Lucky Buddha Eatery
Joining the wave of “modern new Asian” food is Fort Street’s Lucky Buddha. The owners and chefs hail from Korea and the Philippines and turn out dishes from around Asia.
The fit-out is simple and attractive, with an interesting wood effect on the walls and bar, and seating is at both individual tables and at a large communal table.
We visited on a Monday lunch-time, and I ordered a green tea ($5) while I waited for my colleague. The restaurant filled with a crowd that I suspect came from the neighbouring law firms. It was obvious that many of them were regulars and knew exactly what they would order.
On the other hand, we dithered over our selections. Being lunch, we didn’t want to over-order, but we did want to try some different tastes.
Most of the dishes are made for sharing, and that is exactly what we did. We settled on the Thai bangers ($8) to start, followed by the Spicy Chicken ($16) and the Drunken Chicken Salad ($18). We were concerned that we had too much chicken, but our friendly server assured us that the dishes were very different and that we would enjoy both.
Our dishes arrived in quick succession, so that our starters became part of the main meal. The Thai bangers are actually sausage slices, and the menu describes them as Chiang Mai style, featuring flavours of lemongrass, chili and coriander.
Once we got over the surprise of the presentation (slices not sausages), we agreed that while the flavour was pleasant and decidedly of lemongrass (not so much of chili), we would have preferred a coarser texture to the pork meat.
The Spicy Chicken dish was our favourite of the day. It had golden crunchy pieces of chicken coated in their “aromatic spice”. Around the edge of the plate were several balls of seasoned jasmine rice, and the Asian slaw completed the dish. The chicken was juicy and the coating had a subtle warmth of spice that built as you ate the food. The slaw was a good counterpoint of freshness to the meat. This was a dish that would fit my description as Asian “comfort food”. However, the spice was a little too subtle for my colleague, who asked for a side of chili powder to sprinkle on his food.
The Drunken Chicken was a heaped salad of shredded cabbage, chicken, bean sprouts, mint and coriander, Sichuan pepper and a tahini dressing. I enjoyed this dish and it was completely different from the Spicy Chicken, as the server had promised. However, Alexia felt there was “too much going on” in the dish. I particularly liked the use of fresh coriander and mint which gave it the flavour freshness that I enjoy. This dish would come into its own on a hot summer day. Our main comment on the food is that while it was pleasant, we felt that both of the main dishes could use with an extra burst of spice.
Lucky Buddha has some tempting dishes for cooler weather too: slow-cooked lamb ribs ($28) and twice-cooked pork hock ($28) sound perfect for sharing on a cold winter night.
Unlike many Asian restaurants, desserts are a feature here. I just had to try the Durian ice cream ($14). This smelly fruit has a delicious flavour and creamy texture, so I was keen to see how it translated into an ice cream.
This dessert was beautifully presented and could have easily been served in a fine dining establishment. The durian ice cream was placed on a slice of thin biscuit, and accompanied by slices of fresh mango and lychees with candied almonds. There was a crumb topping on the fruit and a fresh edible flower garnish completed the picture. The flavour of the durian ice cream was quite subtle and the creamy texture was incorporated in the texture of the ice cream. The fresh fruit gave a welcome tropical accompaniment. However, the crumb topping was one ingredient too far for my liking.
There is an interesting beer list that includes Asian beer ($7-$13) and good selection of wine. Tea and coffee are $4-$5, and sodas are also $5-$5.50.
Lucky Buddha works well for lunch and easily fills dinner requirements. Whether you are a couple out for dinner or a group enjoying a social meal, you are sure to be made welcome. And if you don’t feel like eating in, all the food is available as takeaways.