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Aug 20, 2004 09:18 AM

Buddha Bodai Mott Street Review

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The other night I was set on having veggie Chinese, and we were in Chinatown so I thought I'd head over to VP3. We walked by and the place looked dead. No Asian people sitting at any of the tables. It just didn't feel right. I'd rather eat meaty Chinese that be in that kindof atmosphere. What about moon house? A line of tourists out the door. We kept walking, maybe Pings would have a nicer vibe? Over run with tourists. Keep walking. Maybe 88 house down off of East Broadway for a hotpot? We didn't make it that far. To my surprise, we encountered:

Buddha Bodai
5 Mott Street
Vegan, Chinese, Kosher
Accept Credit Cards.

They have a location in Manhattan? The queens location I have heard about but never been to, still- I thought I was pretty familiar with all of the veggie places in Chinatown. The place was packed with raven haired heads only. We had to give it a shot. No aircondtioner. That didn't turn us around. We sat at a table up front, one of the only places available. The menu had lots of photos, making us think that it had to be a half meat half veggie menu. The shrimp and abalone just looked a little too real. No, we were assured that it was only veggie. The waitress was very attentive, and made lots of suggestions. The specials were posted on the wall and on our table. We ordered mostly off of that menu. The stir fried beef ap was really great- crispy soft gooie texture. The pumpkin seafood soup was also wonderful. Nice and skunky like oysters, with the smooth pumpkiny almost butternut squash consistancy. We ordered the taro basket off their regular menu. It was amazing- crispy on the outside and warm and lovely inside, filled with lobster, stringy dried beef, fish, and ham- awake in a bed of broccoli. The watercress(chinese vegitable) we also ordered wasn't on either menu, but was their special vegitable of the day we learned after asking. The vegitable was everything we hoped. Crisp, squeaky clean, shiney glazed sauce. We ordered mango pudding for dessert which came surrounded in a homemade whipped cream. Like woah. The bill came with oranges to help clear the palate. Everything was right on. Right, so no airconditioner. We broke a sweat from the getgo. It was like an out of body experience. Hot food, hot tea, hot sweat. I hate the heat but I was loving this.

Our tea, which was steamy and newly steeped, never hit the bottom. Our chopsticks were black, shiney, and seemed fancy. Our waitress was so friendly and visited us just enough to make us feel at home and not rushed, even though they were packed. Her suggestions were right on. She took the time to be nice and listen to us and talk about the food even though her english was broken. After going to so many chinatown institutions, the rudeness of the waiters has become something I've grown to expect. Not just in chinatown- Grand Sechuan Chelsea has some of the rudest people on staff that I've incountered at any restaurant since I stopped going to Meskerem. These people at Buddha Bodai made us feel right at home. Some Chinese places you'll notice that the chinese people sitting around you get a complimentary house soup to start out with, they get specials read to them, they start out with tea and chopsticks instead of water and silver, and they get a complimentary hot red bean soup to finish instead of stale fortune cookies. That always pissed me off. If you ask for those things they act like it's some big chore, or they just laugh in your face. Although I didn't get anything complimentary at Budadha Bodai, neither did anyone else that I noticed. I'd rather the service be equal like that.

All and all, a great experience. A clean place too, no bugs. We left a big tip and told our waitress to make sure the chef knew that we enjoyed the food. We even ordered a large dinner portion of that stir fried beef to take home. That in combo with our leftovers should take care of us for a week. Total damage: 50 bucks including a 20%+ tip. This is my new veggie chinese restaurant outside of Flushing. Go, order alot, and be nice to these people. They deserve it.

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  1. thank you SO MUCH for posting this! i love this place and am thrilled to learn they finally have a location in manhattan. my favorite is the black bean 'fish,' a must-try.

    1. Oops. My dinner partner informed me that it was the BBQ beef special, not stirfry. She says:

      "It tasted like the gooey fat from slow cooked ribs that have sat on the grill for 20 hours."


      1 Reply
      1. re: Araess

        The dim sum they serve on Sunday mornings isn't bad. As with other vegetarian places that try to reproduce the savoriness and mouth feel of meat or seafood, they make several dishes which are OK in small portions but are too heavy/oily to finish on one's own. It is a good idea to try to balance each dish that is hard to digest with one or two that's steamed or boiled.

        Some of the items on the menu are paired with photographs. You can get an idea of what it will be like from the photo.

        About the broccoli. I noticed in dishes that I got broccoli with such as the walnut "shrimp" that the broccoli was old, woody and bitter. When I see this, it makes me wonder what other corners they might be cutting. Dishes I ordered with eggplant have also featured old, seedy eggplants. Since eggplant can absorb lots of oil, the eggplant dishes tend to be indigestible.

        I agree that the waitstaff are pleasant, and that the manager takes the lead in providing good service. There are problems from time to time in getting your whole order. I have never had a problem with having an item the waitperson forgot to bring taken off the bill.

        I recommend the steamed turnip pancakes and the shredded turnip in pastry.
        There is a char shiao bao (steamed bread with a barbecue "meat" filling) but the "meat" doesn't really taste like much. The same goes for the steamed dumplings.
        I like the ribs, however.

        Portions of mains, especially of noodle dishes, are large. They offer a version of pad thai (I believe the menu lists it as Thailand noodle) but this doesn't taste much like the real thing (it's their reinterpretation). Since a lot of their food is on the heavy side, you will probably end up taking home a doggy bag rather than forcing yourself to finish the plate onsite.

        No problems with the air conditioner that I have noticed in the year I've been going there.