The Sunday night after Live8, we headed into Philly for dinner and a night of bar hopping at some of my favorite spots. Having some of our Phoenix friends along provided the perfect opportunity to show off Old City.
We began our evening with dinner at Buddakan, one of Steven Star's most popular and famous restaurants. Although not nearly my favorite restaurant in the city, it does embody one side of Philadelphia dining very well (well appointed interior, signature cocktails, fusion cuisine, and a hip clientele). When Buddakan first opened about seven years ago, it was next to impossible to get a table. They were booked solid for months - both week nights and weekends. These days, it's much easier to get a table there, although the place still remains busy every single night of the week.
We showed up at 8pm for our reservation, and were promptly seated at an upstairs table. It's the first time I've eaten upstairs at Buddakan, and the table was ok. Half had a decent view of the action downstairs (including the giant gold Buddha, while the other half had to settle for what was going on upstairs.
To kick things off, the six of us ordered cocktails. I don't remember all of them, but I do remember that Catherine had a Sumo in a Sidecar II, which was pretty good. It was made with apricot brandy, sake, and sour mix. I had a Millennium, which was made from orange vodka, cointreau, blood orange juice, and sweet and sour. It was good, but certainly not worth $11 (among the most expensive cocktails in Philly).
Buddakan serves their meals family style, meaning you generally order several dishes for the table, and they are brought out as they are prepared. This results in a steady stream of food throughout the dining experience. Being hungry, we ordered a ton of food. We started off with three appetizers, the special sushi of the night, two orders of edamame ravioli with shallot broth, and miso tuna tartare. The sushi was good, but not remarkable. The ravioli were very tasty. The miso tuna tartare was by far our favorite appetizer (actually, the best dish of all). It came topped with wasabi creme fraiche and caviar. It was velvety smooth with a wonderfully fresh taste. It simply melted in your mouth. For our entrees, we went with duck breast with roasted garlic, five spice jus and corn and scallion spoon bread; cashew chicken with plum wine sauce; whole crispy fish with black bean sauce; pan seared Chilean sea bass with green beans and sake truffle jus; and wasabi crusted filet mignon with sweet potato mash. We also ordered a side of lobster fried rice, and another side of wasabi mashed potatoes.
All of the food came out looking great. Of all the entrees, the sea bass was definitely the most popular, but still not as good as the miso tuna tartare appetizer. The crispy fish was, well, nice and crispy, but not worth the $30 price. The wasabi mashed potatoes were also a hit - very creamy with enough wasabi to give them flavor without being pungent. That seemed to really sum up this trip to Buddakan. Everyone pretty much agreed that the food was good, but nothing (except the tuna tartare) really wowed us. In the end, we ended up devouring just about everything sans a tiny bit of the lobster fried rice. Buddakan ended up being a good destination restaurant for our guests, but I'd be okay if I didn't eat there again for quite a while. As far as value goes, I'd suggest that if you are set on eating there, you might want to try lunch, which carries the same menu, but at more reasonable prices.