Restaurants, Pan-Asian Chelsea
  • 5 out of 5 stars
(6user reviews)
39 Love It
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 (Wendy Connett)
Wendy Connett


 (Wendy Connett)
Wendy Connett


 (Wendy Connett)
Wendy Connett


 (Wendy Connett)
Wendy Connett


Stephen Starr is a former concert promoter who understands that buzz and a fabulous room can be as important as sublime food. The man owns 12 high-profile Philly restaurants, which per capita would translate to something like 64 eateries in New York.

While his first venture in our city—Morimoto—garnered as much attention for its eponymous celebrity chef as for its food and space, Buddakan relies almost entirely on the shock and awe of 16,000 stunning square feet. Designer Christian Liaigre helped Starr turn a windowless bunker in the Chelsea Market building—one block east of Morimoto—into a labyrinthine Chinese theme park. Open the giant gate of a door and you are greeted by a hotel-style lineup of hosts. Continue inside and you pass a bustling front bar, dominated by giant square tables, a birdcage filled with taxidermy, Buddha pictures and European tapestries, all leading to a grand staircase that descends into a soaring, golden-hued main room with a 35-foot ceiling and a long communal table.

The food—yes, there’s food here, too—sounds more fancy than it really is. Chef Michael Schulson, a Starr veteran who helped launch Buddakan in Philadelphia, pretties up Chinese standards, and then pours them out in a tapas format—all organized in a rather sprawling menu that has separate categories for dim sum, appetizers, noodles, rice, vegetables, soups, meat, fish, poultry and tofu. The various dumplings intrigued me most, so I sampled one with an edamame paste that sat in a broth of sauternes and shallots, which tasted like spicy watermelon. The folks at my table gave the dish mixed reviews. Some felt the sauce was superfluous; others appreciated its subtlety. Certain people loved the chewy wrappers; others were turned off by the aggressive texture.

Noodle and rice dishes offer great bang for the buck—they range from $8 to $13—though there’s precious little innovation. Something billed as crab fried rice was more like egg fried rice, with just enough crab to become a vaguely fishy rice omelette. Rather than attempt to inject his personality into the dishes, chef Schulson plays it safe. The Mongolian lamb chops were small, covered in a ginger crust and, while tasty, a bit underwhelming. The “sizzling” short rib was a nice cut, with a rich external glaze carrying a hint of lemongrass, but there was no sizzle (and worse, the meat was sour). Steamed snapper, served with a slightly floral sauce that included lily bulbs, resonated with soy but was ultimately a snore.

The most enticing dessert, Szechuan-pepper-roasted pineapple, carried way too little heat; I picked out only one lonely peppercorn. After talking to a server, I surmised that the spiciest dishes had been brought down a notch to appeal to the broadest possible audience. That may explain a lot of things: This menu might wow ’em in Philly, but in New York, much of the food seems fine but forgettable. I actually look forward to coming back, but Starr and Schulson have only so much time to prove that this is a temple of food, and not just a temple of style.


Venue name: Buddakan
Address: 75 Ninth Ave
New York

Cross street: between 15th and 16th Sts
Opening hours: Mon, Sun 5:30–11pm; Tue, Wed 5:30pm–midnight; Thu–Sat 5:30pm–1am
Transport: Subway: A, C, E to 14th St; L to Eighth Ave
Price: Average main course: $25. AmEx, MC, V
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Average User Rating

4.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:1
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Sally Y

Fun fact - the rehearsal dinner in the Sex in the City movie was filmed at Buddakan. If that's not reason enough to check this place out, the food is. 

Buddakan is in the heart of the Meatpacking District, so it's the perfect stop to kick off a rowdy night out. Be ready for the bill as the prices are on the higher end, but the quality of the food and trendy ambiance is what you get in return. 

While I was there, I tried the foie gras and chicken dumplings, peking duck fried rice, black pepper beef, and the broken chili chicken. That was more than enough to feed 3 people and should feed 4. I highly recommend the peking duck fried rice as that has a bit more of an "authentic" flavor than the other items, but I would get all of it again! 


I really enjoyed this place, the food was fantastic and yes its more on the pricey side, but was really worth all the money. It was one of the best restaurants we went to in NY and i would strongly recommend it! The atmosphere is very romantic, with dimmed lights and relaxing music. 


Eh, as an Asian American, going into these fusion restaurants are always a bit disappointing since the prices they charge are exorbitant when you can find the authentic counter parts in Chinatown. So if you're going for the food, I don't recommend. However, it was a lovely date spot. There's a ton of seating and it's great if you're there for a cocktail or drinks with friends.

Maria M

One of my new favorite NYC restaurants! Expect to drop a lot of money at this bouji, fancy restaurant (disregard the 2 $$ sign above, it's more like $$$ - $$$$ depending on how much you get to eat and how many people you go with) - but trust me, every dollar is worth it. You can sit in the bar/lounge area for a more casual feel, or you can make a reservation and sit downstairs in one of the many dining areas that makes the whole floor feel like a maze. If you can request to sit in the main dining area, I would do so - the beautiful chandeliers hang above medieval-style tables and it is just such a beautiful and open room, making the experience all the more delightful. The group of people I went with and I ordered the lobster egg rolls, chicken and fois gras dumplings, sesame shrimp toasts, oxtail dumplings, and lobster and shrimp shu mai for appetizers, and for dinner we got the peking duck to share, the lamb chops, the jumbo shrimp and the king crab legs. Not one of us had 1 complaint about anything. If you're looking for a fun place for a special occasion, this is it! 

Kyle Z

Very warm yet vivacious Asian vibe and food is more than respectable. Even if you did not feel like socializing you will find yourself telling jokes to the table next door by the time you leave.