So if you know me or at least know how much I love to eat out, chances are you would know that I have an obsession with Buddha Bodai. Even though I eat Chinese food at home already, this takes the cuisine to a, dare I say, “holier” level? This Buddhist/Kosher/Vegan/Vegetarian friendly eatery has two locales: one in my neighboring town of Flushing, one in the heart of Chinatown on Mott Street. Though they claim to not use “onions, garlic, chives and scallions” because they “make you horny”, you really don’t even notice (and me being a garlic aficionado, I was pretty impressed by this little-known fact!).
The decor in the Flushing location is very Chinese-y, homely oriental, with a mini-buddha in the back and potted palm plants framing the spacious dining room. There are signs spouting Buddhist mantras on a few of the walls facing the side tables, which may seem a bit strange but it IS called “Buddha Bodai” for a reason, right?
The Chinatown location is a bit more stark, with a gigantic-fluorescent lighted landscape that reminds me of France for some reason in the background. Daily/monthly specials are taped up haphazardly along the walls, which is a bit unsightly but not altogether too distracting. I prefer the service at this location better, and the co-owner of Buddha Bodai, Kent Zhang, is often here and all smiles and warm welcomes, so it does make me feel a bit more at home.
The waitstaff as a whole clearly speaks English as a second language, but this does not mitigate their accommodating service and easy friendliness.
I usually come here for the dim sum, which runs from opening to 3:30 PM. The rice rolls are to die for, and they come in a wide variety of mock meat choices. My favorite is a toss-up between the “shrimp” and the “bee chi” mushroom one, both are so delicious! Though I think I am partial to rice rolls because when I was a wee tyke my mom would only allow me a few pieces and I had to share with my little sisters… so now I eat as much as I can get :D
For dinnertime, my go-to has been the “Shrimp with Walnuts” dish which tastes almost identical to the non-vegan counterpart. The creme sauce the shrimps are coated with is spot-on: deliciously rich, tangy and savory all at the same time, and the honey-coated walnuts are a welcome crunchy addition. Be sure to order lots of white rice with that one!
So for my first individual review, we have the “Triple Mushrooms Spinach Soup”. Ok, the picture does not do it justice, because it does seem to resemble the slime from the MTV Music Awards. Yet I must beg to differ that it tastes nothing like that! The soup was a lovely consistency, not too thick and very satisfying on a cold day (which it was) and was much like a clear broth with puréed spinach in it. The mushrooms, however, hit it out of the park. They tasted almost like butter, and I daresay like meat-ish, as they were extremely fleshy and fibrous, but not in a bad way. For me it was the equivalent of chicken soup! I loved the stalks just as I loved the variety of different mushrooms (I think there were three different kinds in there), there was one with a brown top, a mid-sized one, and the skinner bee-chi ones. Sorry, I don’t really know my mushroom classifications :P but I hope you get the picture. 5 out of 5 carrots!!
This is the “Mushroom & Fungus Soup”. I definitely liked this one less than the Triple Mushroom, the broth was salty and nothing special. Kind of like a Hot & Sour soup without the hot and sour. 2.5 out of 5.
Here we have the “Five Color Assorted Appetizer”. I love Buddha’s version of Char Siu, which is a classic Chinese creation. Their version is just as tasty, though my favorite of them all is the stuffed bread, which is essentially mock meat encased in a delicious crunchy shell, very dippable and totally delicious (it’s the one in the middle). The hoisin sauce it comes with is very salty, so you only need a little bit. At 17.95 this may be a bit steep, but it is a large portion and I feel totally worth it since it even comes with mock jellyfish, which is really authentic-tasting and a great opposing texture to the stuffed bread which is on top of it. Eat with lots of rice as well! 4.8 out of 5 carrots!!
This dish, the “Dry Sautéed Beef Chow Fun”, was very substantial in portion size (could feed two hungry people), and came chock-full of different mock meats. I liked the elasticity of the mock duck which came in strips, as well as the chewiness of the chow fun noodles. Pretty straightforward and the bean sprouts give it a nice touch. 4.3 out of 5 carrots.
Here we have the “Veg. Seafood Pan-Fried Noodle”. This dish was chock-full of gourmet-tasting mock seafood. I loved the rendition of squid, the hearty pieces of veg fish, and of course the clear saucey-ness of it all topped with Chinese cabbage and bok choy. The noodles were so crispy and crunchy, oh, I was in veg-seafood heaven! Once again, a perfect marriage of creativity and classic attention to detail. 5 out of 5 carrots!
The next dish on the menu was the “Shrimp Fried Rice”. I didn’t like this as much as the soup, but it was tasty nonetheless. I felt it was a typical fried rice, nothing too special, but it did the trick! There were some tasty shrimp morsels and Chinese cabbage slices and it wasn’t overly salted. 3.5 out of 5 carrots.
This dish is Buddha Bodai’s version of the “Fillet Mignon”. It arrived on a sizzling steam plate, and as such is sure to attract attention to your table, what with the crackling sounds of the sauce being poured onto the hot black tablet (which the waiter does for you) and the sauce jumping every which way (be sure to keep it a little far from you when this happens). The mock meat was very tasty but did not taste like the real thing in terms of consistency (yes I did eat real fillet mignon back in the day). However, it was still quite appetizing, though I doubt I will make it a repeat offender. 3.0 out of 5 carrots.
So just as a side-note, I did NOT eat this all at one sitting! I love coming to this restaurant, and hope my input will influence your hand… er, I mean your stomach next time you’re in the mood for some good, no, GREAT Chinese food. And tell me about it, ok? Promise? :)