Is bigger always better? That’s the formula that Buddakan has been betting on since it opened in 2006. A Philadelphia transplant from mega-restaurateur Stephen Starr, Buddakan has multiple dining rooms that seat hundreds. Without a doubt, this restaurant is big and loud. But are the flavors as bold as the format?
Buddakan’s décor defined trendy Asian fusion for an era. Dark wood, clean lines, and a huge golden Buddha decorate the room. The centerpiece of the main dining space is the huge communal table, notably seen in Carrie’s rehearsal dinner in the “Sex and the City” movie. The vibe is sexy, and the music is trendy. If you aren’t wearing heels, don’t even think about trying to walk in without a reservation!
After ordering one of the Asian-named cocktails, like Zen, try the restaurant’s signature appetizer, the Edamame Dumplings. These delicate wrappers are filled with pureed soybeans that are cooked with garlic, ginger, and other Asian spices. They are both deeply savory and very light, an ideal start to a flavorful, multilayered Asian meal.
Chilled Udon noodles with lime sorbet and cashews is a standout among vegetarian dishes on the menu. The noodles are chewy and thick, laced with crunchy cashews and the bite of green onions. A scoop of lime sorbet, more tart than sweet, is an unexpected addition that makes the diner sit up and really notice the meal.
Char siu roast pork with pickled vegetables and moo shoo pancakes gives the nod to tradition while still staying true to the restaurant’s innovative feel. The pork is tender and juicy with its signature sweet glaze and whisper-thin pancakes. Served with it are crisp pickled lotus root, carrots, and other vegetables that brighten the rich meat.
For dessert, look to the almond bread pudding with bananas, butterscotch sauce, and whisky ice cream. This dessert feels more British than Asian, but with its warm, gooey, sticky-sweet textures and tastes, it is an ideal end to any meal.
Buddakan doesn’t just look big, it delivers big: big flavors, big portions, and a big deal on the NYC dining scene.
75 9th Ave.
New York, NY 10011
Photo courtesy of Stephen Starr Restaurants.