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Tom Sietsema's Dish

Wednesday, April 7, 2010; E03

Get primed for Peking duck, curry shrimp in banana leaf, sushi -- and a major scene. The highly anticipated Buddha Bar is expected to open at 455 Massachusetts Ave. NW on May 3, according to Eran Gorev, a licensee of the famous Paris-based concept.

Heading the pan-Asian kitchen will be Chul Kee Ko, 38. He's a Korean native who comes to Washington from the modern Japanese Ten in Charlottesville and has cooked at the four-star Jean Georges in New York.

In search of a "star," says Gorev, he and his business partners in the Potomac-based Washington Restaurants "dined in, gosh, easily 30 or so different restaurants here and on the West Coast," including San Francisco and Vancouver.

When they encountered Ko in Virginia, the chef impressed the group with his food and his story. As the son of parents who owned restaurants in Korea, Ko told Gorev and company, he "woke up smelling spices" and began cooking at age 14. In 1994, he moved to Vancouver to study English and hone his culinary skills.

Washington's 9,500-square foot Buddha Bar is the world's ninth. Similar to the others, the 170-seat dining room will feature a giant Buddha and a lofty ceiling (22 feet high, in this case).

The tab is impressive, too. Gorev estimates that his restaurant company, which operates nearly 30 restaurants in Europe, will end up spending $10 million to complete this Buddha Bar.

-- Tom Sietsema

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