First Bite: Buddha Bar in Mount Vernon Square
The time: 7 on a recent weeknight.
The place: The highly anticipated Buddha Bar, launched in mid-May in Mount Vernon Square.
The mood: Honestly, I'm a little annoyed. I'm right on time for my reservation for two, but my guest is running a few minutes late. The pretty young thing in towering heels at the host stand suggests I wait for him in the bar.
"Can't I just be seated at my table?" I ask.
She hesitates, so I bargain with her.
"I plan to order something to drink, right away."
She hems. I persist: "I might even order food."
"For both of you?" she asks. She sounds serious.
A Buddha Bar colleague overhears our verbal tug of war and comes to my rescue. "Right this way," she coos. En route to my seat in this $10 million spinoff of the Paris original, I register lots of gold, orange and red and, eventually, an 18-foot-tall statue imported from Indonesia. "You've got a lucky table," my guide tells me. "Right next to the Buddha!"
I make good on my promise at the lectern and order a cocktail. While I'm waiting for the server to come back (fair is fair: He's a pretty young thing, too), I scan the vast dining room. It feels like Vegas crossed with Shanghai. I also skim the dinner selection, described by a news release as "an eclectic Pan-Asian menu with a touch of French influence." There's sushi representing Japan, spring rolls nodding to Vietnam, beef satays and curries pointing to Thailand and Peking duck referencing China.
My pal shows up, and we order a bunch of dishes. Yellowtail sushi is better for its raw fish than its rice pad, which is hard and cold to the touch. That beef satay is juicy, but the meat needs a dunk in the accompanying Thai basil sauce to wake it up. As for the spring rolls, they put our tongues to sleep and leave our fingers stained with grease. The last dish turns out to be the best: succulent five-spice chicken, colorful with thinly cut vegetables.
As the evening wears on, the music ramps up and the lights go down -- so low, I notice a server handing out penlights to diners.
Buddha Bar strikes this diner as the perfect place for a bachelorette party, or a romp following "Sex in the City 2." And just like that movie, the city's showiest watering hole is apt to leave you hungry for something more substantial.
455 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 202-377-5555. http:/