Thursday, March 30, 2006


I had a lady-date last night, and it was fancy! My friend Sue, knowing that I have enough of an interest in food to spend some real big bucks on it, invited me to a new big-deal restaurant that just opened up in the Meatpacking District: Buddakan. It is a "pan-asian" EMPORIUM and I enjoyed it very much. Here's my review, both of Sue as a lady-date, and of Buddakan as a restaurant.

I arrived five minutes before our reservation, and Sue wasn't there yet. So I waited in what felt like a cramped hotel lobby for Sue, who was about ten minutes late. No problem, as she looked very adorable. Our table, reserved for 9:45pm, wasn't ready yet, so we were made to wait in the giant bar. Why they hadn't told ME about the bar as I waited for Sue is beyond me, but okay, fine.

Buddakan, if you haven't heard, is a GIGANTIC restaurant; it is TWO floors with enormous vaulted ceilings, chandeliers, and low seating and lighting. The space was impressive and daunting. At the bar area, where people were both drinking and eating food, Sue and I ordered drinks. She had a glass of white wine, and I decided to try a cocktail called Heat, and it was one of the best mixed drinks I have ever tasted! It's main component was Tequila, a spirit of which I am normally not a fan, but Cointreau was also featured, and that is one of my favorite liquers. But the best part about Heat: The Drink was that it really did pack some spice! There was some chili or jalapeno oil in just the right amount, and this was tempered by little fresh cubes of cooling cucumber. Again, this drink: beautiful and delicious!

After waiting for thirty minutes our table was ready. We were led down a rather steep flight of stairs into another ENORMOUS room with ENORMOUS chandeliers and an ENORMOUS table packed with diners. In fact, even at that late hour, the entire restaurant was packed. Our table was just to the side of all the action, and Sue made me take the "guy" seat, facing the wall. She got to face out and look at all the hub-bub. That little bitch.

We perused the menu and decided to share three appetizers and each order our own respective main courses. Frog legs were listed as a starter, and I had no real interest in ordering them, having never eaten them nor ever wanting to. But Sue was VERY interested in them, and I was VERY interested in being interesting, so I went with it. We also ordered up the Chili Rock Shrimp and Deviled Tuna Tartare. So those were our appetizers. Then, as our entrees Sue got the Glazed Alaskan Black Cod and I ordered, after much deliberation, Shrimp and Lobster Chow Fun.

Okay, here we go:

Wok Hay Frogs Legs with Yellow Golden Chives: This dish? PERFECTION! Probably my favorite of the night, and not just because it was the first to arrive. The frog leg meat was deboned and rich but not oily, buttery and like chicken in color but much more palatable in taste. I wouldn't say the meat was chewy, but there was a firm springiness to it that made for good eating. The dish was super-garlicky, with whole cloves as well as crispy slices dotted throughout. The golden chives were slick and mild and totally delicious. I LOVED THIS DISH!

Chili Rock Shrimp with Pineapple Consomme: Another winner! The consomme was served in two separate sake-type glasses, which was a cute touch. I think, after my first bite, I said to Sue, "This is the San Gennero Festival of rock shrimp." What I meant was that it was just a real fry-up, and honestly, how bad is perfectly fried food? It's NEVER bad! It's ALWAYS delicious! There wasn't a lot of spice to these, but maybe because I kept drowning my nuggets in the consomme. Which was good. I LIKED THIS DISH!

Deviled Tuna Tartare with Eggs and Siracha Mayo: My least favorite dish of the night, but only because I thought it bland. It was fresh and presented beautifully, with the spicy mayo smeared lightly on a clean white dish and the bright red tuna cubed over a light green egg salad, but I could take it or leave it mouthwise. I APPRECIATED THIS DISH!

Here is a review of sharing these appetizers with Sue: DELIGHTFUL! She is a GOOD sharer, and even though it was our first time eating together we had a nice give and take and I never felt nervous about her hoovering all the food before I could get to it. And when a piece of yellow chive fell out of my mouth for no reason, Sue was polite enough to pretend not to notice. I LIKE THIS SUE!

Onto the mains...

Shrimp and Lobster Chow Fun: TOO SWEET! WAY WAY WAY TOO SWEET! Epic-sized shrimp, three of them (cooked perfectly for being so large -- they were not at all tough), and generous amounts of lobster meat (a little overcooked), but this dish...ah, it was cloying and rich and I couldn't finish it. I ended up offering Sue one of my Gagunga Shrimp and some lobster too, and if you know me you know that I am NEVER that generous with shellfish, so I must really have had enough. The broad noodles in the dish were super-soft and super-sweet. I think this dish almost gave me instant diabetes.

I only had one little tiny bite of Sue's cod, and I didn't love it. Neither did Sue, who felt it was undercooked and/or its texture was off. My review of Sue during the main courses is as good as it was during the appetizers: she was charming and candid and made me feel comfortable and relaxed. NOT TOO SWEET, AND NOT AT ALL BITTER!

Oh, and though we were STUFFED, we decided to split a dessert and order up some dessert wine. Sue chose Port, and I went for the Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry because I AM LIVING IN 1953! I LOVE Harvey's Bristol Cream, and for a time last year I always kept a bottle around. It is a cherry of a sherry; you may quote me on that.
Even though Sue said she's not "a banana person," we went for the Chocolate Mille Feuille with Banana and Spiced Chocolate Ice Cream. HOLY MOLY DELICIOUS AND GORGEOUS TO LOOK AT! A PRINCE of a dessert! The ice cream seemed spiced with star anise or Chinese five-spice, and it was intensely delicious. The Mille Feuille was a crisp dark chocolate biscuity layer with a fresh, condensed banana layer with some super-rich chocolate mousse topped with a sleek and crackely dark chocolate rectangle. Hard-core yum!

Again, throughout dessert Sue remained a remarkably enjoyable dining partner. Our bill came out to be under $100 each, and I didn't feel ripped off in the least. Buddakan is fun and good, and I bet it'd be more fun and good if you've got yourself a corporate account.

Hooray, right?!


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