Friday, August 2, 2013

Buku: Modern Interpretation of a Global Inspiration

     Buku called to me some time ago with the allure of global street food. Buku delivers on delicious globally inspired cuisine, but with a modern upscale twist that can hardly be considered street food. The first time I went to Buku was on a date with a previous boyfriend who was willing to pick up the check without a second thought.  Buku has a sleek upscale atmosphere that makes it the perfect place to impress a date.     I was still dreaming of the perogies from my first visit, but I hadn't been since because of the prices, until a recent date with the exotic food aficionado (as mentioned on my Bida Manda Blog) suggested going to one of my favorite places.  My first experience at Buku definitely had rocketed it toward the top, so I'd been dying for the opportunity to get back there with someone who would equally appreciate it.  Triangle Restaurant Week provided the perfect impetus to go sample Buku's thirty dollar pre-fixe menu.  We started with some of Buku's amazing cocktails, adorned with orchids they were as beautiful as they were delicious.  Off the special restaurant week menu, I selected the Baja Crab Flautas.  Kind of a Hispanic rendition of a crab rangoon, made with corn tortillas and filled with jumbo lump crab and cream cheese, then fried and topped with cilantro, pineapple, pickled chilies, and spicy guava-lime sauce. I was expecting them to be better than they were, I would have liked to have tasted more crab, but mostly they just tasted fried... nothing spectacular or particularly memorable.  My date decided to order Malaysian Roti, with one of the many global breads on the menu with a Malaysian style curry dip on the side.  The roti wasn't very traditional and the Malaysian curry sauce was considerably more sweet than savory with strong notes of cinnamon.  As a dip it had a nice flavor, but I doubt I would enjoy an entire dish with a curry that sweet.

       For my entree I selected the highly recommended duo of duck with a crispy duck leg and pan-seared duck breast with an Asian inspired savory sweet ginger soy glaze. The moist flavorful leg was considerably more succulent than the breast.  I generally prefer the breast, so this was somewhat surprising. The duck was served atop a perfectly cooked "forbidden" rice, a short grain rice of a purplish black hue that I had seen before in Korea, and accompanied by a pickled radish, cucumber and honeydew salad.  My date elected to forgo the restaurant week menu and order off of the regular menu.  He ordered the Steak Frites at a hefty $30 for the entree alone. Although I have had better cuts of meet elsewhere, the wine and mushroom sauce made the dish. The pommes frites served up with the steak were fried up crispy in duck fat, and were outrageously delicious when dipped in the sauce topping the steak.  If they bottled that sauce I would buy it to put on EVERYTHING.  My date was nice enough to give me a couple bites of his meal, and I'll admit I preferred it to my duck.  If the steak had been slightly less fatty and more tender I would have swooned.  Probably a good thing or I would have stolen his plate..and that wouldn't have made a very good impression, now would it?
Duo of Duck

Steak Frites
       As for dessert, I ordered the Argentine alfajores. I had no idea what that was either for the record, but apparently is was small soft baked shortbread cookies sandwiched together with, dulce de leche, toasted coconut, grapefruit-vanilla bean reduction, and served with a tiny scoop of house-made white chocolate-quince ice cream.  My date ordered a yummy little apple tart with an  almond crust and served a la mode with cinnamon ice cream. My dinner and dessert was certainly more exotic, but sometimes you can't beat the classics.
Apple Tart
     I went back to Buku recently for my friend's bachelorette party and was considerably less impressed with my selections. I ordered the Indian Aloo Chana Chaat, a small plate of a spicy potato cake, chickpea, cashew, cucumber, cabbage, raita, tamarind, and cilantro chutney.  It had lots of layers of flavor, but was a little too spicy to appreciate them all.  For an entree I ordered the shrimp pad thai.  The pad thai had a delicious tamarind sauce and probably the best fried tofu I've ever tasted, however the pad thai suffered a severe shortage of everything but the homemade rice noodles.  It would have benefited greatly from more of everything else, more tofu, more eggplant, more shrimp and more veggies, for $22 I would expect it.  I didn't find my meal to be worth the fifty dollars I shelled out.  However, the bride-to-be ordered better than I did.  Her Vietnamese crepe was an excellent "small plate" a crispy crepe filled with shrimp, sausage, and overflowing with fresh herbs. And she was ecstatic about her plantain crusted Chilean Sea Bass. You can love Buku one visit and dislike it the next as some selections are perfection that will make you forget your budget, while others are a wallet breaking disappointment. The perogies and Vietnamese crepes are great choices. Skip the sushi. I was trying to order on the cheap, but since that really isn't possible at Buku (underfinanced foodies beware,) you might as well go all out.
Argentine Alfajores

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