Friday, April 16, 2010
Buddakan Atlantic City
Asia de Cuba in New York City: Flash? Yes. (They even have a communal table, too, but it terminates in a two-story holographic waterfall rather than a Buddha.) Good food? Good, but not amazing. Every bite told me, "You're paying for that waterfall."
In a way, because of its flash, Buddakan had an extra hurdle to climb for me.
My waitress clearly knew what she was talking about, so I had no problem asking her for her recommendations. At her insistence, I ordered the edamame ravioli in a sauternes-shallot broth, garnished with baby onion sprouts. My dining partner got the Alaskan king crab leg, served with a Japanese arugula salad with fried green tomatoes, chèvre, and a balsamic reduction.
If you know me, you know that I'm not a fan of lobsters or crab. (Gasp! The horror!) Yes, I don't care for the taste, for boiling organisms alive, and spending large sums of money for the cruelty and the flavor I don't particularly care for. But, I once had an unforgettable Alaskan king crab at another Stephen Starr restaurant, Morimoto in New York City (my previous blog post on Morimoto did not include it; that was another dinner), so I was always happy for a taste. I have to say, that salad was pretty good, but it really didn't reach its full potential without the king crab leg. And that was a helluva small piece of crab for $14. And it was not as good as the one I'd had at Morimoto.
As for my ravioli, I was skeptical. I thought that the edamame (baby soybeans) filling would be rough in texture as they are when you pop them in your mouth by the podful. Fortunately, I was wrong; the puréed edamame filling was fluffy as a pillow and strangely familiar, though I'd never had it as a filling before. The sauternes (French dessert wine)-shallot broth was an excellent, buttery complement to the ravioli.
Dinner was a sea bass with haricots verts, mirin, wine, dashi, shittake mushrooms, and butternut squash; and lamb with Japanese eggplant salad, garlic sauce, and a Thai basil garnish.
Cook's Thesaurus labels them as substitutes of one another, so there can't be too much difference in the flavor department. I can also say that they made a ridiculously good salad. I'm no vegetarian, but I could have eaten that bold, meaty, saucy salad alone. The lamb, milder in flavor and slightly less gamey than I would have preferred (perhaps I'm weird, but if lamb isn't slightly gamey -- not too gamey -- it isn't lamb), was cake icing.
I'm not ga-ga over cheesecake in general, but it was delicious. The cheesecake was particularly light, and the sorbet had a hint of ginger, not listed among the ingredients in the description. My waitress clued me in on another ingredient not listed in the description: the lightness came from tofu. That was the aforementioned secret ingredient. Well played, pastry chef!
Buddakan is more than just a pretty face; it's a serious culinary heavy hitter. And it's not surprising that its New York location produced a Top Chef contestant, Dale Talde, of Season 4. Yes, I didn't like the truffle oil, and I had nitpicky comments here and there. But few are the perfect meals in this world, and this was a solid one that I wouldn't mind repeating in the future. Hope to see you again soon, Atlantic City. And Buddakan, situated right near Boardwalk, and Park Place, I'll be visiting you if I don't land on Luxury Tax the next time around the board.