With locations spanning the globe – from Kiev, to Sao Paolo, to Dubai and more, the illustrious Buddha Bar finally has a home in DC. Although its location is a bit of a stretch – in the up-and-coming neighborhood down near 5th and Mass – its brand has elicited quite a response from the DC nightlife scene and already attracted some pretty significant crowds.
Cost – $$$
Food – C
The cuisine is most aptly described as “Asian-American fusion.” The fixed menu route afforded me the luxury of range and I took full advantage. The egg rolls served at the beginning of the meal were decent but par for the course and the entrée came in a bento box with rice, lamb curry, Thai-style shrimp, and cold sautéed spinach. The presentation was solid but I found the product to be somewhat lacking. The lamb curry tasted like it came out of a “Golden Curry” box mix and the shrimp was overwhelmingly salty. The spinach, served cold (possibly to make it more “Asian”), was also excessively salted.
The one redeeming component of the bento box was the mango chutney although I do have to note that the dessert – mango soup – did help end the meal on a slightly high note.
Service – B
I found the service to generally be solid. Our server was relatively attentive and the manager did come around to ask us how our meal was, but was incredibly hasty in making his rounds.
Décor – B+
As the name described, the décor has heavy Asian influences. The massive Buddha in the middle of the dining area gives the restaurant a feeling of a spiritual calm that is only enhanced by the soft candle-like lighting. The enormous chandeliers resemble a combination of the Victorian era meets haunted Asian pagoda and are scattered throughout the restaurant. The bar is lit up as though by fire and is comparatively large for a restaurant in DC. The intricate jacquard fabric on the chairs, the enhanced backlights around the perimeter and the contrasting colors of gold, red, and mahogany all provide a unique setting. But even with all this distinctive décor, one thing you instantly notice when walking into the restaurant is the space. It is easily one of the more spacious restaurants in DC with its lofty ceilings, great dining space, and floor to ceiling windows.
Feel – C
What I liked about Buddha Bar: the décor, spaciousness, and general ambiance for group dinners, dates, and private conversations. It seems like a great place for a pre or post-game drink.
What I didn’t like about Buddha Bar: When making my reservation for dinner, I requested a table for 6. Since my party was considered “large,” I was required to hold the table with my credit card on file. The day of my dinner I was phoned for a courtesy reminder, but was also informed that if ALL my party didn’t show up 15 minutes after my scheduled reservation time, I would have to forfeit my table and I would be charged as though I didn’t show up. I arrived on time but the next twenty minutes were a bit of a juggling act as the remainder of the group leaked in while the clock ticked away. Ultimately, we were seated without a hassle but in a fairly empty restaurant I didn’t feel as though the stringent adherence to protocol was warranted.
Ultimately, time will tell whether Buddha Bar’s foray into the DC nightlife scene will prove to be successful. So far, the results seem mixed.