integrity (or at least a sense of responsibility toward our dear readers).

Take the mussels with cheese. These strange little concoctions involved leaving cooked mussels on an open half shell and melting a yellow cheese substance over the top. They were a little on the dry, rubbery side, and I chomped down on a piece of shell in my first bite, which was not a very pleasant experience, but they were going fast. I saw the tray reloaded at least twice while I was there.

Or the crayfish. Not having had one since I was a kid, I was leery. Unlike the mussels, however, the crayfish were in a light broth and remained moist. Better than I had remembered, in fact, and I’d eat them again.

There also was fried squid, poached salmon and a chef on hand to prepare Mongolian barbecue at a side table.

And there was pizza, for those not interested in Chinese food, as well as mashed potatoes and onion rings.

As always with a good, cheap buffet luncheon, there was plenty of dessert to go around. Pudding and macaroons, mini eclairs and cream puffs, Jell-O and hard ice cream all were available.

While some of the dishes were on the greasy side (the hot and sour soup had a very oily texture, and the fried sweet potatoes were gleaming, for example), overall there was a great selection with plenty of variety.

And at $5.69 for a weekday lunch, who can complain? This was a good bet for a big meal, and the restaurant was very clean, with a large and efficient staff.

No need for seconds: The egg drop soup

Heap your plate: The crayfish. C’mon, live a little!