By: Shaina Wizov Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers
Buddha Garden, located street-level underneath Buddha Sky Bar and its nightclub, Level2, has introduced a brand new menu featuring tapas-style specialities from the robata grill, dim sum and more, new sushi rolls and Japanese-inspired main courses.
With so many restaurants to choose from on Atlantic Avenue, it takes something special for each one to stand out. While Buddha Garden is no stranger to Downtown Delray, its brand new menu is — but with such bold, unique flavors and creative presentation, it won’t be for long. There is a strong emphasis on robata-grilled appetizers meant for sharing, as well as dim sum and sushi and Japanese entrees both traditional and modern. Robata means fireside-grilling. This charcoal grill used in Japanese cooking is known for giving great texture and flavor to just about everything that touches it.
Edamame is a staple starter at any Japanese restaurant, but Buddha Garden does theirs a bit differently. The wok-charred soybean pods are sprinkled with smoked salt and charred lime. Its flavor profile is both interesting and delicious and keeps you going back for more. You’ll try to stop…then a minute later you find yourself picking up your chopsticks again. But even more addicting than the edamame are the roasted shishitos, which are generously coated in mustard miso and lime. While shishitos are normally mild, there is always at least one spicy one in the mix. If you happen to be the lucky one who picks it, the mustard miso and lime help to balance out the spiciness with their sweet and citrusy notes.
The robata-grilled appetizers are the highlight of the new menu, with plenty of vegetarian options as well as chicken, seafood and meat. The idea behind these dishes is that they are grilled, never fried, which makes for a healthier choice, and perfect for sharing among friends. Some of the stand-out dishes include the sweet ‘street’ corn, which almost tasted like butter popcorn with a hint of sweetness at the end, the perfectly tender calamari steak with an aji amarillo aioli that had just the right amount of heat, and the miso-glazed Japanese eggplant, a sweeter version than regular eggplant that really packed a punch. Other options include jumbo asparagus, wild mushrooms, chicken thighs, Korean short ribs, crispy octopus and more.
There are plenty of sushi options at Buddha Garden, but if you’re looking for something equally as delicious as it is entertaining, opt for the Buddha Fire Roll. The roll is presented still wrapped in tin foil, and lit on fire at the table. Cooking iside the foil is a roll filled with spicy tuna, volcano mix, crab, shrimp and avocado. It was delicious, but the real winner here was its table side presentation. The Handsome Rob Roll is another good choice. It’s made with yellowtail, serrano pepper, spicy tuna, toban jan (chili bean sauce) and crispy shallots. The star of the dish is the sauce, and the shallots add a great element of crunch and texture.
Buddha Garden has also added new main course options to the menu, such as kimchee fried rice with pork belly, Kung Pao prawns and cashews, chicken red curry, honey sesame crispy wok beef, whole boneless brick chicken, and the Buddha Garden Peeking duck, which serves 2-4 people. Dim sum options are available too, such as shrimp or chicken dumplings.
There is also a new cocktail menu with several creative craft cocktails, such as the the Enchanted Garden made with gluten-free Reyka vodka, fresh ginger, muddled basil, prickly pear puree and sparkling pomegranate soda. Whiskey lovers will enjoy the Hibiscus Smash made with Evan Williams “White Label” whiskey, hibiscus syrup, agave, mint, lime, soda and a hibiscus ice cube. Buddha Garden also has an extensive list of Japanese beer and sake.
Buddha Garden is open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 4-11pm, Friday and Saturday from 4pm-2am. Happy hour is from 4-6pm, seven days a week, and Sunday brunch is offered from 12-3pm. Buddha Garden is located at 217 East Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach.