Monday, July 9, 2012

Buddha-Bar: Europe and Asia in one sensually gustatory place

If there's one upscale restaurant-lounge that appeals to all the senses, it's got to be Buddha-Bar, which I never knew existed in the metro until I got an invite to dinner specially prepared for us by Executive Chef Maria Milagros Socorro Santos.

Buddha-Bar is a worldwide chain of restaurant-lounges. The Paris branch is probably the most well known. But checking out Buddha-Bar's website, I learned that besides Paris, they can be found in Beirut, Cairo, Caracas, Dubai, Georgie, Jakarta, Kiev, London, Monte Carlo, Mexico, Prague and Washington. The Manila branch opened in 2011.

Located along Kalayaan Ave., the first impression you get of Buddha-Bar is its size. Three floors of restaurant space (the lounge on the ground floor, the restaurant on the 2nd floor, and the 3rd floor is a roofdeck with canopied lounge chairs for a different dining experience. Total seating capacity is about 500.

But wait till you enter. 

It was actually quite dark for a restaurant. It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the dimness. Then it hits you. 

Visual Sensuality

It was eye candy as I looked around -- shiny wooden floors, amber-colored lighting coming from hundreds of lamps and tealights on tables, a gigantic Buddha that towered over the open space in the middle of the room that was 2 stories high, classy and opulent furnishings, deep mahogany tables, intricate wooden carvings that adorned the ceilings, smatterings of Chinese and Japanese art objects as well as Khmer statues. The bright red carpet on the stairs leading up to the 2nd floor had subtle lighting on each step so that from afar, the entire staircase and the carpet looked so grand. Going up that lighted staircase was surreal, almost like you were in a movie set. The whole place felt like a temple merged with a hotel lobby and nightclub all rolled into one. I was told that the "look" of all Buddha Bars worldwide are the same. And all the furnishings were brought in from abroad.

This gigantic Buddha was shipped into Manila!

Ground floor interiors

View of mezzanine. Notice the 18th century style wrought-iron balustrades along the sides.

View of the awesome lighted staircase from the mezzanine
Our group's dinner was in a VIP room on the second floor. Entering the VIP room, I saw 2 long tables, one on each side of the room. Our host for the night was none other than Mr. Sylvere Le Gall, Buddha-Bar's General Manager. He introduced Chef Soc to us and gave us a short background on how Buddha-Bar came about. Buddha-Bar is a partnership with the AMA Group of Companies.

One of the dining tables in the VIP room
GM Sylvere Le Gall with Chef Soc

Table setting, complete with a Buddha-Bar pair of chopsticks on the right

Ornate wooden carving on ceiling caught my eye right away. Check out those details!

Chandeliers with golden lamps and huge Chinese tassles!

Expensive-looking fabrics for the upholstery and carpets

Auditory Sensuality

Lounge music is also what Buddha-Bar is known for worldwide. In-house DJs manage the music collection of Buddha-Bar using a state-of-the-art Meyer Sound System so that wherever you are in the 3 floors of the restaurant, the sound reaches you clearly. The DJs are housed in a dark brown booth which was so well-disguised, I did not even spot it.

Buddha-Bar music is so well-known that I have a friend who, upon learning I dined there, did not ask me about the food but the music. The selection playing while we were there was truly sensual. 

Palate Sensuality

Chef Soc is a graduate from a culinary school in New York. She had to spend several months in Paris to learn the entire cuisine line of Buddha-Bar. Buddha-Bar is known for its fusion of Asian flavors with French influence - a cuisine it calls Pacific Rim cooking. Chef Soc told us she tweaked the ingredients a little bit for the local palate but tried to stay true to the menu offerings worldwide.

Of course, we were all excited to see what Buddha-Bar had in store for us. Here's what we had that night.

Buddha-Bar Iced Tea
Pink Lady

Shrimp and Avocado Jalapeno Crunchy Rice

Crunchy Rice Salmon
Salmon Tataki
Buddha-Bar Rolls


Buddha-Bar Chicken Salad

A la Carte Otsumami
(Buddha-Bar Fries, Chicken Yakitori, Petite Spring Rolls, Vegetable Samosa)
You can order the A la Carte Otsumami if you just want to try several dishes in just one order like the one in the picture above. Chef Soc said that each of these items can also be ordered separately as a dish in itself. Of course, the portions when ordered separately will be bigger. The Vegetable Samosa comes with a mango chutney dip; spicy mayo dip for the Buddha-Bar Fries; and sweet and sour dip for the Petite Spring Rolls. 

Next came the main dishes.

Deep Fried Golden Duck Pao with Mee Bandung
Crispy Boneless Chicken Wings with Spicy Ginger Sauce

Sea Bass with Tamarind Sauce

Shanghai Fried Rice
Thai Style Red Curry Shrimp

And to cap the evening, a parade of desserts. (Note: Some of these pictures are not how they will look when you order them. These are bite-size portions prepared for us to taste.)

Black Sesame Ice Cream with Seaweed Tuiles

Trio of Cremes Brulees

Chocolate Sesame Bars

Warm Chocolate Cake with Praline Cream
For the vegetarian diner or one who just wants to have healthy choices, you can see that Buddha-Bar offers a lot of options for you, health-wise. I usually take a light dinner but ignored that for this one evening so I could try most of the dishes heaped on us.

Price-wise, Buddha-Bar is considered upscale. But that is because they use the finest French ingredients that are flown in fresh on a regular basis.

Dining at Buddha-Bar for me was one huge sensual experience. Guys, you want to impress your girl or get a total dating experience for a special occasion? Or if you're celebrating a couple special day? You really need to check Buddha-Bar out.

Thank you, Buddha-Bar, Chef Soc and Mr. Le Gall for a night of fine dining in one of the trendiest places in town. 

Picar Place, Kalayaan Avenue, Makati City
Tel: (632) 856-6719; (632) 856-6859; (632) 856-5738

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