[Note: Same as in my previous review, there are no pictures of the food below. Though I had my camera with me when I was in Raleigh, I neglected to carry it inside as I wanted to focus on my friends. Plus, I do think that sometimes you forget to enjoy your dish when you are busy trying to find the best angle to photograph – contrary to what recent research has found about how Instagramming your food may make it taste better. I will try better in the future.]
bu•ku opened up in downtown Raleigh about the time I decided to move back home. It’s one of those rare restaurants that had intrigued me for years and I have been waiting for the right opportunity to try it. I finally had the opportunity last weekend. While in Raleigh for a business meeting, I coerced an old friend of mine to gather a couple of her friends to meet me up there.
I cannot say enough positive things about bu•ku. Everything was phenomenal from the food all the way to the ambiance and the service of the wait staff. Even the reservation process itself was super simple and I even received a personal call on Friday to confirm my reservation. I arrived early (well, technically on time) while the rest of my party ran about 15 minutes late but I was still seated at our table so that I could enjoy a drink. I elected to go with a glass of Ricossa Moscato D’Asti while I waited – one of my favorite beverages. Sequestered off from the rest of the dining area in its own room, there were 4 tables, each having plenty of seating for groups. I loved the large windows in the room that gave me the opportunity to glance outside.
The menu at bu•ku is eclectic. It features street food from around the world and can be a bit intimidating to look at. Luckily enough, our waiter was able to give us some great recommendations.
We all ordered a different small plate to start – the Aloo Chana Chaat [spicy potato cake, chickpea, cucumber, cabbage, cashew, raita, tamarind, cilantro-mint chutney], Chinese Steamed Buns [Szechuan pork belly, pickled vegetables, hoisin-tamarind], Seared Pork Dumplings (Napa cabbage, scallion, ginger, chile-soy), and the Baja Crab Flautas [jumbo lump crab, pineapple, cream cheese, pickled serrano, cilantro, mango-habanero salsa, crisp flour tortilla].
Everyone raved over the Aloo Chana Chaat (which was my pick), but I enjoyed the creaminess of the Baja Crab Flautas best of all.
For dinner, I went with the day’s special – Chilean seabass with roasted maitake, grilled eggplant, massage kale salad, local cherry tomato, Burgundy macerated raspberry, sweet potato crisp. It was delicious! The seabass was perfectly moist and flaky. I tried a bit of the duck confit leg (from the Filipino Duck Adobo dish) and it was equally as good.
I ordered the Filipino Halo-Halo [parfait of coconut custard, sweetened plantains, guava sauce, ube ice cream] for us to share between the 6 of us at the table for dessert. It was different. There were aspects of the dish that we liked and aspects that we did not (including a red gummy that we thought tasted like cherry cough syrup). We all had a blast eating it and trying to guess what each component of the dish was. The custard and ice cream were delicious and I would order this dish again just for how fun it was to eat.
Now, bu•ku isn’t cheap. For just myself (for a glass of Moscato, appetizer, entree – which I did go with a pricier entree, beer, and dessert), my tab was close to $85 after tip. But the experience was worth it. There aren’t a lot of places where I live now that I can visit that are just different. Plus, I rarely am able to visit with that friend. All in all, it was certainly a memorable experience.
Tip: The traffic in downtown Raleigh was certainly bustling on a Friday night. Instead of driving around in circles looking for a parking spot, I parked in the Moore Square Parking Deck. Sure it cost me $5 to park there (which I heard caused some contention at one point) that night, but it was just easier and I didn’t have to worry about my vehicle being towed. Some of my friends used Uber, which is another great option (plus it allows you to drink as much as you want and avoid getting behind the wheel).
bu•ku: global street food
110 E. Davie St.,
Raleigh, NC 279601
Monday-Thursday 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Friday/Saturday 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
Sunday 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM/5:00 PM – 10:00 PM