Last night, I went to Buddakan not one but twice. Each time was completely worth it but I will only touch on my first trip because that is when I ate the most. First off the restaurant was beautifully set up with a great ambiance. We sat in the back in a booth that was a bit cozy for eight people. The waiter informed us that the restaurant has a sharing atmosphere so we should plan to pass the food around the table. This was a plan that was completely ok with me until I got the braised short rib entree which we will talk about in a little bit. Since we ordered so much food I will just list the items and my thoughts on each.
1. Steamed Edamame: These were very tasty with a good amount of sea salt on them for flavoring. Not much else to say aside from we got a huge order for $7
2. Wasabi Mashed Potatoes: Since the waiter at Marathon Grill a few days ago convinced me not to order these, I had to have them here at an Asian Fusion restaurant. At first taste they were just well made mashed potatoes but then the wasabi entered the party from the back of your throat. Everyone that tasted them had the same reaction “Hmm these are good potatoes….oh wait, wow there’s the wasabi!”. This was a well made dish.
3. Edamame Ravioli: This comes as an order of four raviolis so you should probably double the order. I was very intrigued to find out what pureed edamame tasted like in a ravioli shell and was floored. These were some of the best ravioli I had ever eaten. Rich and creamy with a wonderful sauce. One or two of these is all you need because they so full of flavor but you can not go to Buddakan as skip them.
4. Duck Buns: These come as an order of three mini buns but wow what a dish. These were my favorite appetizer just for the duck. Cooked in a soy glaze with some garlic, ginger, and flavors that I could not pinpoint, that duck was soft and delicious. To be honest, there was no reason for the buns, they took away from the dish. It would be interesting to have this duck in a pasta or just alone on a plate.
5. Pad Thai: Probably the best Pad Thai I have had in a long time. It tasted like a traditional Pad Thai just more flavorful. In my opinion this was the best deal on the menu as well. Only $18 and it could serve two as an entree.
6. Dungeness crab sticky rice: This dish was good and was a little more substantial, but not my favorite. The only fun part was that it was served inside a hollowed out crab shell. You can pass on this one.
7. Tuna Pizza: Another dish that you do not need to order. It was interesting to eat tuna on pizza be definitely not my favorite.
I am only going to talk about my entree which was where the sharing concept broke down. This dish completely overwhelmed me as possibly the best dish I ate all week if not this year so far. I will try to describe it here but I will not do it justice so you just have to go and order the braised short ribs.
These ribs were unreal. First, the bone came out clean from the meat with a slight tug from a chopstick. Very good sign. Second, the meat could be picked apart with that same chopstick, these ribs we cooked for a long time. Now it was time to taste and my god what a taste it was. I had to sit back and close my eyes for a minute, the flavor profile was just incredible. It was sweet from the sugar and ginger and a little salty from the soy. What a wonderful combination of flavor. Next I moved to the three mushrooms that were beckoning me. The glaze transformed the mushrooms into something that I would need everyday if I was a vegetarian. That goes double for what it did to the bok choy.
This dish ended my willingness to share, I became a gorilla guarding its food. No one was getting a piece of this meat, they will just have to come back and order it themselves. The funny thing is what Danny ordered it later he had the same reaction so I know I’m not crazy. Though a small plate, the flavors made it seem like just I ate a 24 ounce steak. This dish is worth the $28, honestly they could charge double and I wouldn’t blink.
The list item was the Dip Sum Doughnuts so even though I was full, we had to order them. I am so glad we did. The doughnuts were presented in a chinese food take out box and you got five to an order (Secret: you can add doughnuts to the order for 75 cents each). Each dipping sauce, Blackberry, Cream, and Chocolate was unique in its own right but the blackberry was my favorite. The doughnuts were soft and flaky and tossed in sugar. Such a great way to end a meal.
Final thoughts (What to order):
Apps: Edamame Ravioli, Duck Buns
Entree: Do I have to repeat it? Order the short ribs!
Dessert: Dip Sum Doughnuts.
This will run you about $75 so this place is not cheap but I assure you that you will hand over your money without complaint. Buddakan was by FAR the best place I ate at in Philly for the overall ambiance, design, menu, and creative flavors. If you come to Philly and do not eat here we can no longer be friends.
(Note: Buddkan is very accommodating with both a gluten free and shellfish allergy free menu. One thing to know is that they use oyster sauce in a lot of their dishes so a shellfish allergy will severely reduce the menu options but you can still get the some of the aforementioned dishes.