The best Chinese dishes I tried were simple vegetable stir-fries: spinach ($7) and “Chinese green” ($7). Our server described the greens as U-choy, but I think the square bowl was full of beautifully cut leaves of something like a baby bok choy or napa cabbage. Sauteed up with plenty of garlic, it was the best dish on the table. The spinach, another large portion, was more familiar stuff in the same style, and right up there.
Scallop and mushroom hot pot ($15) was decent, but a little too simple. It really was just sea scallops and Chinese black mushrooms (two very good things) in a little bit of sauce. The brown rice side dish ($1.50) was a well-made genuine single serving. (White rice is $1.)
Besides frequently refilled tap water, there is Koshihikari Echigo beer ($10/17 ounces), which I took on first taste for a very clean Japanese lager with just a little hops, but then noticed an ale-like sweetness in the aftertaste. It is in fact a rice lager, made from some of the most expensive sushi rice in Japan. Our other potable venture was equally wonderful: Shirakawago Sansanigori sake ($20). It was delightful to sip even with its 15 percent alcohol. I wouldn’t describe it as sweet, but the aromatics were on the apple-coconut spectrum, and it got all the way from Japan to the traditional ice bucket on our table, in its beautiful aquamarine bottle, without a hint of oxidation.
The chocolate desserts are a lava cake ($7), barely molten but with a fine bitter finish, and a beautifully constructed chocolate cake ($7) with a lot of mousse and layers of French almond biscuit. There’s also ginger and green-tea ice cream ($4 each), both of which are quite creamy. That’s a plus on the ginger, but maybe a fault on the green tea, which I like to have a dry flavor.
Service at Buddachen was all right, though our waitress faked her way through a question about the ingredient “joconde” (almond biscuit), describing it as “A French or European, uh, thing” and had to get help on the sake styles. The room, a converted hotel lobby with dark wood and Corinthian columns, has stymied a lot of restaurant designers. Buddachen kind of overpowers the old stuff with a giant Buddha statue at one side and nine slightly different heads at the other. There are flat-screen TVs in the outer bar, but not — may the owner and all other people achieve enlightenment — in the dining room.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at email@example.com.