Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thumb's Up: Bu Da Lounge

I was long overdue for a drink with the fabulous Kirsten of Middle West Meals and her husband, Ben so we scheduled for last week. None of us had yet tried the newest bar on Mass Ave -- Bu Da Lounge, just a few doors down from the Chatterbox. I'd heard good things and I'm happy to say they weren't wrong. Finally, someone opens a new place that's luxurious, delicious, and smart.

Upscale decor, comfortable chairs and tall tables give you just the right option of lounging with your cocktail or having dinner. The long bar down one side of the room is a great use of the shot-gun, old-school urban space with it's tin ceiling and real-city bar feel. Don't write this cocktail list off as just another book of Asian-themed girly-tinis before you really examine it. Sure, you'll find a lot of vanilla, lychee, pama and berry themes here, but don't overlook their take on a simple dirty martini -- the Dirty Geisha (with ginger stuffed olives) or their ginger beer and Woodford Manhattan. At least two other wanna-be hip lounges on Mass Ave *wish* they'd opened with drinks lists this good. (Not an apple-tini to be found, surprise!) Normally, it makes me nervous with prices are missing from the cocktail list, but ours were all an easy-to-swallow $9. Owner Stephen Phan is no newbie to the business and you'll find at least one familiar Nicky Blaine's alum behind the bar here.

I'd heard a rumor that they had pretty good sushi and wasn't disappointed. Food was equally smart and, quite frankly, delicious. Their best idea? Skipping the ubiquitous salmon and tuna nigeri and going straight for the big, gloppy rolls -- perfect for sharing. Of the 10 luscious offerings, ours were incredibly well-executed and a smart take on the traditions. Hey, if you're going to do big rolls, do them really well -- and make them substantial, unique and fun.

The Four Treasure takes the traditional tempura shrimp with actual and real crab meat (not that weird orange, shredded kind or any sort of Krab) and tops it off with fresh tuna, cilantro and black roe. Our Spider Roll was still warm -- tender soft shell crab with perfectly cooked and seasoned rice -- topped with an amazing shallot "dressing" that gave the each bite a perfect acidity. No shortcut, cheap-and-easy rolls these. No messing about with soy sauce and wasabi. Fish is eaten the way the chef intended. (I'd also be willing to be there's no restaurant supply jug of sushi rice vinegar in the kitchen, either.) The Asian-themed starters menu gives options to non-sushi lovers and traditionalists alike with calimari, tempura, edamame, and spring rolls.

This bar is small -- small enough to enjoy with friends, but not so small you wont' be able to find a table for cocktails and a snack. And don't miss the the book-case humidor in the back for cigars. Excellent service puts the polish on this hidden gem right in the middle of Mass Ave. Bonus, they open early in the day, perfect for late lunches or afternoon snacks.


kmitchell said...

Enjoyed the Bu Da a few weeks ago. The Dirty Geisha is awesome and also ask for a Spicy Geisha.

Nice relaxing atmosphere to enjoy a drink, a fine cigar and friends.

Stephen and Ben have created a gem.

Kirsten said...

Ooooh, a Spicy Geisha? Return trip immediately planned!

Renee, you do not lie, this was a lovely treat. Yummy drink, surprising and delicious rolls (gloppy is right - can something be gloppy-precise? if so, these are so.), and a warm, stylish atmosphere.

Also, of course, great company.