And the good eatin’ in Atlantic City last weekend continued…
Thanks to restaurateur Stephen Starr, some of Philly’s better restaurants have made their way to the casinos. One of these is Buddakan, a fusion of many Asian cuisines that has been doing great business for a number of years on the other side of the Delaware. Lisa and I had eaten at the Philadelphia location once before, so we were never in a rush to try the one in AC. Lisa’s folks were staying over in Atlantic City, and they had recently been to this Buddakan and had enjoyed it very much, so we all got together for a late lunch. The first thing that jumps right out at you visually at either location is the big gold Buddha statue in the back of the restaurant. Can’t help but see it. The ceiling is dark blue with little white lights for stars, a style that’s all over the place in AC (The Quarter, Caesars, etc.), but still sets a nice mood.
After taking our seats in a booth in the back of the restaurant, we started off with some drinks. Although I have never been a big fan of Japanese beers, I went for the Hitachino Nest White Ale, a Japanese spin on a Belgian-style witbier. And, I have to say, it was pretty well executed. The finish was still a little lacking, which is why I’m usually disappointed with beers from Japan, but overall a pretty good beer. I ended up having two, by the way. Lisa was still on a sake kick from Izakaya the night before, so she ordered a glass of Kaika Kaze No Ichirin (“Flower In Wind”). She found this sake to be crisp and floral, with a little bit of sweetness.
First up, the appetizers: two types of dumplings and some spring rolls. I really enjoyed the wild mushroom dumplings with truffle sauce. Earthy with a touch of sophistication. Lisa found them to be rich and intense, but they might not be for everyone. Her mom thought they were very salty, but we think she may have just gotten a bad bite. The folks had raved about the chicken and ginger dumplings with a sesame dipping sauce, so we got those as well. And they were right to have been raving; I really liked these little crescent pillows of love. Lisa thought they were almost perfect; you could actually taste the ginger, but not overwhelmingly so. The only thing that would have made them better would be substituting pork for chicken. I like her thinking. With the Cantonese spring rolls with shrimp and chicken, that made us 3-for-3 in tasty appetizers: hot and crisp, not greasy like your typical takeout fare, and with big chunks of shrimp and ground chicken.
On to the main dishes! We had ordered a series of main courses and shared them family-style. I’m a sucker for fried rice, regardless of whether it’s in a upscale restaurant or just out of a takeout carton at home, so I may not be the best judge of how good fried rice should be. The crab fried rice we ordered was very good, I thought, but I also wouldn’t go out of my way to get it again. Lisa also thought it was good, but not as good as she was expecting. They didn’t skimp on the fresh crabmeat, but overall it tasted like something she could easily whip up at home. The chicken and shrimp pad thai, however, is something that never comes out right when we whip it up at home, no matter what recipe we’ve used. Buddakan’s version is very tasty with just enough spice. Lisa thought it was just darned good pad thai – nuff said. Another dish that our folks had enjoyed before was the hot and sour scallops with sweet corn, tofu and black mushrooms. Again, a very well-prepared dish; the scallops were firm and tender, not too dry or chewy. Lisa also thought that they were prepared perfectly, with nice caramelization on the outside. She also thought the sauce was a heavenly combination. The only negative was getting a few grains of sand in the scallops. The crowning glory of the lunch was certainly the Asian BBQ pork with Chinese broccoli and panko-crusted onion rings. Yummity yum yum. Nice little pieces of grilled tenderloin goodness…and those onion rings – oh my were they ever good. According to Lisa, this was the one dish that had us all licking the plate clean. Even the broccoli was well-prepared, and you could argue that it delivered the sauce better than the pork and had absorbed the pork’s juices.
Dessert? Sure, why the hecks not. The prize for the best-looking dessert would certainly go to the chocolate pagoda. It was a little house of chocolate! It’s true, I tells ya! Seriously, though, it was a nice presentation – and very delicious. Lisa enjoyed the five varieties of chocolate: cake, ice cream, ganache, syrup and the cookie thingamajig on top. Yow. We also got the “Zen”-ful donuts (heh heh), which looked kind of bland in comparison to the Little House of Chocolate, but they were very good all on their own. Even Lisa admitted that she wanted much, much more of these little babies. She very much enjoyed the creamy vanilla custard embraced by a perfectly fried little doughnut-served HOT (oh, my) with cinnamon sugar. Who needs sex? (Did she just say that? Wow.) Notice in the below photo the already empty plate behind the pagoda?
Y’know, she makes a fair point. We did tear through those donuts pretty quickly.
I know that Buddakan is no longer the latest and greatest, and some may even call the place a bit trite. I just care about the food, thankyouverymuch, and they’re still doing a very good job in that area.
– John (and Lisa)
Buddakan Atlantic City – The Pier Shops at Caesars, One Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic City. 609.674.0100.