Thursday, April 27, 2006

Rub my Buddha Belly

I know what you're thinking. Ugh. Another pan-asian monstrosity on the lower west side, I don't know if my poor belly can take another rock shrimp rendition, short rib stew or creative sushi roll served on a bed of goldleaf salad. But knowing your inner trendzoid who must try a new place before its shelf life runs out and before you lose your insider status, guess what, you can, and you will!

Cue Buddha Bar. The infamous Parisian restaurant-cum-lounge-cum-club-cum multi book CD collection has finally opened. No it's not a rumor you've read in WWD or the Post. After years of planning, the sprawling compound on Little West 12th (turns out not so little what with mega venues like PM, Pastis, Saacha, Highline...I could go on) has materialized before our eyes into a dim-lit, vast den with Occidental flavor and Western status. Yes, Buddha Bar has arrived, in all of its Tao-like glory.

What Tao? How dare I mention the uptown tourist trap that has or should have nothing to do with this brand spanking new and way more cooler Buddha Bar? Well for one, there's a big Buddha. Yes I know Tao ripped it off from the latter back in Paris but that's the thing, B-squared, you're 3 years too late! One of my girlfriends brightly quipped, "If this opened two years ago it would be brutally hot!" Yes, brutally! But now, well, it's tepid.

Ok, maybe I'm being a bit harsh. You still have to go, obviously. If not for the Buddha, then for the jellyfish tank behind the sushi bar, the glass-encased open air smoking den (which past 10PM, becomes a glass-encased open air ashtray), the Koi fish pond below the back tables and believe it or not the food.

The sushi is fresh and not overpowering with simple rolls and not so simple presentation; the chicken salad beats China Grill's and fried shrimp makes you (almost) forget about Nobu's rock version, almost.

But the best part of Buddha Bar is what makes it so famous in the first place. The music. Yes, the music is why we're here isn't it? The playlist of Middle Eastern dance hits makes you forget you're New York and brings you to the shores of St. Tropez, the beaches of Beirut and dare I say, the streets of Paris? Way to go Buddha for holding on to your identity in the so affected Meatpacking District.

Final Word: Though its timing may be a little off key, Buddha Bar remains an attraction to be seen, heard and experienced first hand. Just one tip, get it while it's hot.

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