I told one of the best chefs I know about the Asian-fusion menu at Buddha Belly Deli and his eyes lit up; something just clicked for him. He looked at me and said, “That’s like stoner food to the next level.” I have to agree. Buddha Belly is one of the most creative and exciting new restaurants in the city, serving some of the most interesting and delectable food around. Here are some of the must-try items that might click for you.
Buddha Belly Deli 50 N. Valle Verde Drive #110, 702-545-0840. Daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Thai Clam Chowder
The best parts of Thai tom yum soup combine with a classic New England clam chowder—ginger, garlic and coconut milk mix with clams, bacon and potato—to create deep, soothing flavors. The heat found in every bite takes this dish from very good to downright great. It’s not overbearingly spicy but you notice it, and that comes from the smart addition of red curry. ($3.50)
Asian BBQ Flatbread
This house-made dough has that sought-after combo of a nice, crunchy bottom and a chewy top. Dots of Chinese sausage and strips of char sui pork share the edible canvas with jalapeños, cilantro and lots of mozzarella. More layers of flavor come from a sweet hoisin barbecue sauce. You’ll think you’re done, then you’ll keep going back for more. ($10)
Tender braised short ribs redolent of delightful red curry are topped with kimchee pickles and crisp slaw on a house-made Hawaiian sweet roll. The roll perfectly complements the meat, with the pickles providing a necessary burst of acid. Even the simple slaw is a textural winner, making sure this sandwich is properly moist. ($9)
Szechuan Shrimp Po-Boy
Shrimp is not my favorite ingredient, but this is my favorite sandwich on the menu. Crispy and coated with Chinese five spice and a New Orleans-style spice blend, they’re fried and then covered with a tangy Szechaun sauce and dropped on a baguette layered with the same sauce mixed with mayo. Shredded lettuce and pickled peppers round out this example of fusion food at its best. ($9)
Dragon Breath Fries
Thin, firm French fries are blanketed in Thai chili, garlic oil and cilantro. The dipping sauce is a lovely kimchee ketchup, another example of sweet-meets-heat done well. Who wouldn’t want to kiss you after you’ve eaten a plate of these? ($4)