Buddakan rides again
We make an annual pilgrammage to Buddakan for my wife's birthday, and I am very pleased to report back a positive experience.
We had noticed over the last couple of years that the quality of the food was off from our first trip (which was 3 years ago). Still enjoyable, but not on par with either the reputation, expectations, or cost.
But this trip was wonderful. All of the food was delicious and showed a focused attention to detail that I felt was missing the last couple of trips (and my wife had also brought up as well, so it wasn't just me). Same for cocktails... just delicious.
So if you had written it off in the past, it may be worth another try.
We shared the following (with my brief impression of each):
-shrimp & scallop spring rolls (simple -in a good way- clean shrimp & scallop flavor, very tender, with a slight crunch from the wrapper).
-edamame ravioli (Not exactly what we were expecting, but a very pleasant surprise. Thin broth and what seemed like a more traditional italian raviloi filling that had edamame incorporated. Much better than I was expecting)
-duck bao buns (we are currently obsessed. Chifa pork belly bao buns are still the gold standard in our eyes, but these were a formidable second place. My wife actively dislikes duck and still enjoyed these)
-lobster fried rice (this is a mainstay for us. We've gotten it every time we've gone, and it was as good as we've ever had it. Plentiful lobster, good texture, and a very interesting, pleasant smokiness that I got on our first visit and had disappeared since)
-pork tenderloin (simple cut of meat, but very well prepared. I often wonder when I see a cut like tenderloin on a menu why it is there, as that seems like something that you can have just as well at home. But I couldn't have created this. Wonderfully flavored, well seasoned, with crisply seared exterior and tender interior. Nice chinese broccoli accompaniment, and only so-so panko onion ring which was the biggest miss of the night).
-chocolate bomb cake. Very good though not transcendental, with a nice bit of coffee ice cream to complement (and sherry, as has become my norm when available). They do still have the donuts, which look great, but it was my wife's birthday and she is an enthusiast for all things chocolate so that tends to win.
We sat upstairs for the first time, which we thought was a vast improvement over downstairs. We were tucked into a quiet corner, which managed to say relatively peaceful even with a table of ten 30's-40's year old men that were clearly in the midst of some sort of revelry seated nearby. Service was average at best, and probably even that characterization is generous, but didn't ruin our meal.
I was with you on your assessment cwd; after the last couple of trips I thought the marginal benefit over PF Changs was not significant. But I was very pleased to find this trip a much higher attention to detail and degree of care in highlighting flavors.
It is perhaps a dated concept when compared with the cutting edge of the Philly dining scene, but I don't see anything wrong with that. I don't personally need to be on the cutting edge every night I dine. For example, when all is said and done, I end up at eating at Bertucci's as often as I end up on 13th Street. While I feel much more stimulated by the offerings on 13th, that doesn't mean I still don't enjoy my meal at the old reliable mall outparcel Bertuccis on a crazy Wednesday when we don't the energy to cook.
Anyway, I digress. I thought that the quality of food was such a pleasant surprise that it was worth noting, as I was guessing much of the rest of the Hounders may have written it off as well.
Count me in as another Budakkan fan. This is our go-to special occasion restaurant. Never had a bad time or bad food. In addition everyone we've ever bought there has loved it, and these range from teenagers to 80-year-old grandmoms, as well as foreign visitors.
Don't quite understand the complaints about high prices though. Given the huge, family-style portions, we find the prices to be reasonable...esp. when contrasted with prices charged for some small, tapas-style plates around the city. I'm with you tfalbo! And judging by the crowds, so are a lot of others.