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:
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.
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.”
“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
Deviled Tuna Tartare, eggs and siracha mayo
Boneless Spareribs (These were my hands-down favorite. Super-tender, super-sweet, and super-succulent.)
Cantonese Spring Roll: shrimp, chicken and bamboo shoots.
Black bean lobster
Charred filet of beef, wonton potatoes and mustard sauce
Shrimp fried rice
Sweet and sour baby eggplant
Glazed Alaskan Black Cod
Crying chocolate cake
Kaffir lime tart
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.