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Buddakan vs. Morimoto Birthday Dinner

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I have reservations for both for my birthday (on an upcoming Saturday night) and I am stuck as to which I should choose. I'm a college student as is my boyfriend who will be coming with me. I am willing to pay up to $200 for dinner including drinks, tax, and tip for the both of us (cultural tradition that the birthday person covers dinner, and I would rather order what I want without feeling bad about the bill he is paying).

What do you think would be a better choice? We are both very Chowhound-y types and have been to many great restaurants in New York and abroad. I want something special but not too stuffily romantic. I want good service that will make our experience special as well, with great food.

I've thought about the Omakase at Morimoto but I think it's too extravagant for this occasion (just dating for barely two months by that point) and should be saved for a more special event in the future. Help?

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  1. I went to the Philly Morimoto a few years ago on a student budget and it was great. We did the omakase but for lunch instead and with tip we paid about $150. I'm not sure you could pull off the omakase for two at dinner for $200... very unlikely. But the food there is great. I was really impressed

    1 Reply
    1. re: bygnerd

      I've done hours worth of research so far and I have no conclusion to share for it. I know I want to go to dinner, but Morimoto Omakase for lunch another time sounds fantastic.

    2. Buddakhan's food is not going to blow you away. Its plays on asian fusion, fun, loud atmosphere, and attentive service but nothing special. The lobster, and sea bass are good dishes, and the dim sum doughnuts are fun.

      The Morimoto experience for omikase is very nice, though if you think you are going there for sushi, you will be disappointed, as there usually is one sushi appetizer and ending up with a sushi course before dessert. Morimoto recently raised their prices so the minimum omikase is 100 per person, so I think you would be pushing your budget. I believe they have a new sushi dinner that is in the eighty dollar range that might do.

      If you are forcing yourself to choose between the two, given what you have described about where the relationship is, I would probably choose Buddakhan. The food will not be the center of the meal, and it will not break the bank. Its a fun atmosphere.

      I would second Bashful's recommendation for Matt Ito in Haddonfield for Fuji. It is some of the finest food around, especially if you sit at the sushi bar and put yourself in Matt's capable hands.

      116 Kings Hwy E # 2
      Haddonfield, NJ 08033
      (856) 354-8200

      And on a side note, if you area intent upon sushi in Philadelphia, the restaurant I have been enjoying a lot lately has been Zento, whose sushi chef trained at Morimoto. Very nice appetizers, and sushi. Its BYO so its lighter on the wallet.

      1. Is there a reason that these are your two choices? They're both good restaurants, but for $200 you can eat a fantastic meal at many better places.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Buckethead

          I just want something that isn't too stuffy/overly vomit-inducingly romantic, but has great food and service that will make me feel special. If there are any others in Philadelphia that you would suggest, please go ahead. I am going to limit this to a reasonable distance from Penn only, Old City included as possibilities.

          1. re: gingerjones

            LIstening carefully to what you last wrote, I'd say: Osteria. No stuffy quotient at all, not romantic per se, but fun vibe, innovative food, great service. Another thing: to have a more quiet experience that would encourage warm conversation, consider an on-the-early-side reservation there. I know I felt special when I ate there!

            Tip: Ask someone ahead of time, or when you order, which are the larger portions of main dishes, and which are very much on the small side. I ordered the most expensive lobster dish on the menu, and was not disappointed, but those at my table who ordered other dishes that sounded (and were) fabulous, had tiny portions of same.

            1. re: gingerjones

              Osteria is terrific, but it is hard to have a really great meal there on your budget. I think both of your original choices are fine. Morimoto is more expensive, though it can be done. Both have a fun, hip atmosphere, though Morimoto is a little more intimate. Neither is typically romantic. Folks on this board don't like Buddakhan, but I know plenty of people who love it there. The food is consistently very good and it is fun.

              1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                I'm one of those people who really likes Buddakan. I've been to Morimoto several times...even for a birthday party in one of their private rooms. The food and service are excellent no doubt. But there is something awfully fun about Buddakan. And I really do think that the food is terrific...even if it isn't "authentic".

                1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                  I would also recommend Osteria. I don't think $200 is much of a budget limitation there, though it depends on what you like to drink. They have a great wine list but some of the bottles are very pricey. I usually order from the lower-priced third of the wine list and I've never had a bill close to $200 even with tip included. Tinto is another great place with a fun, un-stuffy atmosphere, fantastic food, and would be within your budget.

                  1. re: Buckethead

                    There are no reservations for the times I want at either Osteria or Tinto, althoug both sound fantastic for other nights. I would like to have Asian food because we both went to school in Asia (expats) and love it. We have been to Pod a LOT because it's right on campus and I feel like Buddakan might be a more elaborate version of Pod. True? No?

                    I am leaning towards Morimoto but I don't know if I should do Morimoto without doing the Omakase.

                    1. re: gingerjones

                      Osteria has a portion of their tables not set aside for reservations. Just show up and you will be seated. Strategy is to show up early aka around 5. Worst comes to worst you will eat at the bar. But Osteria is a restaurant you can get in without reservation, even on a busy night.

                      Your comparison between Budakhan and Pod is fair, though Budakhan will not have the sushi. I would actually compare the Continental and Budakhan, both being pan asian style of cuisine in a playful atmosphere.

                      Morimoto certainly can be enjoyed without the omakase. Choose an appetizer, two entrees and some sushi. You will have a wonderful meal. Or just choose a bunch of plates for sharing.