Our son, Ethan, is a week away from the end of the world as he knows it and he feels fine. That’s because next Monday he ships out for boot camp in South Carolina and the beginning of a five year commitment in the army. His current world of friends, family, iPhone, and internet is ending, at least temporarily for the 10 weeks that he is in basic training. He is excited, a little nervous but totally at peace with his decision to enlist. He feels like he has found his calling.

In honor of him being a short-timer civilian and to celebrate my birthday, we drove into the city to take him to dinner. Ethan picked the restaurant; a $22.95 all you-can-eat Asian buffet in Daly City called Kome that he and his girlfriend discovered while he was going to San Francisco State.

If you approach Kome more like Disneyland than a restaurant, you can have a really good time; it’s crowded, has long lines and the food isn’t very good but that’s okay, because it’s about the total experience, not fine dining.

Mass quantities of sushi at Kome

Kome is a total clash of cultures; the place was jammed with big groups of Latino, Japanese, and Chinese families, students, seniors, and a just-married couple with the bride still in her wedding dress and the groom in a tux. I especially liked the lady with the German accent who was next to me in the buffet line. She watched the Chinese chef whack up the boiled chicken with a cleaver and then asked if she could have the chicken head – beak and eyes included – and neck. In whatever culture she came from, it’s a delicacy.

The restaurant is enormous – it can probably seat 500 people. It looks like a bowling alley that was decorated in the 1970s. Lots of glass, chrome, reflective silver chandeliers and black vinyl with a big red neon “Sushi” sign glowing in the back of the room. A roller disco circling the room would not have seemed out of place.

Ethan was especially happy because we were seated next to the sushi station which is the reason he loves Kome; he can eat his fill for about the third of what it would cost at a real Japanese restaurant. Is it really sushi? If they can call the gluey white paste surrounding imitation crab “sushi” on the platters at Costco, then this certainly qualifies. Do you like wasabi? There was a punch bowl filled with it.

I especially liked watching the rice machine at work. Similar to a pasta machine, it takes cooked rice and forms it into flat square sheets so all the sushi chef has to do is slap on the seaweed, fill it, and roll it. I’m sure sushi masters who spend a lifetime perfecting their art, die a small death every time one of the Kome chefs cranks out another 30 pieces of California roll in about 10 minutes.

Shrimp and sea snails

Jennifer expanded her culinary horizons with squid balls and warm almond and red bean dessert soup. I think the tiramisu was more like tofumisu but I’m not complaining. When you leave a place like that feeling that you got more than your money’s worth in entertainment value and it didn’t even cost you a case of food poisoning, the evening is a success.