A friend and I planned a relaxing lunch for Labor Day but soon discovered that every place on our wish list of new spots to try was closed in observance of the holiday. Where could we go? We were resigned to return to our old standby Vert in Hollywood, although it was really too hot to eat their excellent moules et frittes. On the way, my friend suddenly remembered that Buddha's Belly on Beverly might be opened for lunch. We called ahead and a friendly voice assured us that they were.
We pulled in the convenient parking lot right in front of the restaurant, located on the corner of Beverly and Gardner, between Fairfax and La Brea. The space is very pleasant and airy, in fact feng shui designed. We were seated in a comfortable booth next to their open kitchen, immediately given menus and our server inquired about our beverage order. My friend always has iced tea, which came with plenty of ice and for the first time in our recent memory, an iced tea spoon! The kitchen was equally obliging with a small pitcher of simple syrup which dissolves much better in cold tea than sugar. We cannot understand why more restaurants don't understand this elementary concept.
We were very impressed with their Pan Asian menu, which includes dishes from Japan, China, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam among others. We sampled the excellent spring rolls to begin. We had always heard that one of their most famous dishes was the Japanese style baked Alaskan Black Cod and it certainly did not disappoint. It came in a Bento-style box with three divisions, one for the fish coated in a saikyo miso marinade, one with edamame sushi rice and one with perfectly steamed emerald-colored broccoli and a tart and spicy cucumber salad ($15.50). The fish was perfectly cooked and quite delicious. I chose the crispy chicken breast with a mandarin orange peel, kaffir lime leaf, orange ginger sauce also served with the edamame rice and broccoli and refreshing cucumber salad ($9.95). The service was friendly and attentive, refilling my friend's iced tea glass when needed. The owner also stopped by to see if there was anything else he could do for us. After so many service disappointments at other (overrated) LA dining establishments we've been to lately, this was such a breath of fresh air. We finished with the coconut sorbet served in its own half shell (5.25), delicious and just the perfect balance to end the meal.
We agreed that this was one of the better lunches we'd had in a long time and we are already looking forward to a return trip for more "good food and good fortune" from the Buddha's Belly.
To see location and menu, visit www.bbfood.com