June 18, 2016 / Leave a Comment
If you’re a traveller like me, you’ve probably come across the famous ‘Buddha Bar’ name somewhere, somehow. Perhaps you’ve visited one, or many, but after my visit to the Dubai outpost I can say it’s one you shouldn’t miss.
From the moment you step through the red velvet rope, a night at Buddha Bar is an occasion all of it’s own. There’s something special in the air…the mind blowing decor, mood lighting, sexy soundtrack, and clientele that have arrived looking like this is a night they want to remember (although seeing the revelry escalating through the night, I think some might not). It’s clearly a place carefully selected by many of the diners for a special night out – we witness birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations going on around us. At one point two tables even joined up post birthday chorus and partied on together. It’s that unique vibe that stands out to us as we people watch across the open dining floor throughout our meal.
The open dining floor is just one of the many features of this vast space that impresses. A double height atrium with a full floor to ceiling glass wall looking out to the Marina waterways sounds stunning enough – but I haven’t even mentioned the feature that stands above all (well, sits) – the giant gold Buddha. Every where you walk here there is something to admire – lights, prayer wheels, statues, the huge robata grill you can pull up a seat and dine around while watching the chefs work – oh, check out the toilets too, they’re not too shabby.
Enough about Buddha Bar’s spectacular appearance, let’s get on to the good stuff – the food. We nibbled on some edamame and sipped our first round of cocktails as we perused the menu – let me tell you, this menu is a tome and a half. There’s certainly something for everybody on offer (without straying outside Asian cuisine thankfully) and a word of warning: it may take you a while to decide. Hence snacks and drinks are clearly required for the decision making process.
These first cocktails were our faves of the night – the staff here are able to take what you like and deliver spot on options for you that you’re sure to love – we definitely did. Too often recently I’ve found cocktail lists either being really heavily slanted towards the whisky side of things or just being plain weird – so I was delighted to receive something that satisfied my tropical/mango/passionfruit loving self. Both drinks we were delivered were divine. You’ll have a smile on your face even before you take a sip however – the presentation is fun, humorous and on very much on point when it comes to cocktails here. We tried a variety of special concoctions throughout the night, and let me tell you you’d be hard pressed to put a foot wrong no matter your choice.
BUDDHA BAR CHICKEN SALAD – 95
Chinese cabbage, five spice chicken, crispy wontons, Dijon mustard, sesame oil dressing
FRESH VEGETABLE SPRING ROLLS (V) – 55
Pineapple “Pacri” dipping sauce, mango papaya salad
Wow, it’s paragraph six and I’m just getting to the first course. I hope that gives you some idea of the depth of experience on offer at that Buddha Bar offers. So without further ado, our first round began with the requisite Asian starter, spring rolls – but these came with pineapple sauce. Yes, pineapple sauce. Can’t say I’ve seen that before, but it works. Add a little soy too and you’ll get a nice sweet and salty pop. Pretty good. Accompanying these was a classic that apparently features on all of their international menus, the Buddha Bar Chicken Salad. This was truly delicious on many fronts – the subtle creaminess, the sweet sesame hit and the crunch from the wonton had me going back for more time and time again. Definitely on the list I’ll order again next time!
SEASONAL VEGETABLES (V) – 75
Shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, sweet potato, baby corn, grated white radish & ginger, soy broth
FROM THE ROBATA GRILL
CORN FED CHICKEN / tomato chili chutney / cassava (A) 70
& WAGYU BEEF / Potato puree / wafu dressing (D) 85
You know, tempura can be a bit boring at times. Hate to say it, but that’s my perhaps unpopular opinion. So I was very pleasantly surprised when I tasted Buddha Bar’s version – the sauce was out of this world! A fab mix of veggies arrived in our bowl of crispy goodness – eggplant and onion rings a surprise extra in addition to the list from the menu above.
The robata grill dishes are nirvana for meat eaters (well actually, vegetarians and seafood lovers are very well catered for in this section too) – we ordered the corn fed chicken and the wagyu beef. Both were spectacularly juicy and tender, nicely complimented by the small sauces and sides.
DUCK LEG IN ASIAN SPICES (A) – 190
Yuzu braised red cabbage, spiced prunes, white asparagus
WOK SEARED CANTONESE BEEF (A) – 190
Beef tenderloin, Cantonese barbeque sauce, broccolini, red wine confit onion and served with steamed jasmine rice
Two more beautiful dishes arrived after a quick breather, and though we were nearing saturation point we had to squeeze in as much of the deliciousness as possible. Like our dishes from the robata grill, the meat was expertly cooked and succulent. I can’t resist duck, and this crispy skinned iteration was great – the combination of prunes and duck evokes a memory of a favourite dish for me, so I loved it. The red cabbage was another classic addition that worked well here. Our Cantonese beef was also a hit – a classic flavour profile – nothing outside the box flavour wise here really, but the meat was top quality and handled knowledgably.
PEANUT BUTTER SEMI FROZEN (D) (N) – 55
Apple and miso sorbet, hazlenut brittle, golden raisin puree
MILK & CHOCOLATE (D) (N) – 55
Soft chocolate milk mousse, fried milk, vanilla milk sorbet, chocolate oil
I chose these desserts as they seemed to have a something interesting going on – but for the more cautious diner there are more classic offerings on offer too, such as chocolate fondant. The peanut butter dish had some hits – the hazelnut brittle and the peanut butter ‘semi frozen’ components – not sure why this wasn’t called a semifreddo? It also had some misses – the apple and miso sorbet, this just made zero sense to me and wasn’t a pleasant combination. The milk & chocolate was similarly inconsistant – the vanilla milk sorbet was really interesting (in a good way) and the fried milk was really different. The chocolate milk mousse was too insipid to hold up by itself though and really was only tasty in combination with other ingredients. We mixed things up a little – the peanut semi frozen combined with the chocolate mousse and hazelnut brittle made for the best taste combination of the lot in my opinion!
We were pretty sad to be coming to the end of our night at Buddha Bar – but it turned out there was one more box to tick! To finish up our journey of amazing cocktails, we sipped on the Shit-ake Happens cocktail – how can you not love a cocktail with a name like that? It wasn’t just funny sounding, it was funny looking too – cocktail mastery disguised as a pot plant! Love the whimsical attitude and crazy cocktail craftsmanship served up by the renown Buddha Bar mixology team.
Service wise, we were looked after so well and made to feel so welcome – all of the members of the team who took care of us were top notch and I’m sure you’ll be in expert hands when you visit. There was none of the coldness or standoffishness that can be abundant in high end Dubai eateries – everyone had a great sense of humour too.
I can’t wait until next time – with a menu the size of Buddha Bar’s, I could come back tomorrow and enjoy a completely different assortment of dishes, I love that (and that’s even if you’re not a seafood eater like me – for seafood lovers the choice is never ending)! To have a menu this large and maintain such high standards (and in such a large and busy venue) that’s saying a LOT. Keep being fabulous BB, counting down the days until next time x.
Overall Rating: 8.8/10