We visited Buddha’s Belly a few weekends ago, a restaurant I remember seeing time after time again when my BFF used to lived in Santa Monica. The restaurant is only a block away from the water and I remember always seeing it packed with people whenever we drove by.
As we drove by it on this particular afternoon, there was again a crowd in there. After finding parking, we strolled in to find a restaurant decorated in my favorite colors — orange and green — and a table by the floor-to-ceiling window, a perfect spot for people watching.
We began with some beverages, including Thai Iced Tea something my son has gotten quite addicted to of late.
Black Orchid Sour ($11) is a bourbon-based cocktail with violet liqueur, blackberries, lemon juice and egg whites. I wasn’t sure I’d like it because I’m generally not a fan of bourbon, but it was DELICIOUS! The bourbon wasn’t overpowering and the flavors were fruity and pleasing.
We wanted the Tuna Volcano but then found out we could get a Curry Chicken Volcano/Tuna Volcano ($10) combo. Sushi rice is formed and then fried to create a crispy bottom for either a curry chicken or an ahi tuna topping. Both were very tasty with a great textural contrast in every bite.
I absolutely adored Duck Tacos ($11.75) which reminded me of the Peking duck pancakes I used to eat in Hong Kong. Topped with green onion, hoisin sauce and served on corn tortillas instead of the traditional flour pancakes, they were equally delicious and I craved more hoisin sauce on mine. If you’re longing for Peking duck, come and get some of these instead.
Korean Tofu Crunch ($7) is a light appetizer sitting over gochujang, a Korean chili paste with garlic, soy, sesame oil, scallion and seaweed. My son devoured it! This dish consisted of everything he loves: tofu and anything Korean!
I’ve never been a huge fan of pad Thai because I’ve never had it anywhere outside of Thailand worthy of the real thing. The Pad Thai ($11) here is outstanding. The consistency is spot on and not the least bit greasy. Shrimp, chicken breast, tofu, onion, egg, bean sprouts, nira chive, cilantro and peanut are tossed with rice noodles and coated with that incredible char all Asian street food is known for known as “wok hei”.
We love Thai food and Tom Yom Koon Ramen ($11) sounded interesting. The red chili broth infused with lemongrass and kaffir lime was swimming with shrimp, tomato, straw mushrooms and cilantro. A side dish of coconut milk was served alongside for you to add to your liking. We all agreed the broth was wonderfully aromatic and even took the remainder home.
I was intrigued by Ginger Fried Rice ($11) and thought it was going to be like the one my mom makes, but it was nothing like it. Sweet red ginger is the main ingredient and they weren’t skimpy with the sirloin steak or shrimp tossed in. Egg, shiitake, mushroom, red onion, red bell pepper and sesame seeds complete this dish perfect as an entree or a shared item for the table.
Living in Hawaii, miso black cod was a weekly staple so I wanted to try the Baked Alaskan Black Cod ($19). A beautifully presented bento box with jasmine rice, broccoli and a cucumber salad, the fish was deliciously addicting and I was trying to savor every morsel slowly.
Every dish I had invoked some sort of ratatouille moment for me. It brought back childhood memories and fuzzy feelings I was happy to surround myself with. To take it one step further, we ended the meal with Coconut Tapioca Pudding ($7), one of my favorite Asian desserts. The dollop of red bean just made it even better!
If you’re ever in Santa Monica and wanting some southeast Asian food, stop by this place! They even have a happy hour menu in the afternoon for snacks and delicious cocktails!
Santa Monica, CA 90401