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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Budda in muh belly

325 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia
Price: $$$
Forks: 9.2

Since I've been at school, I haven't heard a restaurant be as talked up as Stephen Starr's Buddakan. When something is so talked up, it often doesn't live up to expectation. Fortunately with Buddakan, this was not the case. I am currently struggling to type this as I'm in an immense food coma, but I'm pushing through because I want to be able to relay the flavors of every delicious little bit while they're still fresh on my palette. Where to begin where to begin. Before we start with the food let me start by saying I was surrounded by great company with about 18 of my closest friends (yes I have many close friends) and my best friend's parents. The decor was chic and interesting. A dimmed lighting made for a trendy atmosphere and sleek white chairs sported black and white head shots of people who look like someone you'd want to be friends with. In the center of the restaurant is the giant Buddah, gleaming gold, and sitting serenely against a cherry red backdrop. The restaurant has a hip feeling and a cool atmosphere that makes it seem perfect for many occasions, from meeting your friend's parents, to introducing your boyfriend to your own parents, very adaptable.
Now, lets get down to business: the food. First came out steaming bowls of edamame, just to wet our appetites. Then came the dumplings, two kinds, shrimp and ginger chicken. The shrimp were delicate, tasty, and extremely light. The chicken were tender, tangy, and had a great punch of flavor. Both were served with a soy ginger sauce that gave the sweet dumpling a pungent little kick.

 Next came the star of the meal. Never, have I ever had ravioli like this, and I am now fearful to try any other because its honestly doubtful that it will be on the same playing field. Edamame ravioli. Served in a large white platter, large ravioli were dressed in a light black truffle glaze. Slice one open and a mint green filling peeked out, creamy, rich, and utterly amazing. Pure divinity, the standout of the meal and the best pasta dish I have ever eaten, hands down.  Crispy rock shrimp were served on doughy flatbreads with raw jalapeños, cabbage and onions and a ginger spread. The rock shrimp was not my favorite, I personally thought it was a bit dry and needed a more flavorful sauce, but others were loving them.

Finally, our table was graced with a tuna carpaccio pizza with a tangy soy dressing that was refreshing and had a slight spicy bite.

On to the entrées. Piping hot bowls of wasabi mashed potatoes and lobster fried rice began to pile up on the table. The potatoes were velvety and whipped and had a wasabi taste that was subtle and refined yet added so much to the overall flavor of the dish. The fried rice was decent, a little bland for my taste and it seemed to be missing one ingredient to really make it sing. We ordered massive amounts of food but the sea bass and the blackened beef really stood out from the rest. The sea bass was gently coated in a miso glaze and was served over green beans, butternut squash, and porcini mushrooms. The fish was heavenly. It was airy and beautiful with clean crisp flavors. My friend Evan who has NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, tried cooked fish in his life gave this a try and agreed that it's flavor was fantastic. Now, that's a big deal for a non-fish eater. But even for a frequent fish eater like myself, this was an impeccable dish.

 The beef was served in thin slices centered around a watercress salad with crispy strings of fried potatoes. The beef was moist and juicy with a savory taste that so perfectly captured the balance between rustic and refined.

The chicken stir fry was also good, but a little heavy on the sauce. I was not a fan of the chicken and shrimp pad thais but I'm also a thai food snob because I eat it so much and have extremely high standards.
DESSERT. We ordered six of one thing. It was all we needed. The absolute perfect ending to a storybook meal. Waiters placed chinese takeout boxes filled with puffy pillowed doughnuts in front of us, and they were gone within seconds. Served with the doughnuts was a trio of dipping sauces, a rich chocolate sauce, a jelly, and some kind of mascarpone lemony cream. The doughnuts were simple but beyond outstanding. Somehow the chefs at Buddakan were literally able to capture air and make it edible, that's just how light and fluffy these doughnuts are.

This was the best meal I've had in Philly to date, and don't worry Buddah, I WILL BE BACK.
As my friend Ripka said after the meal, "My stomach get's mad at me every time I touch it because I ate so much." Rip, I'm having the same issue, but at the end of the day what can we do when it's totally, utterly, and completely worth it?

somebody rub my for once not-so-hungree buddah belly
hungree girl.

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