Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Buddakan in NYC

Front entry to Buddakan
As I embarked on my culinary journey through two major cities in the northeast, I decided to kick-off my adventure in a trendy, ultra-modern restaurant that I had first seen on the big screen. It was featured in the first full-length movie based on the popular television series about four single ladies who spent six seasons giving us insight into the dating scene in New York: Sex and the City. They shared many of their relationship woes taking a bite out of the Big Apple, just as I was about to do. For those of you who are SATC fans, this is the restaurant where Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big had their glamorous wedding rehearsal dinner. In real life, it is Buddakan, located in 75 9th Avenue in New York.

Bar Area
Lounge Area
From the moment you walk through the tall, ornate doors, Buddakan lures you in with its dark-hued, rich Asian decor and its subdued lighting. It serves modern Asian cuisine in a chic, awe-inspiring setting, taking the experience to a whole different level. To the right, several hosts/hostesses check for your reservation and point you to the bustling bar, where a large, mural-like painting engages your attention as you wait to be seated. The decor is upscale and modern, with separate rooms, each emitting a different ambiance. A trendy lounge across from the bar serves as a place to mingle and enjoy a cocktail, while dining booths are lined up against the wall. Walking to the rear room of the restaurant, you will notice a lower level to your left, which houses a large communal table in the center and smaller tables along the wall. The center table is towered by elegant chandeliers, inducing the same mystical decor. This is where the episode of SATC was filmed. It is a beautiful room, perfect for events and gatherings.


Setting for Carrie and Mr. Big's Rehearsal Dinner in SATC
 
We were seated at a corner table in the back room. This room was decorated with dark wooden tables surrounded by red velvet chairs.  The entire place was completely full with what seemed to be a combination of  locals and tourists; completely submersed in the environment. I have to say it took me some time to adjust to the noise level. I don't know if it was the acoustics in the dining area, or that we were sitting around some very loud patrons, but it honestly became bothersome after a while. It was really difficult to maintain a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Fortunately, I either got used to the noise, or some of the loud-mouths left, because after about twenty minutes, it wasn't as pronounced as it was at the beginning.


Reflecting...

Reflection
Buddakan's menu is comprised of plates meant to be shared, including a variety of dim sum, hot and cold appetizers, noodles, rice and different types of meat, seafood and poultry. The dishes are creatively prepared and made with an interesting combination of ingredients. When the waitress came to take our drink orders, I noticed their specialty cocktails were named after Asian influences as well: Tranquility, Fate and Reflection, among others. I decided to order Reflection, which was made with Bacardi Gold, pineapple, apricot and grenadine. I told the waitress I was in the mood for a sweet, refreshing drink, and she suggested I try that one. It was good but not spectacular. I expected it to be sweeter and couldn't taste the pineapple or apricot at all.


Deviled Tuna Tartare
Spicy Yellowtail Yu Sheng
After looking at the infinite number of items on the menu that looked appealing, we started with one of my all-time must-haves: the Deviled Tuna Tartare, with chili mayonnaise and scallions. While the pieces of tuna were very fresh, they lacked a bit of flavor. The ingredients were layered, not blended, taking away a bit from the potential of the dish. I enjoyed it, but it didn't stand out. Next, we shared the Spicy Yellowtail Yu Sheng with smoked chili and pineapple. This was our least favorite by consensus. To start, the thin slices of raw fish were too small, so while the hint of pineapple added a balance of sweetness to the spicy chili, the taste was lost. I didn't like this dish at all.


Boneless Spare Ribs
General Tso's Dumplings
I knew it had to get better and I'm glad to say in the next choice, it did. We tried the Boneless Spare Ribs, which came with a bit of chinese mustard. Now we're talking. I really wouldn't have guessed this would be my prize winner, but it was. The ribs were tender and moist, and the glaze was delicious. I didn't even need the chinese mustard because they were extremely flavorful on their own. Feeling my excitement return, our next dish was General Tso's Dumplings, with chicken, ginger and garlic. We were somewhat split on this one. Personally, I liked them. I thought the filling was savory and the texture of the wrappers was perfect.



Kung Pao Monkfish
Sweet & Crispy Jumbo Shrimp
Next up, we ordered two fish and two rice dishes. I'll tell you about the fish dishes first. They were both spectacular! The first one was the Sweet & Crispy Jumbo Shrimp. Wow! I was in crustacean heaven! The shrimp were lightly breaded and topped with a citrus salad with bits of radishes that was outrageous. It became another favorite quickly. The second fish dish was the Kung Pao Monkfish. This was phenomenal! The monkfish was drizzled in chili-schezuan sauce, peanuts and topped with bean sprouts. The spicy kick and incredible flavor kept us quiet while we enjoyed it immensely.

Crustacean Heaven Up Close and Personal

Dungeness Crab Sticky Rice
Chinese Sausage Fried Rice
Of the two rice dishes we ordered, one was a hit, and the other one was a split. The one I loved was the Dungeness Crab Sticky Rice, prepared with XO Sauce for a nice burst of flavor, and Chinese broccoli.  It blew me away! The presentation was impressive; served inside the actual shell of a dungeness crab, and the taste was totally succulent. The best sticky rice I've had. We also tried the Chinese Sausage Fried Rice.  It sounded interesting on the menu; coming topped with an egg sunny side up. Again, the presentation was nice but I found it off on taste. It missed the mark for me. It was a bit dry and didn't hold a lot of flavor.

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse Pave
By this point, I was stuffed but I still wanted to try at least one dessert. I asked the waitress to recommend one she loved and she suggested the Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse Pave. Boy, she was on the money with this one. Delicious layers of chocolate graced the plate on chinese cinnamon hazelnut creme. It was accompanied by a scoop of caramel popcorn sorbet and pieces of caramelized popcorn. Just remembering it is making me salivate. I think I saw fireworks when I put the spoon in my mouth, and it wasn't even the Fourth of July.

I enjoyed my adventure at Buddakan. It is definitely a place you want to try at least once when you come to New York. It exudes the right vibe, the service was good and the menu is quite extensive, giving you plenty of interesting dishes to try. For more information, you can contact Buddakan at 212-989-6699 or visit them online at http://www.buddakannyc.com/.


Buddakan on Urbanspoon


3 comments:

  1. I went to Buddakan in Philly a couple of years ago. It was amazing. We need one down here!

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  2. Can you imagine? It would be such a perfect fit here! I would love it.

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  3. NYC is certainly full of amazing places to dine. If you want excellent Asian food, Buddakan is the place to go. A little pricey but worth it!

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