Dining out at an upscale restaurant is often an experience, rather than just an opportunity to grab a meal and get on your way. For this reason, I am going to warn you that this review contains *spoilers* and if you want the full experience, stop reading now.
You have been warned...
Buddakan NYC was opened by Zagat's 2007 Restaurateur of the Year, Stephen Starr. He is also known for many restaurants in Philadelphia, and Morimoto (as in the Iron Chef Morimoto) in New York. Needless to say, I had high hopes for this meal. And in many ways, these expectations were definitely met.
The restaurant entrance is discreetly marked with one small sign next to the door, which suggests a mysterious "secret location" vibe, although the restaurant itself is definitely no secret (see fun fact below). Diners are received at the front desk which is a long counter strangely resembling a hotel concierge. They wait for their tables in the bar and lounge area. All is dimly lit by yellow overhead lighting and lamps on the tables. The atmosphere: definitely sophisticated and plush. The dining area is concealed around the corner on the lower level. The main dining room is, in a word, opulent. A long communal table stretches down the center and ornate chandeliers hang overhead from the high ceiling. The entire room is cast in a pinkish gold light. There are several dimmer, smaller dining rooms off the sides. All are equally sumptuous, and this is where I enjoyed my meal.
I was looking forward to raving about the entire meal. And at the beginning, it looked promising. They serve this divine cocktail called Fate, made with pineapple, elderflower and prosecco. It's as delicious as it sounds. I had done a light research beforehand, so I knew that we had to order the Edamame Dumplings as an appetizer. Another reviewer had said that they surely would be on the menu in heaven. I couldn't agree more. The dumplings were steamed and filled with a smooth and creamy filling. The texture was like a mousse, and tasted somewhat mushroom-y or truffle-y. They were served in a slightly tangy shallot-sauternes broth which perfectly balanced the richness of the filling. I could have had an entire meal of them.
The two main course dishes were Dungeness Crab Sticky Rice and Mao Poe Tofu. The crab rice was served in the crab shell. It was perfectly cooked and showcased the lump crabmeat well. The tofu, which came recommended by several reviews including one in the New York Times, was not quite as tasty. The tofu was cooked with ground pork and red pepper but it just was not anything special. It came with a bowl of plain ol' white rice. I could have done without that one.
Vanilla Tea Doughnuts were for dessert. These came with mandarin marmalade and vanilla ice cream. The dessert was well thought out; the bitterness of the marmalade and cold ice cream worked well with the hot and sweet doughnuts. Unfortunately, the doughnuts were heavy pieces of fried dough. They were dense and rather bland. However, they were rolled in a tea sugar which was wonderfully fragrant.
In general, Buddakan is very, very far from being a bad restaurant. The servers are nice and helpful, and the service is prompt but not rushed. The crowd is pleasant and the ambiance is amazing. The food is also great in general. Just a word of advice: order double the dumplings. And skip the doughnuts (I hear the Crying Chocolate is better anyways).
(Fun fact: Buddakan is the setting of Carrie and Big's rehearsal dinner in the Sex and the City movie.)
75 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011-7006
Image credit: francoissimon.typepad.fr