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Dining Out: Flushing’s vegetarian mainstay

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BUDDHA BODAI

42-96 Main Street Flushing

939 1188/2100

Right off let me say, on Tuesday, I had the best vegetarian meal ever. Taste-wise and presentation-wise it was tops - vegetarian gourmet. Where? Buddha Bodai. And not only is Buddha Bodai vegetarian but it is Kosher vegetarian. Or more specifically, kosher, Chinese vegetarian.

Buddha Bodai has been in Flushing on Main Street for a number of years and a wine connoisseur that I know, I've learned since, ate there twice a week. (He's been to the reincarnation. "Absolutely fantastic," says he as say I) But the location became a rent problem. The new Buddha Bodai, with the same chef, Michael Wong from Hong Kong, is located most appropriately at the corner of Cherry Street, a block from the Queens Botanical Garden.

It's set back from the street so, if you come early, you'll find off-street parking right in front. We did. The room is large and square with a Buddhist god set on high, and decorated with plants and oranges. Regal-looking dark chairs lend a gracious air. A captivating touch that you possibly won't find in a restaurant anywhere else at this point in time, is Buddhist families saying their prayers before dinner, Jewish people with yamikas, the local Chinese dining with those who love Chinese food and vegetarian food and those who only eat Kosher food.

We were so impressed with our chosen menu that I'm putting it on the table, recording it, here and now: Keewee Cooler Mango Lassi Vegetable Pork, Bamboo Pith and Bean Curd Soup, house special assorted appetizer (vegetarian roll, vegetarian chicken, vegetarian duck and crispy vegetarian duck, jellyfish) Abalone with Green Vegetable Ginger and Pine-nut Fried Rice, Mango Pudding, pot of tea.

Before our derrieres hit the seat, a pot of tea appeared and a cup was poured for each of us. We pondered the menu, four pages of tempting items. Most of the meat and seafood items had a "veg." prefix; some did not. But all are vegetarian. Our keewee cooler came with an orange slice draped over the edge topped with a stemmed maraschino cherry held bolt upright by the handle of a tiny paper parasol. The mango lassi was similarly attired. Both drinks, one keewee green, peppered with its tiny black seeds and the mango-colored, deep mango-flavored lassi were palate pleasers.

Our hot (temperature, that is) vegetarian pork soup tasted wonderful with corkscrew threads of vegetarian pork. We raved.

A platter of attractive hors d'oeuvres arrived with a mound of translucent, noodle-like jellyfish. Circling it was a grouping of mini-vegetable rolls stuffed colorfully with a green bean, carrot and turnip stick; slices of chicken with accompanying ginger and sweet-sour sauces; vegetarian duck, dark-hued and moist; and crispy duck with excellent puff pastry crispiness. The contrast in textures was impressive, the flavors intriguing. Our main course of slices of smooth textured vegetarian abalone resting on a bed of absolutely perfectly cooked, extremely tasty spinach, followed.

A new-version fried rice was a delight, its roasted pine nuts adding so much flavor and texture. The dessert was a triumph, mango pudding. Picture this: a mango-flavored molded pudding made with milk shaped like a rounded peach half, the texture seductive when you spooned into it and the flavor, well to put it mildly, superb. And then picture it sitting in a viscous creamy sauce with a design, fine-lined, Chinese-like and very beautiful. This was a dessert fit for a Buddhist god, which we mortals were savoring scraping up every last smidgen with our spoons and longing for just a tiny bit more. It was a dessert one couldn't resist. I've heard tell the spinach and corn thick soup for four is an exquisite yin and yang with spinach on one side and corn on the other when presented, then mixed and served in individual bowls.

There a vegetarian ham and vegetable soup in a cantaloupe and you get a melon of your own. There's an appetizer with lettuce on the outside, chopped tofu and vegetables on the inside (lettuce song) and a main course of mixed diced vegetables in a taro bowl that has great eye appeal and is then broken up and served to you. Sweet and sour vegetable ribs are popular and of course boneless. Here they are made from a Japanese root similar to sweet potato and have a tangy sauce made from sauteed lichee nuts and red and green peppers. Buddha Bodai is must-try gourmet for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A great Chinese vegetarian restaurant that is also kosher. A must- try for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Excellent flavor, diverse textures, beautiful presentations. Very nice service.

CHEF'S CHOICE

Honey Veg. Ham with Steamed Bread (for four persons)...$9.95

Lettuce Song...$9.95

House Special Assorted Appetizer (vegetable roll, veg. chicken, veg. duck, veg. crispy duck, jellyfish)...$9.95

Veg. Shark Fin Soup (for four persons)...$8.95

Spinach & Corn Thick Soup (for four persons)...$8.95

Sweet and Sour Veg. Ribs...$12.95

Steamed Veg. Chops & Marinated Vegetables...$10.95

Sliced Fish with Black Bean Sauce...$12.95

Dry Sauteed Wild Rice...$6.95

Mango Pudding...$2.95

Food: Kosher Chinese vegetarian

Setting: Bright square room with Buddhist god

Service: Very nice

Hours: Lunch buffet and dinner 7 days

Reservations: Weekends

Parking: Some off street in front

Location: Corner of Cherry Street, one block north of Queens Botanical Gardens

Credit cards: Master & Visa

Children: Share

Private parties: To 100

Smoking: None

Noise level: Peaceful

Handicap accessible: Yes

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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