Restaurant Review Roulette: bu•ku

Sorry for missing last week’s review, but after being out of town, I just couldn’t bring myself to predict how many stars a Calabash-style seafood eatery was going to get.  This week is another story, however, as Greg Cox is reviewing Raleigh’s bu•ku, the restaurant with a bullet point in its name.  I’ve written about bu•ku, and many of you know I’m a big fan of bu•ku’s chef, William D’Auvray.  He’s one of the most creative chefs in the Triangle, and I considered the food at his last restaurant, Fins, to be nonpareil.

bu•ku is a different restaurant, however.  It’s not a quiet place, and that is intentional.  bu•ku is designed to be a place for crowds to get together, order a bunch of small plates of the so-called “street food” bu•ku offers, and have a good time.  Some critics argue that bu•ku does not serve genuine street food, that D’Auvray’s offerings are nothing like what they had on the streets of India, the Philippines, or Mexico.  My brilliant, intellectual response to those claims is, “No duh!”  Of course it’s not the same — you’re getting this food in a Raleigh office tower from a kitchen that could hardly be compared to anything found on the streets of Bangkok.  This is William D’Auvray’s interpretation of street food, and it’s really quite good.

Greg Cox also like’s D’Auvray’s cooking, as he perennially listed Fins as one of his top restaurants in the Triangle, naming it his restaurant of the year not long ago.  I also know Cox loves to write about cuisines from far-away places, and I’ve discovered several gems from his N&O reviews.  Do I think Cox will give bu•ku the same 5 stars that he gave Fins?  Absolutely not.  Do I think he will like it?  Yes, I do.  I would be stunned if he gives it anything less than 4 stars.  Adding another half star might be a stretch, particularly in light of the fact that bu•ku isn’t really trying to be that ultimate, fine-dining establishment that Fins was.  But who knows, Cox has given 4.5 stars to other places that are quite comparable to bu•ku.  This will be an interesting review, but I’m hedging my bets by listing co-favorites this week.

5 stars — 5 to 1

4.5 stars – 3 to 2

4 stars — 3 to 2

3.5 stars — 7 to 1

3 stars — 10 to 1

2.5 stars —  30 to 1

2 stars — 75 to 1

1.5 stars — 250 to 1

1 star — 500 to 1

How many stars do you think bu•ku will get, and what are your thoughts on this restaurant?


(Edit May 21, 2010) — Congratulations to bu•ku, as Greg Cox awarded it 4.5 stars.  After having lunch there on Wednesday, those are well-deserved stars.  This is a place where you can get in and out for less than 10 bucks if you want, or you can have a big-time night.  And it will all taste great.


3 Responses to Restaurant Review Roulette: bu•ku

  1. Dave says:

    I’m going to say 4 1/2.
    I haven’t been there yet, but the menu looks great, and Fins was awesome. But no way on 5 stars.

  2. Chris says:

    I have to say, I didn’t get the BuKu hype on my visit a month or so ago. I ate at Fins once and thought it was terrific, but it was no surprise to me that the chef/ownership had to change directions with the concept — the size of the space and the location just didn’t match the market.

    The quick relaunch means many things are a holdover from Fins — the decor has been punched up a bit, yes, but the same fancy silverware and place settings remain. Including a knife that refuses to stay put on your plate. And I expected that the small plates were intended to be shared (as is typical for small plates places), but my wife and I were never given our own plates.

    There were some good choices, but we were disappointed with very greasy lumpia, and that arugula made its appearance as both “market lettuce” and as “wasabi greens”). We were also surprised that many dishes came out with additional ingredients besides those listed on the menu. For example, the arepas are listed with farmers cheese, but also came out with a tomatillo and tomato sauce/salsa. The highlight of our meal was the beef tataki.

    The “street food” thing is really hot right now … and when I think of street food around the world, two items spring to mind that are missing from the BuKu menu — meat on a stick (or in a roll/bun), and fried dough.

    And dessert. Dessert is a huge disappointment — a complete holdover from Fins and completely uninspired. How about some churros? Mochi ice cream? Shaved ice? Ras Malai? I guess it was easier to unbox some lemon-filled eclairs and drizzle them with chocolate sauce.

    The concept is very hip, and I feel like that’s what Greg Cox really reviewed, too.

  3. ML says:

    4.5 stars – well deserved! We ate there on Saturday night, and although they were slammed and a bit late with our table, we were impressed with most all of the 9 dishes that came across our table.

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