Buddakan

by Susan on October 13, 2007

[Food:3/5]

While I had heard a few fairly good reviews of the food at Buddakan, what I kept hearing about was the “scene”. The combination of the two made me curious enough to make a Friday night dinner reservation for four. Buddakan can seat about 350 people at once and a staff member told me the kitchen would put out 800 meals on that Friday night. The numbers are startling, as is the interior. This gargantuan space was once a factory, now home to a large bar area, an open air downstairs with communal tables and looming chandeliers, in addition to standard tables situated on the same floor as the bar. We sipped on drinks in the uber cool bar before being seated, and it certainly lived up to its scene reputation: low lights, dark furniture, and lots of chic people.

The dining area in which we were seated was much more brightly lit than the bar, and to my surprise, not incredibly loud. The four of us easily carried on a conversation. Our server was attentive, helpful, friendly, and patient. Though the restaurant did feel a bit like a factory, we never felt rushed. In general, the food tasted good. Asian fusion cuisine is so popular these days that if you’re not reinventing the wheel the dishes taste a bit too familiar and with relatively high price tags attached to the dishes at Buddakan, you can easily find similar dishes for signficantly less money.  

Our edamame dumplings, crispy calamari salad, and beef lettuce cups arrived quickly after we had placed our order. The dumplings were light and the pureed edamame centers were smooth and flavorful. We were impressed with the size of the calamari salad which arrived on a beautiful, black lacquer, oblong platter. The calamari was tender and even though it had been fried and then dressed, it still retained a crunchy exterior.  The batter was light and despite the use of a fryer, the dish didn’t come across as heavy. For the lettuce cups, four, small, yet beautifully seared pieces of beef arrive with lettuce leaves for wrapping. Dishes with lettuce cups often involve a pile of overly greasy, ground meat that you spoon into a leaf and eat quickly before the juices drip from the leaf and soak the plate below. Buddakan has found a much more refined way to present this dish and it was a welcomed surprise. 

We opted for a family style meal ordering sizzling short ribs, whole peking duck, and black cod as our main dishes. The short ribs had a nice smoky flavor but lacked the tenderness of truly slow-cooked meat. The beef just didn’t have the fall apart, melt in your mouth consistency. The accompaniment of mushroom chow fun noodles was very good. The peking duck also had good flavor, but was a bit dry and over cooked. The skin was not very crispy, a must when executing this dish to its fullest potential. The number of accompanying silver-dollar sized pancakes were plentiful. The black cod, though not ground-breaking, was very well prepared and had all the right textures of flakiness with a slightly charred glaze.

Our peanut butter chocolate dessert was decadent and well-balanced, with both flavors making an appearance in every bite.

While I will not be running back for another meal, I would not hesitate to return to the bar for a drink and some New York City people watching.  

Buddakan
http://www.buddakannyc.com/
75 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
(212) 989-6689

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