My wife and I had friends in from out of town and thought we would show them the "scene" in the meatpacking district, which is really not our style but what the heck. So I made a reservation at Buddakan.
The restaurant is really striking. While the bar is crowded up front it opens up as you move through with a huge sunken main dining room and several other discrete rooms around it on two floors that all have a different feel. We were in the back which was dim but not dark and the tables were nicely spaced and not crowded (although I walked through other parts of the place and some areas felt a bit claustrophibic). The music was noticable but not too loud.
The food was generally tasty and appealing. I tried to stick to suggestions made in the NY Times review. Regarding appetizers the spring rolls were excellent. Boneless ribs were just OK. We also tried the shrimp appetizer, which was very good. The only mistake we made was trying the edamame dumplings, which were recommended by our overenthusiastic young waitress. Believe the NY Times and avoid the dumplings.
For main courses the Chicken was good, the Red Snapper was very good as was the Tofu (which you should only order if you like the soft version, my wife and friends were expecting the baked kind in the dish and so were not enthusiastic). The mushroom chow fun and shrimp fried rice, which our friends ordered, were very serviceable. Cocktails and drinks were pleasant, if a little over-priced. My wife had a cocktail called the "crush" which she didn't like.
In the end Buddakan's food is above average--better than I would have expected from a big box restaurant. You can get way better "asian" food in lots of places, like 8 blocks north at Grand Sichuan on 24th and 9th, but the atmosphere at Buddakan is fun. I think the bill came out to $125 per couple with tip, pricey but not "over the top" considering we had an inexpensive bottle of wine and a few drinks.
A good place to go for a "night on the town." I am not going to rush back but would like to go early next time and have a few cocktails not at the front bar, which is very crowded, but at the library bar on the lower level directly under it, then try and sit in the main dining room.
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