Mon, 5:30pm-11pm; Tue-Wed, 5:30pm-midnight; Thu, 5:30pm-1am; Fri-Sat, 5pm-1am; Sun, 5pm-11pm
A, C, E at 14th St.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Buddakan is the second wave of Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr (Morimoto)'s well-orchestrated shock-and-awe campaign to take culinary Manhattan. The centerpiece is the "Chinoiserie," a great hall with oak-covered walls two stories high, chandeliers as big as Volkswagens, and a banquet table seating 34. Off this room is a library lined with glowing golden bookshelves, and several smaller dining catacombs, with scenes from Chinese antiquity drawn like cave paintings on the walls. This strange, synthetic landscape doesn't feel like a restaurant. It feels like an oversize nightclub, or a random gathering in the semi-abandoned mansion of some absent Cantonese billionaire. But then the food starts to arrive, and the mood changes. There are traditional Chinese selections on the menu at Buddakan (very good Cantonese spring rolls, steamed sole served in a properly steamy bamboo container), and there are dishes that maintain their classic nature but have been updated in all sorts of inventive ways. The roast duck noodles are served as dumplings in broth, and the tea smoked ribs would cause a mini-stampede if they were served in Chinatown.