Monday, December 17, 2007

The Buddha Bar

Buddha Bar
Grosvenor House Hotel
Dubai Marina
Bookings: 04 399 8888

So Padawan, you want to eat at Buddha Bar. Well, first you must complete a herculean task, one that is fraught with many dangers, huge obstacles, insurmountable problems; you must get a reservation.

Calling the Grosvenor House last week we got put through to the Buddha Bar where we promptly got cut off. And called again, and got cut off. Six times. Finally in desperation, actually in a rage, I demanded to speak to the F&B manager who of course wasn’t available but it seemed to do the trick for a very nice chap from the bar called Marco called me back and everything was sorted, and I didn’t even get the usual ‘Sir we have a very nice table for you at 1145pm’.

The Buddha Bar is uber trendy, filled with Dubai’s beautiful people (and me that night) and so dark that waitresses provide torches with the menus.

The room is quite cleverly sectioned off with Chinese screens into smaller intimate lounging and eating areas but the main dining floor is quite a size, with a huge two storey high window running down one side and dominated by a massive, and I mean massive, gold coloured statue of the Lord Buddha benignantly looking down on us all. What Siddhartha makes of all this I really don’t know but such a temple to extravagance, opulence, ostentation and dissoluteness probably wasn’t in his teachings.

Chinese artefacts and art adorn all spare spaces and the overwhelming impression is of sumptuous reds, golds and dark wood.

The menu is strongly Asian, though with western influences, and has a very good sushi/sashimi section.

The food is very good, it really is, it is just that for me the restaurant hasn’t worked out if they are serving Asian food western style or Western food Asian style.

What I mean is that the food is Asian but you can’t eat it or order it in an Asian way, to plonk in the middle and every one share. The portions are large, but designed to be served to one and I feel that it doesn’t really work that well. Just to give you an example, I ordered calamari followed by lacquered duck. Now both dishes were very good, in fact the duck was bloody delicious; moist and sweet, but what I got was a huge bowl of calamari and a big plate of sliced duck. That’s it.

The calamari came with a tamarind dipping sauce (the nod to Asia) and were excellent, crispy, yet still moist inside, but about a quarter of the way through the bowl I had really had enough and needed a change. The same for the duck, yummy, but when eating the same thing again and again with nothing to set if off against, a vegetable, potatoes, rice, it just becomes, well, it becomes quite boring. And that is a real shame because the food is very well prepared, is very tasty but they just haven’t got it quite right.

The wine list is very extensive, covers almost every region of the world, but is quite frighteningly expensive. The very cheapest bottle in the whole menu is Dhs265, and there is only one of those. The next range is around Dhs350 and it keeps heading north after that.

It is not that I mind paying Dhs350 for a bottle of wine but I do mind paying that for a bottle that would be half that price next door.

In fact it should be said, and it will come as no surprise I am sure, but this is at the top end of restaurant prices in Dubai. Starters are around the Dhs100 mark and main courses around Dhs200 (with a few quite a bit more than that).

I have eaten here many times and I do really like it. Food is good, the atmosphere is great, it is a fun, lively, trendy place and whilst I am neither of those things I can at least bask in the reflected glow. I just wish they would figure out what they are trying to be.

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