A week before my birthday, I was looking for cool restaurants to try where I’d treat my family and boyfriend. After seeing pictures and snippets of reviews online, it was not long when I have decided to go for Buddha-Bar Manila. I booked for a reservation immediately and mentally prepared to be transported in a world of luxury and sophistication even for a day. 😀 Obviously, excitement filled me in!
I have first heard about Buddha-Bar Manila when it opened in 2012. And perhaps like me, you would ask, “Why is this bar called Buddha-Bar?” Whoa. I mean there are so many names you can attach to a bar, so why use Buddha? In any case, I think the owner has done a great job with the branding since it foremost captures quick attention and piques the curiosity of people.
For the record, Buddha-Bar is not a house of prayers or a place for spiritual congregation like a church but a bar-restaurant located at Picar Place on Kalayaan Avenue in Makati (just beside Century City Mall). Buddha-Bar is now found in 25 countries and key cities around world, including London, Moscow, Budapest, Paris, Kiev, Prague, St. Peterburg and Cairo. Offering a fully original dining experience, Buddha-Bar Manila’s food courses are made with an artful blend of unique taste and choicest ingredients.
Review of Buddha-Bar Manila (Poblacion, Makati City)
Wearing sandos, slippers and shorts is prohibited, and Buddha-Bar reserves its right to refuse customers going in when they are not in proper attire. This place deserves the credit to have well-dressed and presentable guests because the interior design screams elegance and sophistication.
Upon entering, you will be welcomed with the sight of a giant Buddha monument sitting on a throne. Right beside is the bar mezzanine, fitted with 18th century style wrought-iron balustrades, and this I guess is where you’ll have the chance to rub elbows with college students, cops, and perhaps a local celebrity over strong drinks.
Flights of stairs and an elevator are available and accessible for customers to move about on the four floors of the building. The dining areas are set with rich mahogany furniture, sofa sets with luxurious fabrics, amber-colored lighting, Chinese and Japanese art objects, Khmer statues, decorated wood panels, and Portuguese mosaics all come together to create an opulent and refined décor. There’s funk, improvisation, and lush colors of red and gold on every corner.
Generally, the venue takes on a party atmosphere. However, since we visited Buddha-Bar Manila during lunch time on a Saturday, there were lots of empty tables. Music was out and the atmosphere was pretty quiet. For a moment, I felt like we were stepping into another time and place for a relaxing get…away. Air-conditioning was a bit off, but I’m sure it would be different once the sun is out.
The staffs were eloquent and friendly without obstructing privacy. The food we ordered came fast considering that they were prepared intricately. Customer service here was great in a way that it made me feel like we were treated with care, like we were invited to visit the home of a very rich friend.
For Buddha-Bar’s food, I have set my expectations up high. Since food prices here are known to be expensive, the quality and taste of food must match the rate. I knew I chose this restaurant not only for its lovely ambiance but also (mostly) for its food. Its website indicates that “The Buddha-Bar menu offers a selection of Pacific Rim cuisine dishes, a masterful blend of fine ingredients and spices where Chinese, Japanese, Thai and other East Asian flavors combine subtly with a zest of the West.”
Tuna shone in Crazy Spicy Tuna Maki (PhP 190, 4 pieces) and it was shamelessly delicious! My taste buds were happy to meet a flavor bomb of piping hot tuna tucked in Japanese sushi rice. From the top down, the soy sauce with wasabi soaked in.
Another maki we tried was the gentle-tasting Pink Lady Maki (PhP 230, 4 pieces), which became our instant favorite. This monster roll was made with crispy tempura inside, seaweed salad and fresh salmon on top. If it were present at a tailgating bash or cocktail party, I will gladly devour it at either one.
Delivering a substantial mouthful of cajun spice and oils, the Cajun Style Tuna Sashimi (PhP 470, 6 pieces) was the priciest among the bunch of Japanese food we had that day. It is one of the new dishes on the Buddha-Bar Manila’s menu, and it appeared as a healthy but no less yummy invention designed to showcase the restaurant’s fusion fare.
Crisp and fragrant spring rolls may be considered as one of the best appetizers to an Asian meal. Comparing the tastes of the makis and sashimi, we thought these fried rolls were more muted but in a good way. The freshness of the vegetable fillings in the Vegetable Spring Rolls with Sweet and Sour Sauce (PhP 320) was delightful.
We could not have only one vegetarian dish so we added Steamed Tofu with Mapo Shiitake Sauce (PhP 380) to our list of orders. It seemed simple but I just love how the slabs of tofu were soft and silky. Spooned alongside Steamed Jasmine Rice (PhP 60), this vegan-friendly entree will disappear rapidly from the dining table to your stomach.
The next four dishes were served almost simultaneously, crowding for space and competing for attention. Determining which to get first posed to be hard, yet we figured it out. The Black Pepper Beef with Thai Basil (PhP 720) had a juicy and beefy oomph to every bite. The pieces of meat were so tender and the sauce’s flavor danced on the palette. The beef tasted absolutely rich with the Thai basil and was beyond-belief good.
If you’re a fan of spicy food, then you must order the Spicy Angry Chicken (PhP 590). Staying true to its label, the spicy chicken ended up how it was supposed to taste: fiery. You may tear up and start to sweat, but pleasure should always win out over pain.
To move on, we paired it with Chahan Fried Rice (PhP 320) to strike a balance of intense heat and somehow bland. Eating this fried rice alone will make you think that you’re eating just plain rice because of the lack of flavor. There are a few tiny bits of meat and scrambled eggs that can be seen but they were not enough to stand out. Chinese restaurants’ Yang Chow Fried Rice is still a winner.
Finally, we were not crazy to punish our tongue by having another spicy dish. The Chef’s Special: Duo of Salmon and Prawns (PhP 860) tamed it down. It consisted of black vinegar shallot compote, green beans, lime cream, edamame. I adore salmon for its versatility and robust flavor. It’s one type of fish I can consider eating one whole year round. 😛
Who wouldn’t agree that this Liquid Center Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream (PhP 290) is so fantastariffic?! Once you break into the cake, there’s molten chocolate inside complimented perfectly by the ice cream. I love the chocolate oozing out. Oh dear God, forgive me for I have sinned. 😛
Price for Value: ★★★☆☆
One of my real joys is spending time with my loved ones eating. Thankfully, I made the right choice in celebrating my 25th birthday at Buddha-Bar Manila. There’s no doubt that prices are steep. But altogether, we enjoyed the food and had a wonderful time, indeed. I confidently recommend this place for those who look out for a perfect setting to celebrate anything. 😀
Buddha-Bar Manila has a promotion ongoing: spend at least PhP 3000 and get a raffle ticket to win a brand new Maserati (luxury sports car). I’m glad that our bill made me qualify for an entry and I hope to have the best of luck come September 6, 2014, the draw. Please pray for me! 😛