Pan-Asian Tranquility

2005.Sep.30 Friday · 10 comments

in Restaurants

Buddha BABuddha BA

Buenos Aires – When I first saw the name I thought it was a play on the famed nightclub, but after dining, and meeting the owner, realized that Buddha BA was more of a spiritual kinda thing. Located at Arribeños 2288, in Barrio Chino, this two-story “resto-bar” also includes a separate tea salon, a tranquil garden, and an art gallery. It’s a shame that food isn’t served outside in the garden, just tea, but the vermillion dining room is very comfortable, and the service delightful.

Buddha BA - Pate ImperialThe food is a blend of various Asian cuisines, not “fusion” in the way we often think of it, really more of individually creative twists on classic dishes. A perfect example, my starter, the Paté Imperial, starts with what is probably my favorite Vietnamese appetizer, cha gio. Typically these springrolls are served hot and crispy; which you eat by wrapping them in mint, cilantro, shredded vegetables, and a lettuce leaf; and then dipping the whole thing in a sweet and sour fish sauce. The basic idea at Buddha BA is the same, but the big twist is the filling. Instead of the usual minced pork, shrimp, mushrooms and sprouts, the chef here takes another Vietnamese “classic,” usually just referred to as a Vietnamese Sandwich, and fills the springolls with a mix of roasted pork, paté, and spices. The wrapping process is the same, though sans cilantro, the sauce is a clean and vibrant rice vinegar edged with fiery chilies. Quite probably the best cha gio I’ve ever had.

Buddha BA - Besos de PaupeThe followup take on a classic Chinese sweet and sour chicken was not quite as awe-inspiring, but was still excellent. Besos de paupé, which I think translates as “pauper’s kisses,” was a nice mound of lightly sauteed white meat chicken and litchis. The saute is then coated in a sweet and sour sauce that is based on tomato and carrot, with just a little bit of litchi juice added. The sauce is, perhaps, a touch cloying, but I can’t say that that really surprised me given the description of the dish as a sweet and sour with litchis . . . and it was served with just enough white rice and a bit of a salad of mixed sprouts.

Buddha BA - Lima Tang KaoOf course, when I’m impressed with the rest of the meal, I can’t say no to dessert. The Lima Tang Kao was fantastic. “Tang kao,” I believe, is more or less just the Chinese term for desserts, tang being sugar and kao meaning baked. “Lima,” depending on which Spanish speaking country you’re from, can be either lime or lemon. For some reason that I’ve never understood, lima and limón get switched around in different cultures, with the latter seeming to refer to whichever one is more common locally. The description of the dessert was a “lime cake with lemon syrup,” how could I pass that up? It was beautifully plated with a pink crysanthemum (which I was warned was decoration only), an intense lemon syrup zig-zagged on the plate, the “cake” was a thin layer of a shortbread crust, topped with a thick layer of lime curd, topped with a thin layer of lime infused, gelled sour cream and candied lemon peel. As I said, fantastic!

Buddha BA gardenBuddha BA is big on tea service, and as I mentioned has a separate tea salon and garden. The selection is available in the dining room, and my waitress enthusiastically recommended the té rojo de Yunnan, or red tea from Yunnan province. It definitely provided great counterpoint to the dessert. I also liked the tea service – the tea is fresh brewed in a small earthenware pot, then timed, and when ready, strained into a small ceramic pitcher at tableside and served with delicate little teacups. Not an elaborate ceremony, but a nice touch.

Black tea comprises about 78% of the entire world’s total tea consumption. Black tea, or as it is known in China – hong cha (red tea), was originally only for export to the foreign markets. In China it is called red tea in reference to the color of the infused liquid or to the red edges of the oxidized leaves, as opposed to the color of the main body of the processed tea leaves. At one time, black tea was considered of lesser quality and not desired by the Chinese themselves and therefore, was exported. Which is why, to this day, black tea is what everyone outside of China thinks of when talking about tea, whereas, tea in China is understood to mean green tea.

Yunnan, “Cloud South” (or South Cloud), the mountainous southern Province that borders Vietnam, Laos, Burma, and Tibet that is thought to be the “origin” of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis). There is one wild tea plant there that is over 100 feet tall and estimated to be about 1700 years old! Of the 320 subvarieties of tea plants in China, Yunnan is home of 260 of them.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jerking October 31, 2005 at 22:19

Dan,
Can you give me an idea of the cost of this meal. You make it sound fantastic, as I’m sure it was

Jerry King

dan November 1, 2005 at 09:23

For the three courses, plus a bottle of water and a cup of tea, if I remember right it was 32 pesos, or between $10-11.

It really is a pretty special place, I was just recommending it to some friends last night. Worth the trip to an out of the way neighborhood!

dan February 3, 2011 at 23:10

Dropped in tonight for the first time in about two years. Prices have gone way up – the springroll appetizer itself is more than the entire meal was the first time around – two apps, two main courses and two beers ran us 260 pesos. Quality has definitely dropped too – the springrolls came pretty much alone on a plate with two leaves of butter lettuce, only a single sprig of mint, soy sauce on the side, and no vegetable or anything else. Six potstickers cost even more and again served with nothing but soy sauce and some dried out slices of cucumber. For main courses, a 75 peso satai consisted of four small skewers of extraordinarily salty beef served with a trio of sauces – one of pureed cilantro, one of a decent hot sauce, and one of plain peanut butter thinned out with some water; and a 65 peso plate of rice topped with some sauteed chicken and cashews – decent flavor, but for the price, not a good value.

Overall, disappointing.

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