Buddha Bowl is tucked away in a small corner between larger operations in a High Street shopping centre. It sits in the middle of self-care, a brewery, and a Condado. Although it is a modest space, what lies behind the doors of the restaurant is bigger than its exterior suggests.
For starters, there’s a giant succulent scene. It starts in the hall and continues in the dining room. The plinths of the joint are filled with smooth stones that lead the way to the order counter. The meter itself is short – deceptively short for a personal build operation. BYO concepts are usually associated with long, wide cafeteria counters that display a garden of treats. Here, the display is short, but it’s stacked deep. This means that the breadth of ingredient choices can be explored in three steps.
The first choice to make is providing the base for the bowl. The choices are both rice-y: white or brown. Both versions are suitably lumpy, as rice should be.
Meat is the next choice. The choices available so far seem to generally center around a variety of chicken and tofu. In the poultry department, there are a few familiar choices – grilled chicken and a tastier coconut chicken curry, both of which offer satisfying nuggets of breast meat. Don’t sleep on the ground chicken option: Spicy Basil Chicken. It’s different from poultry offerings found elsewhere, and different in a good way. Although marked as spicy, seasoned ground meat is not so spicy that it causes aggressive water ingestion. It’s more of a little tingle that mingles with his salty accent. And the texture of ground chicken lends itself to a perfect blend with rice.
We’re not done yet, though. Next are the vegetables: chickpeas, black beans, carrots, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, blanched broccoli (blanching makes such a difference), cauliflower, and straw mushrooms, all cut into bite-size pieces and piled to order.
So far, analysis paralysis has been fairly easy to avoid. All the ingredients are relatively familiar. But the sauce section is another story. As the sauce determines the finished product, a judicious choice is essential here. It turns out that the basil and garlic option is perfect for ground chicken, as it mixes perfectly and ties the whole dish together. Other recommendations tested include Teriyaki (classic savory) and aromatic coconut curry. There are also sprinkled spices and crunches to throw in at the end.
There are probably ways to make bad bowls, that’s true of any place. The Buddha Bowl combinations make a great meal and good value for $10.95.
Now, the previous statement about rice being the first choice; it was kind of a lie. There really is a choice to be made before deciding on the rice. It’s a choice whether or not to get appetizers ($4.95). There is even a small sign at the counter asking diners to choose the starter first, to give the kitchen time to cook. The selection includes potstickers as well as Crab and cream cheese wontons. The latter is a cousin of the rangoon crab, offering a simpler creamy filling that comes in a collection of freshly fried, flapping, amorphous shells that crackle and crunch.
The Buddha Bowl is located at 2973 N. High St. It is closed on Sundays, but open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For more information, visit buddhabowl.com.
All photos by Susan Post