Sunday, July 13, 2008

Buddakan NYC - Upscale Asian Dining

     My Saturday night was spent dining at Buddakan on Ninth Avenue and 16th Street in NYC. The extravagant restaurant overwhelmed me with its 16,000 square feet of space and Asian-inspired decor.
     Owner Stephen Starr (who has also opened a Buddakan in Philly), is well known for his drive to take culinary Manhattan by storm through aesthetics that shock and awe. In achieving this goal, he turned to Christian Liaigre, a French designer who graciously took on the task of turning what was a Nabisco cookie factory into an escape into a lavish Chinese experience. The restaurant's center is the "Chinoiserie"--a great hall surrounded by oak wood walls that tower 2 stories high. The ceilings are embellished with grandiose chandeliers while the floor is home to a banquet table, large enough to seat 30 guests. This great hall is connected to a library lined with golden bookshelves and multiple additional dining chambers. The walls of these catacombs are decorated with scenes created to look like cave paintings.
     Chef Michal Schulson dishes out "modern Asian cuisine"--food that is fresh, flavorful and easily tops your average Chinese takeout.
     The menu is divided into
Dim Sum, Appetizers (Cold and Hot), Noodles, Rice, Vegetables, Tofu, Meat, Fish, Poultry. As expected, there is also an alcoholic beverage list that includes Specialty Cocktails and Wine by the Glass (Sparkling, White, Rose and Red).
     I attended dinner with three other people in celebration of my friend Kacie's birthday. Like usual, we chose to order multiple smaller dishes so that we could all dig into various foods. Our choices included
Cantonese Spring Rolls, Pork Potstickers, General Tso's Dumplings, Scallion Pancakes, Boneless Spare Ribs, Vegetable Rice and Asian Green Stir Fry.      After dining at other upscale Asian establishments (including Tao and Ruby Foo's) we expected to be overwhelmed with an abundance of food. This however, was not the case. Each dish came in groups of 3 to 5, except for the rice and stir fry (those were served to us in large bowls). Despite our desire for more, what we ate was delicious.
     My favorite dish was the Boneless Spare Ribs. While I expected the serving size to be significantly larger, the meat was tender and the sauce coating the ribs was rich and flavorful. I wasn't a huge fan of the rice, but perhaps that was because I am devotee of salt. It was not your typical soy sauced infused, sodium over-dosed, fried rice, but was rather flavored with ginger and coconut. The taste was unique--my friends enjoyed it but I wasn't in love.
     Dessert was a let down--not due to its flavor, but because the
Crying Chocolate was about the size of a hockey puck. At $10, the four of us attempted to share the "malted chocolate ganache, coffee icecream, milk caramel" concoction. Needless to say, with four spoons plunging towards the plate, it was devoured in a matter of seconds.
     The meal was brought to an end with cappucinno, espresso and a check for over one-hundred dollars.
     My dining experience at Buddakan was enjoyable--the service was quick and kind and the food was overall noteworthy. While I didn't taste a fraction of what their menu offers, I am not so sure that a trip back this NYC eatery would do my wallet any good.

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