Buddakan in Philly

Restaurant Week, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.  In today's economy, it is no surprise that saving money is of utmost importance.  Of course, that doesn't mean sacrificing niceties and luxuries such as good eats, but rather it is about looking through all the nooks & crannies to bargain hunt.  Living midway between Philly & NYC, and having friends in both metropolitan cities, I get to pick & choose as to which antennae signals to listen to.  Shall I go to Restaurant Week in NYC and hang out with old college friends?  Or shall I go to Philly to dine with my former boss/longtime friend, and enjoy an easy commute and easy breezy parking?  I think you know the answer to that.

I had been wanting to check out Buddakan ever since learning of Dale Talde's connection (from Top Chef) with the restaurant.  Of course, this would be the NYC location, but he is so busy with Top Chef All Stars that I doubt he'd be hanging around there anyway.  So I decided I'd better just go to Buddakan for the sake of enjoying the food.  I have to admit that the menu wasn't the draw-- spring rolls and crispy shrimp?  Sounds like I can just save myself the hassle and go to PF Changs.  But, the sport that I am, I knew there would be more to it than that, so even in the drudgery of this weather, I set off to Center City to check out this fancy schmancy French-Asian fusion place on Chestnut Street.

Upon entry, I already knew this was a great bargain.  Open cathedral ceilings, contemporary chic seating, with big old Buddha sitting encased in a red altar.  My friend started off with some sake and being the responsible driver that I am, I stuck with lemon water, and finished off with coffee.  The $35pp offering included 3 courses, with choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert.  Portions are meant to be shared, as we were advised by our server, so we started off with shrimp & scallop spring rolls and kobe beef skewers, followed with sea bass and crispy shrimp, and finished off with chocolate lava cake with Vietnamese coffee ice cream and five-spice doughnuts.

The whole thing started off with a bang, bringing fun twists to old favorites.  The shrimp was my favorite with the citrus surprise of the grapefruit hidden under the garnish.  But alas, as with my trip to Spot Dessert Bar the other day, the ending was anti-climactic.  If I didn't have such a symphony of sweets to compare it to, I would've been head over heels with Buddakan, but I actually think they can take a hint from Spot to bring their desserts to the level of its savory offerings.
Still, it is Restaurant Week!  So despite my sweet tooth being disappointed yet again (from my visit to Armando's Place two days ago)-- there are no complaints here.

Buddakan on Urbanspoon