There are some restaurants that are unobtrusive, and off the beaten path and they turn out to be such a great find that you feel like you want to claim sole discovery of it like Columbus.
Little Buddha Thai & Beyond is not one of those places.
I guess in retrospect, I should have listened to my inner self. Or at the very least, paid heed to my husband's warnings because it just didn't look like a place we would like. And we all know what they say about hindsight.
Today was a day filled with running errands—picking up dry cleaning, stopping by the bank to see exactly how much money wasn't in my account, popping in the pharmacy to get prescriptions filled,etc.—so it was no surprise when, at 2:30 in the afternoon, my stomach began to protest loudly about being devoid of life-sustaining nourishment, especially since nary a morsel of breakfast had passed by my lips this morning.
A stone's throw away from the dry cleaners, my last errand of the afternoon, was Little Buddha Thai & Beyond. When I saw the sign, I recalled the conversation that Maarten and I had a couple of weeks earlier about not going there, but conveniently pushed it out of my mind since a) I was hungry, and b) I was starving. I walked inside Little Buddha. Damn, was it ever little. The entire place consisted of nine tables to accommodate eighteen bodies, a peek-a-boo counter where the wait staff hung out, the kitchen located just behind the peek-a-boo station and a his 'n hers bathroom tucked away in the back. I swallowed hard and begged the claustrophobic rampage building within my body to stay at bay.
My first inkling that something might not be too copacetic was when I announced "Table for one, please," and the hostess looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language.
"Lunch!" I shouted in that obnoxious way that we do when someone can't quite understand what we're saying yet we believe that if we yell, it makes it that much easier for them to comprehend. I was shown to a small table—wait, what am I talking about?!? They were all small tables!—and crammed my body into the equally small space allotted.
I did feel somewhat at ease once I looked at the menu. Standard Thai fare with descriptions that would make one think that this was really going to be good. Even though I had recently had chicken satay at another restaurant for dinner, I decided to test the waters and place an order for Little Buddha's chicken satay. Now, perhaps it was the look of sheer hunger in my eyes, or maybe it was the low and violent grumble that I just could not hide emanating from my tummy, but the waitress took one look at me and said "You want Spring Rolls?" I shook my head no, but she insisted. "Okay," I relented. I'm such a sucker for food.
The two Spring Rolls were the first to come out, accompanied by a clear sweet chili sauce. The rolls were hot, fresh and slightly greasy. I surmised that they were pre-rolled, perhaps store-bought, but they weren't bad.
Right on the heels of the spring rolls was the Chicken Satay. The three skewers were generously proportioned and, unlike other satay that I've had the pleasure of devouring, the chicken on each of these skewers was one huge plank of meat as opposed to tinier chunks of meat strung together on the skewer. The chicken was very tender and juicy, but without the peanut sauce—which was a true peanut sauce, albeit it a bit sweet and swimming in a little puddle of oil—it was rather bland.
I took my time studying the menu, practically eating it up with my eyes. I wanted this experience to be an enjoyable one, and not predictable. Old habits die hard, and at the last second I changed my selection from the unknown Mango Chili Chicken to Nonya Chicken Curry, which was dark meat chicken with potatoes, coconut and star anise.
Word of note when ordering: Be sure to speak slowly and enunciate. This is a cautionary tale, and you'll find out why soon enough.
Ten minutes later, a steaming hot bowl of chicken swimming in an orange-ish hued sauce was placed in front of me alongside a big ball of stuck together rice. The menu didn't say a darn thing about sticky rice! I peeled a couple of spoonfuls of rice from the bowl and squashed it on my plate, then placed a bit of the chicken and sauce on top. I had never had the dish before and I wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew I wanted it to be good. Sadly, it didn't live up to my expectations. It somehow didn't look like I thought it would; I expected the meat to be darker and less like little chunks of rubber.
Sitting within a chicken's throw from my table were two young ladies enjoying a spirited conversation over a late lunch. As they got up to leave, I boldly called them over to my table to get their take on Little Buddha. Surprisingly, they had positive things to say about Little Buddha. It should be noted, however, that they had only eaten at the restaurant on two other occasions. The Drunken Noodles and Chicken Pad Thai received high marks of praise from the women.
Could it be that my assessment of Little Buddha was too harsh? Had I just caught the cook at a bad time? Or were the two young women totally off their rockers and, between the two of them, their palates had been totally destroyed by too much bad Thai food? Admittedly, I doubt the latter. While my initial foray into the world of Little Buddha Thai & Beyond was not an altogether positive one, I might be convinced to one day give the restaurant one more chance to put a Thai-inspired smile on my face. Just not tomorrow.
Oh, and about that note on ordering, it turned out that the waitress didn't have a clue what I was ordering and, when even after I pointed at the menu and said "I want this one," she also failed in rudimentary finger pointing. Instead of Nonya Chicken Curry, I was presented with Rendang Chicken with coconut onion sauce, lemongrass and chilies. Hmpf!
Would I recommend this restaurant? Sadly, no. Not unless I really have no interest in winning friends and influencing people.
Is Little Buddha a good value or do you need to take out a loan to eat here? The meals are smartly priced, and they give a good portion for the price, so you probably won't have to claim bankruptcy if you eat here once a week.
What about atmosphere and ambience? There really is not much of an atmosphere. The music piping out of the speakers was totally wrong for the place and it was rather closed-in in appearance and feel. In other words, it was pretty cozy and not in a good way.
Little Buddha Thai & Beyond