Sneak Peak: Buddha-Bar

It’s been five years since Buddha-Bar — the trend-setting French lounge with outposts in the Gold Coasts of the world — first announced plans for the former Megu space on Thomas between Church and West Broadway. Five years of anticipation for some, dread for many — most of all the neighbors just to the east.

Time will tell if their expectations (and memories) of black cars and velvet ropes were founded, but for now, Buddha-Bar’s sumptuous, over-the-top, luxe dining room is set up for just that: dining for 110, with 50 seats upstairs at the bar (occupancy is 291). The lighting is both dim and rich and there’s a DJ’s rig in the corner by the upstairs bar (music is an essential element of a Buddha-Bar: its signature ethnic electronica is mixed and spun live and super French) but the staff insists it will not be operated as a nightclub like many of its other locations (read on).

The restaurant does not have a cabaret license, and during what was a sometimes-heated SLA hearing way back in 2016, the stipulations they agreed to prohibit dancing of any kind — by performers or patrons — as well as lines outside, private parties or music volume over the city’s limit and hours past midnight. At the subsequent CB1 hearing in 2019, the operators again agreed to no private parties — I am waiting to see if those stipulations carried through to their license from the SLA — but there’s clearly language about parties on the website. (Of course I’ve never heard of a restaurant that did *not* allow private parties…)

In response, the restaurant said: Buddha-Bar Restaurant New York does book private events, but for clarity, these would actually be considered ‘semi-private’ events as the restaurant does not book full takeovers or close entirely for private events. We will have a dedicated, private dining room for private events in the future. The copy on the website regarding numbers is outdated and we will make sure it is removed promptly.

So with that out of the way (for now) here’s what *is* there, just a few days after their soft opening on July 13. The restaurant is on two levels: the main dining room, open sushi bar and glass-enclosed robata grill are a dozen steps below grade with triple height ceilings and cozier flanks (they preserved and exposed the wood beams); the bar is on the mezzanine and with its hanging sheets of chain mail (I know, it sounds weird) is really gorgeous. (If you’ll recall, there was once a plan to share the space with an Italian restaurant called Assunta Roma; that never came to be.)

As with all Buddha-Bars from Paris to Baku, there’s a buddha — in this case, a colossal 16-footer assembled from 2-inch-thick layers of glass and built on a specially engineered platform — and a dragon, which for ours is a impressionistic one who hovers above the curved central banquettes. And also as with all Buddha-Bars, there’s an impressively priced pan-Asian menu, though this one is intended to be more modern, designed by executive chef Andrew Riccatelli. “Everything will be new and special for Buddha-Bar New York,” Riccatelli said. “The menu will be focused on ingredients, without a lot of sauces, and designed to share.”

If you pop in — there are reservations open all week — look for Riccatelli or GM Franck Maucort, in the picture above. And that’s events manager Anna Krauze, at the banquette.

The prices are a bit startling — I guess you could say shocked/not shocked (see menu below). But what’s truly disappointing is the fact that the bar is not open to anyone but diners with a reservation. I am hoping this will change — it’s been my longtime M.O. to have a drink at the bar whenever I am priced out of a restaurant — since it’s rare to find a beer priced over $20 (though I did once, at The Lincoln) and at least that way soak up and enjoy a bit of the atmosphere without hemorrhaging cash. But for now, I assume they are trying to stay below the radar.

The car service drop-off on Thomas will be tough. The street is only two lanes wide, and one lane is dedicated to — what else — placard parking for NYSJ, whatever that is (I tried and could not figure it out). Let’s hope diners get dropped off on West Broadway and walk in.

So last fun fact till I make it back for dinner: When I asked for the origin story of the name, Maucort said that the bar’s founder, Raymond Visan, was a big fan of the Buddha Bar that was once at 150 Varick, at Vandam, across from the now demolished City Winery. I have no recall — hoping someone reading this does. I do know that by 1999 it was a French-Mediterranean restaurant called Vandam and later other nightclubs took over the space. (It reminded me of Wetlands, which was down the street at 161 Hudson.) Visan (who died in 2010) opened his first Buddha Bar in Paris in 1996; Tribeca will be number 13.

 

17 Comments

  1. I think I’ll skip the Whole Steamed King Crab.

  2. Pretentious, 90’s style place that will attract customers who think that this is a bar that “rich people” frequent. Menu is obscene.

  3. Those prices are obscene. Who does that anymore? I think I’ll skip paying to look at a glass Buddha!

  4. $31 for a head of cauliflower. Sure ok. On my way. NOT! It’s not just this place. Eating out has gotten cost prohibitive. And I thought dining out in Stockholm was expensive!

  5. Beautiful place, but the prices are impossible, and nothing vegan.

  6. Out of biz in six months top. This is Zoolander-level of silliness.

  7. You must try the prawn spring rolls and the toro roll.

  8. NYSJ – New York State Judge

  9. I just went and it was fabulous! Exquisite energy, music, food and professionalism and very reasonable wine lists. It’s great to have this in tribeca – quite a timeless spot.

  10. New York State Judge?

  11. So ostentatious for our city in recovery.

  12. Mr. Chow will be quaking in their boots…

  13. I just can’t get over the name and find it offensive everytime I walk by. Why can’t they rename it God’s/Gods’ Grotto or Jesus’ Joint?

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