My love affair with food has to compete with my love affair with NYC. I contemplated publishing my first article about a spot in Sydney where I live, however I thought it would be more authentic to start with a place in NY seeing as I have just recently returned from my trip and this would be my latest foodie venture. I also want my articles to include places to eat for all budgets, so I was initially hesitant to make my first place about Buddakan which can pull at the purse strings. However, I believe the best investment I can make with my money is letting it sit in my stomach - and besides, a trip to Buddakan is a treat which I need to share! For any Sex and the City fans this is the rehearsal dinner restaurant from the first movie - it's also a stop on the HotSpots tour if you do that whilst in NY (although you don't actually get to eat here on the tour it's a more of a gawk at the amazing scenery - notably the chandelier).
Lex and I visited Buddakan on New Years Day 2016. Our table was for 8pm and I strongly recommend booking through OpenTable if you're planning a visit as it is a popular place with locals especially on the weekends. The restaurant is located in Chelsea right next to the Chelsea Markets. It's quite a discreet entrance, but don't let that fool you. When you enter the dimly-lit restaurant, sophistication seems to ooze out of every corner. You're greeted by a long line of hostesses where you provide your reservation name and check in your coat and then promptly ushered to a bar area. We waited no more than three or four minutes which was just enough time to properly get excited for our food and to soak up the atmosphere. Our server walked us to a table at the far end of the main floor. There is a lower floor with a community table to share food and conversations - again to reference Sex and the City, this is the table Carrie and Big used for their dinner. I would definitely love to go back and request a spot at this table. The Pan-Asian hip spot has a great sense of energy and elegance, and the patrons are addressed according to the dress-code, "downtown chic". Our lovely server introduces herself and explains the menu. Her recommendations for two appetisers, two mains and two sides for a party of two were almost too much, but as the fare was too good to resist we shamelessly finished everything. I should mention the current two executive chefs are Yang Huang and Brian Ray - props to you boys.
What we ordered
We started by ordering a bottle of red - if I could remember which one I'd include it! I'll have to ask Lex, he's good at remembering the wine list.
For our two appetisers we chose the edamame dumplings and the pork buns. The dumplings sat in a shallot-sauternes broth and came in five bite-size servings. They were delicious, melt-in-your-mouth dumplings that were the perfect introduction to Buddakan. The pork buns were Lex's choice and weren't typically what I would have ordered, but I'm glad I tried them. The buns consisted of charred pork belly, spicy shallots and napa cabbage. Lex classified them as the "best pork buns I've ever tasted". Even though I'm not typically a pork bun gal, I must admit they had a beautiful texture and just the right amount of spice.
For our sides we ordered the Asian green stir fry and the vegetable rice. We were tempted to order the pork noodles - next time! The Asian greens had pine nuts and garlic chips mixed throughout and made the perfect side-kick to our mains (although I could have just eaten them on their own - they were amazing!). If you're not a garlic fan probably steer clear of these as they definitely had a strong garlic taste (making them all the better in my opinion). We also ordered the vegetable fried rice which had a hint of coconut and pineapple to add flavour. Again, it was perfect as a side-kick but also on it's own!
There were so many delicious mains to choose from. There's a variety of seafood dishes including the Salt and pepper black bass, Glazed Alaskan black cod and the Cantonese steamed sole. Since Lex isn't a seafood fan we stuck with the Meat and Poultry options. My eyes were immediately drawn to two options and before I told Lex what they were I asked him to tell me what he wanted, luckily we were spot on! We made the easy decision of ordering the Black pepper beef and the Broken chilli chicken (you should know that Lex and I both love chilli, we tend to order it or add it to most meals). The beef was a wok tossed rib eye on a crispy bird's nest - which to our delight was edible! The two textures complimented each other well, and the sauce was so flavoursome we made sure we poured every last drop over the veggie rice. The chicken was simply delicious and honestly like nothing we've ever eaten before. It was a charred scallion smeared with chinese pepper and chilli sauce. I should make mention here that the chicken made the perfect companion to the Asian greens and the wine!
Admittedly we were too full on food and wine to order any desserts, but that's not to say the Executive Pastry Chef Daniel Skurnick didn't have many mouth-watering options to choose from. Lex said he would have chosen the Crying Chocolate dessert which was a malted ganache with vietnamese coffee ice cream, and I would have chosen the Passion Fruit Meringue with yogurt semifreddo and passion fruit ice cream - yum! Other notable options included the Apple Tarte Tatin - a cinnamon streusel with soy sauce ice cream - and the Almond Bread Pudding with bananas, butterscotch sauce and whiskey ice cream.
And so our bellies were full and our plates empty. I won't say that this was the cheapest meal we've ever eaten, it was an expense. In saying that though, the servings were generous and the wine took up a large portion of the bill. We also gave a generous tip because the service was truly part of the experience, and we had already been to a few places with less than favourable service, so we wanted to acknowledge the attentive and knowledgeable service we received.
If you love Asian food then this is a must for you. Let me know if you try it out or have been before.
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