Buddha Bodai

Manhattan, New York City


Image for Benjamin Kutschied

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Buddha Bodai is a great vegetarian place right in the heart of Chinatown. I enjoyed my lunch last week, and I'd give it a five star rating if the service wasn't so lousy. (I should mention that the staff is friendly, just not very good at what they do.)

Due to the awkward service, we weren't entirely sure how to order. We got a piece of paper with a list of menu items and were asked to check off what we wanted. Most of the menu items weren't on the list... At the server's recommendation we checked off one appetizer. Then we asked for a couple of lunch specials.

The General Tso's mock chicken was good. I don't expect much from this dish except good texture and a healthy ratio of vegetables to protein. This dish was great on both counts. The Veg. Chicken with Chinese Green Veg. in Black Pepper Sauce (yep, that's what they called it) was outstanding. The mock chicken was well textured, the vegetables were cooked just right, and the sauce was well-seasoned - not too sugary or starchy with a healthy dose of black pepper. The one dim sum dish we had was the Pan Fried Turnip Cake. While overly starchy, it had a great flavor and came with a delicious soy ginger dipping sauce.

In retrospect, I think the best way to enjoy Buddha Bodai would be to order several small dishes and share instead of having a lunch special or main dish.

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For four of the last six Sundays, we have been having dinner at Buddha Bodai, an amazing kosher Chinese vegetarian restaurant in Flushing Queens. And to say that we are thrilled with the dishes we've eaten there would be putting it mildly! The labels of "kosher" or "vegetarian" don't begin to describe their wonderfully creative dishes which are so unique that they go far beyond these simple labels. We started out with dishes such as Sesame Beef, which of course was meatless, in a delicious sauce and served on a bed of broccoli--it was wonderful and we continue to order. The staff there encouraged us to try other dishes such as Mixed Vegetables in a Taro Bowl--which had such a multiplicity of flavors that it was almost overwhelming. This evening, we tried their Mango (mock) Chicken dish, served in a lightly cooked, split mango with peppers and mushrooms. The tastes and presentation of this dish left us almost giddy!

Buddha Bodai has a unique atmosphere and attracts an interestingly diverse clientele, from Orthodox Jews to Pakistani families to Buddhist monks and Chinese social groups. It is never very noisy, and we have become very fond of the wait staff, as well as the chef, who likes to come out of the kitchen and converse with us and other customers. If you come out to Queens to visit, I'll happily take you there!

Image for Cass Danger

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I've been here three times and have always enjoyed my meal. They are heavy on fake meat, but their preparation style is much different than the million Pan-Asian sort of restaurants in NYC. I always get the vegan fried shrimp for an appetizer, and if the fried shrimp weren't good enough, they come on top of steamed and deliciously seasoned broccoli, sprinkled with candied walnuts. Outstanding. The only thing that would make this better is if it came with cocktail sauce instead of plain vegan mayo.

I've had a number of the entrees, all of which were good, but I mostly enjoy the General Tso's Chicken, which is what the waiters often recommend. Most recently, I had the vegan steak lunch special, which was really good, and had a nice balance of faux meat and veggies, but I don't think the texture was as good as other menu items.

Buddha Bodai, while known for great food, is not known for good service, which is often slow and can be inattentive. When I last went with my boyfriend and his brother (who are Mexican), the service was exceptionally slow, and we had to ask for water twice, and then ask for take-out containers, and then ask for the bill. I can't help but wonder if the staff is even mildly racist (nearly all restaurant patrons are Chinese or white), and I was offended when the waiter said "adios" to us when we were done. Perhaps it was an honest effort to communicate with them, as they don't speak much English, but the entire situation just made me uneasy.

Image for conde.kedar

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Buddha Bodai has a huge menu with many innovative vegan dishes and some traditional Chinese dishes using mockmeats. I found their garlic-pepper chicken to be filling and tasty, without being oily or heavy. Their walnut shrimp was good, but a bit too sweet for me. Their cheesecake was simple, but great tasting, but their ice cream was too icy, dry and flavorless. On a whole, this is a great restaurant, though.

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A bustling crowd, replete with Buddhist Monks and Nuns, observant Jews, Tai Chi 'players', hippies, court officers and tourists enjoy the extensive, superb and Kosher menu.
Though not advertised on the menu, most of the rice dishes, like Ginger and Pine Nut Rice, can be ordered with brown rice.
The Chinese vegetable dishes can be ordered with any sauce on the menu, such as Three Cups Chicken sauce. Kent is an elegant and efficient Host, and Head Waiter Johnny speaks passable restaurant Hebrew.

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This menu is almost too extensive! It was very difficult to choose an entree. The Sesame Chicken was very good. They have many "typical" vegetarian Chinese fare as well as many unique appetizers and entrees (I was a little scared of the Veg Jellyfish appetizer.) Overall, I was very satisfied and plan on going back.

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