REVIEW: Buddha Bar

Late nights, great cocktails and relaxed deep house tunes – Buddha Bar’s elegant party vibe is renowned in many corners of the world. Of course, we expect it to be abuzz with Dubai’s IT crowd on weekends, but when we walk in just after opening (7.30pm) on a weeknight, we’re surprised to see five tables already seated for dinner.

It seems that we may have overlooked the gorgeous restaurant on Buddha Bar’s ground level. The venue closed last summer and underwent a huge facelift, which we notice as soon as we walk through the heavy wooden doors. Even the small lobby area has been painstakingly revamped, with a handmade Japanese style mosaic floor leading onto the VIP lounge. In the restaurant we’re greeted by floor-to-ceiling windows offering a view of boats passing through the marina, as well as a giant gold Buddha who towers above diners.

Let’s start with a disclaimer: it’s not cheap. But when you consider the luscious Pan Asian décor with lashings of rich red, gold and dark wood, as well as the quality food and cocktails served, it’s certainly not overpriced. The menu is described as Pacific Rim cuisine, which takes influence from Asia, Hawaii, India and California – the result is a broad range of dishes that make it ideal for pleasing large dinner parties.

We start with a portion of calamari (AED100) and chicken salad (AED95), recommended by our waiter. If, like us, you don’t think that chicken salad can possibly be exciting, you need to give this a try. The Chinese cabbage, five spice chicken, crispy wontons and Dijon mustard give it a mild kick, merging flavours from the east and west.

As for the sushi, we opted for the California roll – a classic that didn’t disappoint – and the crazy spicy tuna (AED100 for 8 pieces). While the yellow fin tuna with tobiko and Thai red chilli was undoubtedly spicy, we wouldn’t go so far as to call it ‘crazy’. Nevertheless, the zing from the chilli along with the meaty flavour of the tuna made for one of our favourite dishes of the evening.

A sharing portion of grilled Wagyu (AED380) finished off our savoury courses, and this is a real must-order. The Australian Wagu beef is so tender it almost has a creamy texture, and along with the teriyaki sauce, shiitake and shimeji mushrooms, baby asparagus and mashed potato, the dish was a perfect balance of earthy, sweet and salty.

The dessert options are similarly comprehensive, and although the waiting staff championed the peanut butter semi frozen (AED55), we opted for the chocolate fondant (AED60). With a fluffy cake exterior and hot chocolate lava inside, it was the perfect overindulgent end to the meal.

We watched the lower and upper bar get busier with each course, so you needn’t end the evening there. We recommend making a night of it and working your way through the cocktail list as the music gets louder. One of the signature cocktails even comes with a miniature rubber duck bobbing around in a little box – #InstagramAlert.

Buddha Bar gets a massive thumbs up from us. We’ll need to go back and check it out on a Friday night too… For research, of course.

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