One of my favourite parts of being a food writer/blogger, is being invited to ‘official’ press lunches or dinners involving a huge feast with a group of like-minded gastronomes from the industry. You get fed, you schmooze, you booze, swap cards and in some cases make friends.
One of my recent blogger dinners was in Buddha Bar London in Knightsbridge, where I was invited to try and test a selection of their menu’s signature dishes (they focus on sushi and Pan Asian).
Now, I went to their well-executed launch back in October, but this mainly consisted of champagne and easily forgettable canapés. At last it was time for me to put the food menu to the test and if I must be honest, I thought the food would be a disappointment.
I had imagined Buddha Bar to be yet another ‘too-much-money-not- enough-substance’ kinda place which is too easily seen in Knightsbridge, but alas I was surprisingly proved wrong and now I feel kind of guilty for thinking it. I went in there with misconceptions, and a mind-set of hating the cuisine purely as my brain was poisoned by the unfair reviews I’ve seen around the net (which is strange as I usually tend to judge for myself).
A whooping 18 courses were put at our table for 10 of us to share. One side of the table got to sample items the other side didn’t and vice versa. I was in awe by how meticulous the presentation of most dishes were.
I’m going to specifically talk about my stand-out dishes.
The ‘Crunchy Sushi’ platter (and I’m not just saying this for effect) was out of this world. It’s been a few weeks since my visit but I still remember the impact the flavours had on me and my palate. They came in the form of spicy tuna and salmon rolls and they were crunchy by name, crunchy by nature, (however, I didn’t feel much spice). The colour scheme was rich in autumn colours which would make a person who hates taking photos of their food, grab their mobile and snap away.
The sashimi platter was very pleasurable and once again the colours were breath-taking. I have mentioned before that sashimi is my least favourite from the sushi family, but these didn’t even need to be dipped in soy sauce to be flavoursome. I especially liked the salmon, scallop and yellowtail sashimi which were all extremely fresh and delicate in texture.
I know I said I’d only talk about stand out dishes but I’m on a roll now. The rock shrimp tempura was good…not great or one of the best I’ve had, but still good. I liked their popcorn shape which made it easier to just pop in your mouth one (or three) at a time. I was pleased to see that it wasn’t just a load of batter with minimal shrimp, quite the opposite in fact.
The ‘Chicken Salad’ (sounds boring but it isn’t) is their signature dish and I can bloody understand why. In fact, I’d crown it the heavyweight champion. I’m not one to get a boner over salads but this was something else. There were so many different textures and so much going on at the same time, but not excessively so. It was sweet (almost ‘peanuty’), unique and very, very, very crunchy. The dominance of the sesame oil certainly packed a punch. Apparently it’s featured in the menu of every Buddha Bar worldwide and the recipe hasn’t changed for 12 years (too right).
We also sampled a selection of hot mains including the soft, melt in your mouth ‘Black Cod’, a very decadent ‘Spicy Truffle Lobster’ (again, it could’ve been spicier), a ‘Wagyu Beef Fillet with Truffle Miso’ and a Pan Fried Seabass’. Out of the mains, the most memorable with a lot character, were both the ‘Spicy Lobster’ and the ‘Wagyu Beef’. I adored how the light and well-seasoned noodles were presented in the bowl which definitely added that extra ‘wow’ factor’.
All these decadent courses had left me well and truly stuh-huffed with a capital ‘S’ and I just wanted to carry on chit-chattering away and sipping on my champagne. Desert was not on my agenda but I just couldn’t resist their beauty so, had to pick at a few before admitting defeat. They included ‘Caramelised 5 Spiced Pear with Lime Yogurt’, ‘Lime and Ginger Cheesecake with Pineapple Salsa’ and an exotic fruit plate.
Would I go back to Buddha Bar? Yes, for the crunchy sushi, the sashimi and of course the chicken salad alone. The prices are a bit on the steep side so feel free to go to town if you’ve cash to splash. It’s a perfect location to get glammed up for a long boozy lunch or to entertain clients. It has better sushi than Sushisamba but not quite on par with Wabi.