Graduation Feasting, The Finale: Who Can Eat All This Trendy Asian Fusion Food? Buddakan!

May 16, 2006 | By | COMMENTS

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Who is responsible for the lavish meals you see displayed before you on my website? No, I don’t mean financially: financially we owe our gastronomic livelihood to my father who slaves away in his Margate office almost ten hours a day so we can nosh on amuse bouches and petit fores. No, the question I raise is who is the Rasputin that whispers the restaurant suggestions into his ear: who is the motivating force behind our extravagant outings to the city’s finest? The prosecution has narrowed it down to two suspects: me and my mother.

Oh sure, blame me. I’m the obvious choice. Me of the food website, the picture-taker documenting each course for all the world. Surely someone who has the chutzpah to photograph his entire meal at Per Se has the nerve to push his father towards expensive four-star meals, even when all his poor father wants is a piece of steak and a potato.

Yet, I contend–in my own defense (I have a fool for a client)–that this evidence is purely circumstantial. Yes, I’ve been known to respond to the question “where should we eat when we come to New York?” with four-star suggestions, but I’m not the gasoline that gets the car moving. That gasoline is my mother: she fuels our family’s feasting forays with a genuine desire to experience the best the world has to offer. She loves everything that is exciting, new, classy, elegant, and especially trendy.

If I were never born, if I were never there to express my interest in all things food, mom would still be dragging dad to the hottest, trendiest restaurants they could afford. (They’d afford a lot more if I were never born!) And these days, in New York, if you mutter the words “hot” “trendy” and “restaurant” in the same sentence the almost instant response will be “Buddakan.” And this is where we went, last week, for my parents’ final night in New York.

Buddakan has the most insane aesthetic I’ve experienced in any New York restaurant thus far. It’s not as gaudy as, say, the Jekyll and Hyde Club and it’s not austere as, say, Jean-Georges or Daniel. It exists in a limbo between theme park restaurant, martial arts training center, Renaissance museum and a classic fine dining establishment. Here is a short hard-to-see video of the hostess leading us down to our table. The clanking music and the downward perspective give you some idea of the dramatic effect:

Here, in a brighter version, is the main banquet table in the restaurant’s most photographed room:

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It reminded me of the ballroom scene in Disney’s haunted mansion (the ride, not the movie. Though I’m sure the movie has a ballroom too.) I kind of enjoyed the theatricality of it all–it’s as if the creators of Buddakan want the experience of simply being at the restaurant to match, or even exceed, the very thing most people go to restaurants to consume: the food.

So let’s get to the food. How is the food? Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know what you’ve heard–I don’t know who you’re rooting for here–but the food at Buddakan is awesome. We all loved it.

We started with winning drinks. Well, the ones on the right are winning: I think they were called “Charm.” They had passion fruit juice and champagne. The martini was mom’s–she didn’t like it. She traded it for a Charm. And dad had diet coke.

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We drank these drinks in the bar waiting area, a loud clubby scene, while waiting for our table. On the way into the restaurant, I should note, a photographer snapped pictures of everyone coming and going. “Do you think we’re celebrities?” asked one woman on her way out. The photographer laughed but didn’t respond.

After our drink session ended, we were shown to our table which was one room away from the banquet table–in the “library.”

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“Library” in quotes, of course, because this isn’t really a library. The books are fake and, more importantly, the music is so thumping even Socrates, if trapped here, would give up his career as a thinker and become a DJ. Here, again on YouTube, is a snippet to let you sample the sonic experience (that’s my dad being interviewed):

(A certain somebody, who just watched that video over my shoulder said: “That’s the music at Buddakan? That’s bullshit! That’s such a New York thing–loud music. Who likes that? You should do a post about how crappy that is–loud music in restaurants and bars.”)

Anyway, we were talking about the food. So let’s get to the food. The food. We ordered a bunch of food family style–there were four of us. Mom, dad, myself and Diana who we took along because it was graduation and her parents were attending to her brother’s graduation in a different state. What follows is a picture expose on all the food we sampled:

Chili Rock Shrimp

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Deviled Tuna Tartare, eggs and siracha mayo

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Boneless Spareribs (These were my hands-down favorite. Super-tender, super-sweet, and super-succulent.)

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Cantonese Spring Roll: shrimp, chicken and bamboo shoots.

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Black bean lobster

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Charred filet of beef, wonton potatoes and mustard sauce

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Shrimp fried rice

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Sweet and sour baby eggplant

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Glazed Alaskan Black Cod

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Crying chocolate cake

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Kaffir lime tart

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Phew, that was exhausting just linking to all those pictures. Can you imagine the effort we expended eating them?

I realize my analysis of this meal leaves much to be desired, but I think I serve you well to speak in generalities: the food was good. The atmosphere was loud and trendy. Can you enjoy good food in a loud and trendy atmosphere? This is the question you must ask yourself before journeying to Buddakan. If you’re anything like my mother, we know the answer will be yes.

Categories: Manhattan, Meatpacking District, New York, Restaurant Reviews

  • Nina Zheng

    The next time you go to someplace fancy like that, I’m stowing away in your briefcase. Or coat pocket. It doesn’t matter if I don’t fit, I’m going with you!

    By the by, why is it a “crying” chocolate cake? Poor baby…

  • peter

    The presentation here is surreal. Can you comment, please, AG on your opinion of presntation? Is there a positive or negative correlation between over the top presentation and quality? Is there no relationship between the two? Are the having an affair? Is it love or lust?

  • http://dirtpusher.blogspot.com Judith in Umbria

    Carry out. If the food is really that good that’s the only way. Pretend to be visiting royalty and pay the concierge at some overpriced hotel to take the delivery.

    I’m with Dad. Can’t stand it. I find myself muttering, or occasionally shouting, “Shut up! Just shut up!” at the leaking noise in my house in the Italian countryside. It’s usually neighbors talking about the weather or a radio show in which someone is repeating himself.

    That din? Rather eat in a morgue, frankly.

  • peteathome

    It’s a shame about the music and ambiance. The original Buddakan in Philadelphia is a little more dramatic but a much more pleasant place to eat. And not all that expensive, really. I guess they made mods for NYC.

  • http://balladofyoko.wordpress.com yoko

    I have to second pete’s opinion about the Buddakan in Philadelphia. The setting is dramatic, what with the big golden Buddha statue and a fountain, both stunningly lit. The food is quite good, served family style. I find it interesting that Stephen Starr chose to start in Philadelphia and then take his signature restaurants to NYC afterwards.

  • Bethany

    Your mom is my favorite repeating character! :-) Hope you write more about her in your book. And bring her on your book tour!

  • http://goodamericanwife.blogspot.com/ AnnieKNodes

    Ditto Bethany on AG’s fantastic mom! And a shout out to his awesome dad for being such a great sport!

  • A Big Fan of the AG

    I am both amused and repulsed by the food presentation. It’s like a cross between CSI and used baby diapers on some of the plates with all the smears of sauce on them.

    I’m with Dad – steak, potato, dessert.

  • simona

    It’s petit-fours, not petit fores. But the rest seems delicious.

  • Jill

    Long time fan of Mom! Dad too, especially because he always looks so patient in the photos while Mom looks radiant in her little black dress.

  • Larry

    Dad’s a real sport. His description of the music is so perfect!

  • http://thejinius.blogspot.com/ jinius

    Was just there last nite for dinner. I went to use the bathroom downstairs and on my way back I couldn’t find my table. I don’t know if it was due to the labyrinthine design or one too many Charms…but I did like the edamame dumplings.

  • tim

    Isn’t a chef from Buddakan going to be at the NYCulinary Festival?

    Who’s going to this? its all this weekend?

  • http://mewing.net/johanna Johanna

    The presentation of that food is gorgeous.