Restaurant Review: Bull and Buddha

At the Bull & Buddha, Poughkeepsie’s exciting new eatery, it’s more about zest than Zen


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ribeyeThe dry-rubbed, 21-ounce ribeye is served with sweet potato allumettes, pickled long beans, and shiitake mushrooms

When I was there on a Friday night in fall, the clubby lounge was packed, and every seat at the sushi bar was taken. Cheery servers dressed in black were bopping around, and I was twice greeted by hosts offering to take my coat as I looked for my companion, who’d managed to nab a corner table in the dining room. Despite the excited hum of patrons and background music, conversation was still possible (I mention this for the over-40 set).

As for dinner: Things got off to a good start with a complimentary edamame hummus (made with green soybeans rather than chickpeas) and addictive sesame wonton chips to scoop it up. A small plate of skewered peanut-crusted shrimp was small indeed — it was two shrimp — but they were good, as was the green curry-mandarin orange dipping sauce.

Crispy wontons filled with goat cheese and crab were winners, with the sweet-tangy flavors coming through in equal parts. A golden soup of kabocha squash (similar to buttercup squash) got sweet notes from coconut milk, Asian pears, parsnips, and a touch of crab in the relish that garnished it. Thick and comforting, it nonetheless could have used a little kick. The porter-teriyaki marinated flank steak was tender and nicely charred on the edges. A side of lightly sautéed bok choi was a good choice; but the steak fries, served alongside in a little bowl, seemed like they’d wandered in from another restaurant.

A generous serving of ahi tuna, cast-iron seared on the outside and rare in the middle, came sliced and fanned over soba noodles and red cabbage with a carrot ginger-butter broth. The tuna was good quality and the noodles were tasty, but this dish, too, could have used a little more oomph. For dessert, our server recommended a mascarpone cheesecake that was as good as he’d said it would be. Even so, I preferred the delicious banana wontons with chocolate ganache and toasted hazelnuts.

back dining roomThe restaurant’s urban-chic back dining room

Despite the Manhattan-esque vibe, prices are affordable (just beware the small-plate approach if you’re ravenous). The thoughtful wine list has some good deals, too, including bottles under $20. It was early days when we visited, so a real critique isn’t quite fair — a kitchen needs time to hit its stride, and Kirtland was still tweaking the menu. “If I hear someone’s happy, I’m glad, but I’m more concerned with the ones who aren’t happy,” he says. “I’m perpetually looking for what customers want.”

Ambitious as the tri-part eatery is, when I stopped back for a second look in late November, the manager showed me a work in progress on the second floor: a 4,000-square-foot night club called Orient, scheduled to open on New Year’s Eve, where live and DJ music of all kinds will be presented. Judging from the bolts of embroidered silk fabrics awaiting installation, this will be another deluxe space. The idea, Libin said, is that patrons can have a drink in the lounge, eat dinner in the dining room, then head to the club for some late-night romping.

If the response of the crowds so far is anything to go by, this winning new spot will ratchet up the revitalization of Main Street by several notches. And that’s good karma.

Bull & Buddha
Open daily for lunch and dinner. Appetizers, soups, and salads range from $6 to $9; small plates from $4 to $9; entrées from $12 to $26. Desserts are $7
319 Main St., Poughkeepsie. 845-337-4848

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