A deliciously surreal evening - Buddha Bar, Grosvenor House, Dubai

The dragon is a potent symbol of power, strength and also luck in Asian culture. It is interesting that the West has demonised dragons, and as a result, have lost out on appreciating Asia's richer symbolism of this creature. Similarly, red as a colour is also richly symbolic, but suffice to say, it is all about power too. 

As I approach, through low light, the bar inside Buddha Bar at Grosvenor House, I see dragon iconography and red everywhere. I sit down for a drink, and appropriately, the barman creates  a drink, which in light, looks dark red. Power. Potent power. His Bubbly Fusion, featuring Laurent Perrier NV is brought to life as he adds Crème de cassis, and...well that is his secret isn't it? But the result is red, congruous with the restaurant. 

Soon after I finish my drink, I make my way to my table. The tables are close together in a typically Asian manner, but high ceilings ensure  I never feel claustrophobic. Moreover, high glass windows with views of the Marina add to the feeling of freedom. Intimate but spacious. By 9pm, the restaurant is full. Atmosphere abounds. The typical Buddha bar music that I have heard countless times before on youtube, fills the evening. It is hypnotic. Surreal, but very nice. From my seat, I look up  and see a Buddha, towering above guests. How fitting. Despite the power of the dragon, there is Buddha, raised above it, spreading a message of love and peace, not through action, just contemplation. I love it!

My waiter, Abhinu,  is a self assured young man and boldly recommends a dish. I am not one to have chicken in a restaurant, but after his description of the Buddha bar chicken salad, I relent and order it. This is the power of language and something I feel waiting staff often forget - through language they can make the guest fall in love with a dish! It is a simple dish, but the deft use of five spices and the crunchiness of the cabbage elevate it. Finally, crispy wontons bring even more texture. An unlikely but excellent starter. As Abhinu takes away my plate, I look at the menu. The dish I just had is not the most expensive choice. I respect my waiter even more! 

Menawhile, for my drink, I have the Amakuchi Sake, which hails from the Kyoto area, It is mildly sweet, and balances the dijon mustard in my salad really well. Served warm, it is also a perfect foil to my cold starter. 

Next, I try the Miso soup. It is a hearty miso soup. I have never used that word to describe miso soup before, but on this ocassion I am compelled to do so. It is not watery at all, and is more like a broth. Chinese cabbage brings surpising texture. Finally, the enokitake are abundant and add to that heartiness of the dish. Again, though, it is a simple dish that has me enamoured.  

I interrupt my meal to look around the restaurant. It is joyous. Laughter fills the air on one side, while on another, a couple has an intimate giggle - just for the two of them. The music, in the meantime, continues to create a unique atmosphere, well for me anyway. I look up at Buddha. Buddha's eyes are closed - the still point it seems of the vibrant, busy restaurant. 

At this point, I have so much faith in my waiter that I entrust my main to him. I like that he asks questions first before deciding to recommend a dish. Basic as it is, I find many waiters and waitresses, all too eager to be helpful, suggest dishes without knowing who I am or what mood I am in.

My main course is actually a side dish, but it is a healthy portion.  My Kare sayur is an Indonesian curry packed with eggplant, tofu, carrots, long beans, corn and for a bit of sweetness, jackfruit. All these, again, simple ingredients are all held together by coconut milk and lemongrass. The highlight, other than how the flavours come together, is the wonderful sound of the vegetables as I chew them. 

As for my wine, it is a Chilean Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc 2013, offered at great valaue for money, and in my mind a lovely pairing as its mild fruitful sweetness balances the curry. 

Finally, for dessert I again follow Abhinu's suggestion - the Peanut butter semi-frozen. Mint puree acts as a palate cleanse, while the peanut butter semi frozen is true to its name in texture. The apple miso sorbet is divine! A super dessert. 

Overall Buddha Bar is understandably an institution in Dubai, on the back of  a concept that stands tall above the rest. It manages to combine many elements to give the guest an evening he or she is unlikely to forget. The lighting, The slick service, the dishes and, of course, a super-impressive wine list will make for a very special night. Finally, Buddha Bar provides guests with a chance to escape to another place altogether, something we sometimes need. Don't you?  

The Essentials

Buddha Bar,
Grosvenor House Hotel
+971 4 3998888


Buddha bar chicken salad 95AED
Miso soup 75AED
Kare sayur 85AED
Peanut butter semi-frozen 55AED
All prices +16%

Disclaimer: I consult at restaurants and hotels in an attempt to look at the entire product to take service levels to where they should be. I visited Buddha Bar courtesy of the hotel.