5 Mott Street at Worth, New York City
about $60 for two, without drinks, without tip
I never thought I’d say this but I love vegetarian food! That is, if it’s from Buddha Bodai. They specialize in both kosher and Buddhist vegetarian meals, so during a busy day, the restaurant is abuzz. Sundays are a scene when the Jews and the Chinese are in one room eating dim-sum. Service is efficient and fast, but don’t expect all of them to warm up to you; it’s nothing personal.
Most people get turned off with gluten because the fake meat does not sound appealing to them. I’m an omnivore, so I tend to agree, but Buddha Bodai does vegetarian really well. The lettuce song is crispy rice, fried noodles and pine nuts. You put some plum sauce on a piece of lettuce, scoop some of the filling and wrap it and eat it like a roll. I love the texture of this dish and it’s one of their best appetizers. The barbecue is a must-have. It’s actually the dish that changed my mind about vegetarian food. It’s so tasty, I could even be convinced that it’s not gluten but real meat.
I love the mushroom with black bean sauce. The mushroom flavor is so intense even the thick brown sauce can’t cover it. The crispy duck is really paper-thin tofu skins that taste even better when dipped in duck sauce. At Buddha Bodai, you’ll also have the best broccoli of your life. They’re bright green and perfectly tender flash-fried in garlic sauce. I wish parents would introduce their children to their version of broccoli as I’m sure any one, no matter what age, will love them.
Don’t skip the ginger pine nut fried rice or the house special congee especially if you go with a big group of people. The servings are more than enough and everything is so much better to share with your friends, dim-sum style.