The restaurant now known as Buddha Coffee & Bar (follow link for contact details and user feedback) has been through any number of names and guises over the years. It began way back when selling funny grilled sandwiches called Thai baguettes and has since gone through many permutations (at one point, optimistically naming itself Nobu after the high-end, world famous chain of Japanese sushi houses). I don’t know when the Thai-themed menu acquired Italian dishes, but Buddha is now home to one of the strangest menu combinations in the city.
Maybe that’s not entirely true: The nearby Thai restaurant Parázs Presszó also hedges its bets with a half-Thai, half-Hungarian menu, and Fekete Szakáll on Dohány features traditional Hungarian meals alongside Korean barbeque, to name but a few mixed-marriage menus. It is a popular tactic in the city, where adventurous cuisines are treated with more enthusiasm than rewarded with local custom.
But Buddha puts a definite emphasis on its Thai dishes, which are prepared in the open kitchen where a pair of cooks sweat over woks, and make for an eye-catching window display for those walking by on Teréz Körút. My guess is that much of Buddha’s business comes from tourists and walk-in foot traffic from nearby Nyugati train station, because it would be hard to imagine planning a night-out meal at Buddha. Don’t get me wrong: The food ranged from decent to very good, but for the prices there are better options if you’re willing to walk a few blocks.
Still, particularly around Nyugati, and the culinary black hole of West End shopping center, you could do a lot worse than dining at Buddha. To start with, I tried the coconut soup (Ft 760), which was sizable and pungent with chunks of ginger and lemongrass. The beef Tam Nüá (Ft 2,570) was less convincing, and showed up lukewarm. Though it was denoted as red-pepper spicy, it went down without much of a fight and left little lasting impression. The Pad Thai (Ft 2,410) fared much better, arriving piping hot loaded with both tiny coldwater/cocktail shrimp and plump, garlicky pink prawns. This dish too, however, can be had for less, and in a more pleasing atmosphere at Parász, or if you want a more authentic version, at the Bangkok House Thai in District V. Vegetarian dishes, despite being abundant in Thai cooking, are few and far between on the Buddha menu, which is chicken and beef heavy.
As for the service, it was friendly and innocuous, which is fine by me, and the bill came to just over Ft 7,000 (€26), which, though by no means a fleecing, felt like a bit much. But it is hard to stay angry at Buddha, as the menu is filled with some of the funnier translation gaffes around. Have they ever wondered why nobody is ordering the “grout chicken”?
Buddha Coffee & Bar feels, at its heart, like a good restaurant, trapped by a certain dumbing down of its dishes and atmosphere (with techno music, and a characterless room) to attract commuters and tourists. The bottom line with Buddha, in its most recent incarnation, is that they serve decent food but give no compelling reason to return, unless of course you have a yen for a Thai baguette, in which case, you have found the right, if not singular, spot.