Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Notable eats... Buddakan

Stephan Starr, the company behind Buddakan and Morimoto (yes, as in Iron Chef Morimoto) restaurants in Philadelphia has recently opened up Buddakan New York. Situated in the corner of the Chelsea Market building, the space and scale of things is physically impressive. At over 17,000 sq. ft. and with a capacity for over 400 guests, it was not a shy venture.

Appropriately, it has been divided into a collection of connecting spaces. There is a bar area with communal tables where diners choose from either a smaller bar menu or the full restaurant menu – which isn’t really much more extensive. Numerous other darkly lit rooms host tables, but the main dining area is a sight to behold. In the middle of the entire layout, a doorway opens up to a cavernous room, with tables one floor below and the roof a floor higher than the main level. It is an incredibly ambitious space – complete with giant 40ft table in the centre - but somehow has been worked to conjure up a French-Asian royalty look, with rich maroon and gold colors. Eating downstairs must make one feel like being invited to dine at a palace.

The atmosphere inside hums with a casual yet trendy energy, and the crowd is full of good looking, successful types and ‘foodies’ trying out the latest venture. More importantly, the Asian-inspired menu pulls off some impressively flavorful dishes. We ate at a communal table in the bar area that comfortably sat twelve people, a more relaxed way to dine amongst such regal settings. Notable were the Tuna Tartare dumplings, Lobster Dumplings with truffle soy, and the Sea Bass rolls with ginger. According to our waitress, the pastry chef is “an inspired man” (though she couldn’t name him!), but we did not leave space in the end to confirm this. I do sense I will be back though.

Overall, Buddakan offers an opulent dining experience and pleasing menu that tries hard to impress as much as the restaurant’s presence does. However, you’ll probably remember the experience more than the food itself.

Buddakan, 75 9th Ave at 16th St
Tel: 212.989.6699


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