Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Menu of the Plague Year: Buddha Bruddah



Months ago I decided to start reviewing restaurants again, but then I didn’t: complacency settled into my lap like a curled up cat, warm and purring, and you don’t want to move for fear of making her leap annoyedly away.

But my procrastination was shattered by the arrival of the pestilence of our time: COVID-19, the coronavirus, the creeping death, whose appearance has heralded a massive blow for the service industry. Starting Monday March 16th, 2020, by emergency decree of Governor Inslee, every restaurant in Washington state has been closed for dining in.

This is a culinary apocalypse.

However, restaurateurs are resourceful. The emergency closure declared by the Governor includes a provision for restaurants to continue to offer takeout and delivery, even if the dining room must remain closed. So, like scrappy cockroaches, scuttling about the crater of the atomic bomb that failed to eradicate them, restaurant owners across the state have doggedly begun to do just that.

One such enterprising restaurant is Buddha Bruddah. I don’t have the bandwidth anymore to make fun of Buddha Bruddah’s dumb name, buuuutttt... maybe one jab: the AP style guide frowns on spelling a business’ name in dialect. So frustrating is the word “bruddah,” my spellcheck software committed suicide in protest, all the squiggly red lines inching across my laptop screen like a herd of caterpillars, to throw themselves, lemminglike, into the recycling bin on my desktop.

But is the food at Buddha Bruddah as bad as its name? Answer: no, not really.

Spicy Fried Chicken Wings were kinda sorta like a variation on Korean fried chicken. Bigass wings, which I actually think came from an eagle and not a lowly hen, were coated in a brittle panko breading, fried, and then splashed with a sweet and spicy sauce. The wings were speckled with finely chopped cilantro and studded with what I would call a confident amount of pepper flakes. The chicken meat was succulent. The spice level, despite the herpetic pepper minefield dotting the crust, was not as tastebud-obliterating as one might expect. However, the sauce was cloying, especially after eating 10 of them. I don’t actually know how much these cost because the menu says a 5-pack costs $8, so I guess 10 cost, I don’t know, $16?

Chicken katsu ($13) wasn’t bad. Once again, I question the species of bird that Buddha Bruddah refers to as “chicken,” because the breast they gave us was so enormous that even Christina Hendricks was scandalized. Seriously, it was a fucking ostrich breast, dusted in panko and fried. The coating was so thick and crunchy that it could cause tinnitus if you chomp down too hard, but sadly had trouble clinging to the slab of poultry below, instead sliding off of the meat to pile up in a humid sheaf on the plate. This was disappointing.

Included with the katsu was a double pile of rice that looked like tits, a scoop of macaroni salad, and a bale of slaw. Let me say this: I fucking loathe macaroni salad. Nobody wants a bunch of cold, flaccid pasta elbows drowned in a mayonnaise pool amid a stupid constellation of peas. Luckily this macaroni salad was nothing like that. The pasta was somehow al dente. The sauce clung unobtrusively to the macaroni, and was deceptively light, with a savory lift courtesy of celery seeds and cilantro. The slaw featured juliennes of (mostly) green and (rarely) red cabbage, lightly glistening with a crisp sesame vinaigrette of some kind. Circles of sliced scallion completed this grassy heap.

Phad Thai ($10) was a solid, generally middle-of-the-road effort. The usual tangle of rice noodles was stained a pleasant ochre by Thai dark soy sauce, flavorful enough. Not bad. You can instantly tell whether or not I’m going to be mad about an order of pad thai just by looking at it: if it's got enough tamarind paste to make all the noodles pink, then I’m going to complain. Phad thai should be beige, not pink. After all, Poor Richard’s Almanac has this to say: “If your phad thai is brown, then scarf it down; if your noodles be red, then off with its head.”

Finally, a whole chocolate cream pie ($30) was a creamy and soothing balm after the barrage of salt and sweet. When I opened the box I swooped my finger through the whipped cream topping and licked it off impudently and then shouted in outrage: the whipped scream wasn’t sweetened!

I eventually realized that they left the cream unsweetened on purpose: its blandness counterbalanced the stratus of chocolate filling beneath, a thick cocoa pudding more akin to ganache than mousse. Note: the preceding is the most pretentious sentence I’ve ever written. Guarding the perimeter was a sweet and sandy graham cracker crust.

Buddha Bruddah is a hyperlocal neighborhood restaurant. And the food is interesting. That having been said, I wouldn’t bother to risk the zombie horde by driving all the way down to Rainier Valley unless you happen to be in the area. But if you live south of I-90, and you didn’t die of coronavirus, and you’re looking for something to pick up for dinner, you could certainly do worse than Buddha Bruddah. In fact, I’m so impressed by Buddha Bruddah’s inspiring tenacity, I’m going to start a Buddha Bruddha tribute band.

Called Sidhartha Sista.

Rating: 7 Steppenwolf Stepmoms out of 10

Buddha Brudda is located at 2201 Rainier Ave S. To order call 206-556-4134 or order on their website.

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