211 Bridge St. (Route 3A), North Weymouth
Hours: 11:30 a.m.- 2 a.m. daily
Major charge cards accepted
If you’re looking for flavorful Chinese food and a fun, relaxed atmosphere, head over to Cathay Center in North Weymouth.
The restaurant has been a fixture on Route 3A for decades, and has been run by the same family that owns Cathay Pacific in Quincy since 1971.
Judging by the taste of the food and the friendly service, you can tell right away the Cathay folks are industry veterans who know what they’re doing. A few mouthfuls of their expertly cooked rice, tasty vegetables, and crispy golden chicken fingers are all you need; your taste buds will be hooked.
Cathay Center’s menu features a wide variety of seafood, chicken, beef, rice, and noodle dishes at decent prices. You can get an order of steamed rice for $1.75, hot and sour soup for $4, and two veggie spring rolls for $3.50. Pu pu platters start at $20. The most expensive entrée on the menu is the “spicy sizzling platter” of lobster meat, jumbo shrimp, scallops, chicken and beef sautéed with onions, peppers, mushrooms and pea pods in a spicy black bean sauce — and that costs $13.25.
Health-conscious eaters will be happy to see that the menu includes choices like steamed vegetables, steamed rice, and meats prepared with olive oil.
During lunchtime, the 186-seat restaurant is quiet enough to have a business meeting. At night, there is karaoke and dancing.
Cathay Center offers a fabulous — and affordable — all-you-can-eat buffet lunch that’s served Monday through Saturday for $9. From noon until 2 p.m. you can feast on a variety of dishes, including shrimp lo mein, pork fried rice, steamed white rice, boneless spare ribs, egg rolls, Peking ravioli, egg foo young, hot and sour soup, fried shrimp, crab Rangoon, and Kung Pao beef. If you want to add some extra zest to your meal, there’s plenty of brown gravy, lobster sauce, and sweet and sour sauce to be had.
The lunch buffet even included two unexpectedly American appetizers: onion rings and French fries.
All of the offerings we sampled at Cathay Center were warm and delicious. The chicken wings were meaty and full of flavor. The shrimp were plump and tender. The mixed veggies were an attractive blend of green and red peppers, broccoli, water chestnuts, and mushrooms smothered in a wonderfully scrumptious light-tasting sauce.
I braced myself slightly when I took a spoonful of the white rice, wondering whether it would be hard or sticky or clumped together. I quickly learned that I had nothing to worry about. The rice was cooked perfectly; each grain was fluffy and soft, and a pleasure to eat. In addition to the lunchtime buffet, a dinner buffet is served Tuesday nights from 5:30 to 8 p.m. for $11.50.
Despite its long history, Cathay Center looks brand-spanking new. That’s because the building is just four years old; this is the second incarnation of the restaurant.
According to restaurant manager Sam Chu, the original Cathay Center opened in 1959, and was purchased by his parents in 1971. They operated the restaurant under the same name until the day after Christmas in December 2004, when the building was destroyed by a fire.
Chu said his family waited a couple of years before deciding to rebuild the restaurant, which is now run by his sister. The new 4,500-square-foot building that houses Cathay Center opened Memorial Day weekend 2008.
The whole place is spacious and modern-looking. The lounge area has a full bar with televisions, and an adjoining function room has its own sound system, cordless microphones, and large projector screen.
The walls are covered with framed collages of photographs of smiling faces from parties and events held at Cathay Center over the years. Chu said his sister keeps her camera handy at all times to snap photos of happy customers, and returning patrons get a kick out of looking at their photos on the wall. “My sister loves pictures,” he said.
In addition to the well-seasoned Chinese cuisine, there is plenty to see and do at the restaurant. Cathay Center regularly hosts meat raffles sponsored by the North Weymouth Civic Association. The front lobby is plastered with posters and announcements from local charities and civic organizations. The restaurant also hosts a dart league and a Wii bowling league.