Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Best Cocktails Can Be Found at Buddha-Bar Manila

Buddha-Bar Manila is part of a global chain of high class restaurant-lounges located in cities such as Paris, Dubai, and New York. I was pretty psyched to find out that they had just opened their 13th Buddha Bar in the world - and right smack in the middle of Makati, no less!

Invited by one of our clients - and just dying to have an excuse to check the place out - me and two girlfriends had an impromptu Girl's Night Out, heading over to Picar Place on Kalayaan. You really can't miss it, it's the building with all the expensive cars, like the incredibly fugly green porche, parked around it. We got there at around 9pm for dinner and drinks, and I have to admire the French owners for staying true to Buddha Bar's go big or go home aesthetic, occupying a good three stories which consists of a lounge, a restaurant, and a roof deck.

Stepping inside felt like being magically transported back to New York. The vibe was just totally different from them other bars and clubs that you really don't feel like you're in Manila, but in a bar somewhere in Midtown with the signature black, red and gold interiors, the temple-like design of the place, a beautiful red-lit staircase, the signature big ass Buddha, Khmer statues, low lighting, and Vietnamese chandeliers. I was semi afraid of touching any of the decor, lest a gang of demon mokeys show up and I'd have to make a run for it. I also appreciate their chill music you didn't have to yell over, and the opulent lounge chairs tucked in nooks and crannies for privacy (you could also sit in the middle of it all to 'see and be seen'). I could've mistaken the place for TAO in Vegas (missing the half nekkid mermaids by the entrance) if I didn't have to step outside go home.

Making our way over to the bar, we were greeted by the friendly wait staff and bartender. We ordered our drinks and pica pica, which Niño the bartender executed to perfection, and had a nice time chatting with him about how awesome he is at making the perfect Lychee Martini.

Their cocktail menu is straight up what you'd get at the same bar in New York, but with a Filipino-friendly price tag. I loved the Pineapple Spicy M (P370), a zesty concoction of fresh pineapple, pineapple syrup, pineapple liquor, and vodka infused Thai chili. My friend Ana tried the Ying Coco Yang (P350) a potent mixture of gin infused Thai chili, coconut cream, and fresh lime juice.

The food was pretty good, too. I'll probably end up raving about it some more the next time I go there to actually eat as I was more interested in the Asian-themed drinks that night. We tried the signature Buddha Bar Rolls (P680), wrapped in what seemed to be cucumber skin, Crazy Spicy Tuna (P250) - yes, I like my food and drinks with a lot of punch - and a pica pica platter with samplings of chicken satay, hot shrimp salad and Vietnamese spring rolls.

My sweet tooth found the Crème Brûlée (P230) attractive, and holy shiz, it did not disappoint! Three petite ramekins were served with creamy vanilla, chocolate and coffee-flavored custards topped with torched sugar-y goodness. I know it's so bad, but it tasted so good!

I have to say, we regretted leaving the bar to mingle with our newly acquainted friends afterwards because as the night wore on and the place filled up, the service just got slower, and slower, and … … …

Ordering the same drinks thrice and waiting a whole hour for one round of cocktails (around P350 apiece) isn't good business for Buddha Bar. We could've consumed quadruple the amount of alcohol (and paid quadruple the amount) in that same amount of time. And the food came out even slower, with only shrugs from the wait staff when asked what took them so long (one waitress simply walked away when we asked her why), which kind of ruined it for our Canadian counterparts. I'm guessing since they had launched only a week and a half ago, Buddha Bar's management is probably still ironing out the kinks in their operations (Tip: hire more wait staff, but train them in first-world customer service first before setting them out on the floor).We all ended up going home at around 2am with not enough of a buzz to really call it a night, but pretty happy to get to know our clients a bit more outside of work. And hey, a Girl's Night Out is still a Girl's Night Out and it was fun, that's all that really matters.

I'd definitely consider Buddha Bar as one of my staple go-to bars in Manila, just as long as I get there before 10pm and find myself a seat at the bar - right in front of Niño.

Buddha-Bar Manila
+63 2 856 6719, +63 2 856 6859
Picar Place, Kalayaan Avenue
Makati City
Open from 7pm to 3am daily