At the legendary Ibiza ‘MediterrAsian’ venue, Zoë Perrett discovers the art of zen… and sharing plates
Bambuddha may be one of Ibiza’s best-known venues, but Googlemaps doesn’t seem to have heard of it – for it directs you to a small backstreet in Santa Eularia and not the famous San Juan ‘restaurant road’ which hosts 10 great eateries along an 8km section.
The restaurant website notes the error, so we’re the ones at fault. Screeching up to the valet parking, we make heartfelt apologies for our tardy arrival which are waved aside by the friendly front desk crew, who reassure us that we’re not the first to have reached the venue via an unnecessarily circuitous route.
No matter how fraught your journey’s been, though, entering Bambuddha provides instant chill. Located within an impressive Thai pyramid structure filled with Buddhist statues and natural materials, it aims to – and succeeds in – offering a ‘Mediterrasian’ experience.
A vast chandelier takes centre stage; carefully-directed neon cleverly employed at lower levels to create a moody ambience and instil a feeling that you’re dining alfresco although the opposite is true. Above our heads, a painting lends Oriental touches to a depiction of Dalt Vila. It’s quirky, and it’s cool.
Much like the menu – a behemoth that boggles the mind and tempts you to over-order. Luckily, staff are well-versed when it comes to dispensing advice on quantity and type. We rapidly discover that (depending on appetite and greed) we should go for 2-3 per person, and that service is ‘Asian-style’: food is for sharing and delivered as it’s ready, rather than in staggered courses.
Kicking off with a cocktail is never a bad idea. Bambuddha’s list raises a smile before we even raise a glass; each drink boasting a suggestive moniker. I go for the Foreplay – a long combination of Tanqueray, yellow Chartreuse, rhubarb syrup, lemon, watermelon, liquorice bitters and tonic that’s a happy match to the salted edamame we’re nibbling.
A little bamboozled by the sheer breadth of choice on Bambuddha’s menu (split into well-populated sections headed Dim Sum, Bao, Kushi, Green, Raw, Sea, Soup, Curry, Sushi, Sashimi and, finally, sides), we put our appetites in the hands of the kitchen.
The first dish to be brought to the table by our knowledgeable waitress is a som tam. The Thai papaya salad is simultaneously sweet, sour, sharp and spicy – a fragrant, refreshing start to the meal. A pretty plate of yuza hamachi follows; the yellowtail slices cut slightly thicker than is traditional, designed to be wrapped around the fresh basil and red chilli scattered atop the fish.
Bambuddha’s signature Sashimi Blossom delivers not only six pieces of super-fresh tuna, salmon, and hamachi, but also a range of seaweeds – all beautifully arranged in an edible tapioca crisp basket. Ebi tempura urumaki combines the raw and the cooked; the sushi roll a fusion number which combines those crispy prawns with avocado, asparagus, onion marmalade and spicy mayo.
The wagyu burger is my highlight of the meal. It transpires that it’s also one of our waitress’s favourites, and a highly popular order amongst regulars. Featuring a soft steamed bao in place of the typical bun, chilli jam, and a Big Mac-style sauce, the whole thing is, quite frankly, finger-licking good – handy, because it leaves delectable meat juices on my digits.
Kowloon King Crab is delivered along with the information that the dish was inspired by the chef’s visit to Hong Kong with his Chinese girlfriend. How faithful the recreation is I can’t comment upon, but what I can say is that the winning combination of sweet seafood, spicy tobanjan creamy sauce and chilli flakes almost moves my dining companion to tears.
Buddhism is big on balance, and we feel that our mostly-healthy meal affords us an indulgent dessert. Or five, for we opt for the two-or-more-person ‘Group Orgasm’ – an assiette showcasing Bambuddha’s sweetest treats.
There are serious pastry skills on show here. A mango-based Anni Xian Bing creme brulee is lifted with a zip of ginger; dots of violet and calamansi gel are teamed with an Aperol sorbet; a toffee and cereal pannacotta is made sweetly savoury by a chocolate-miso ganache and ‘salty butter sand’.
I love the ‘Kietsu’ – a cheesecake-like confection inspired by Japan’s cherry blossom season, but it’s a merry mix-up of coconut milk foam, dulce de leche, banana, Oreo crumb topped with peanut and chocolate ‘roots’ that really floats my boat.
We might not quite have reached nirvana at Bambuddha but we’ve certainly enjoyed our evening… and sampled some rather good food that’s put us on the path to gastronomic enlightenment.
Make it real
Where? Bambuddha, San Juan, KM 8.5, 07840 Santa Eulària des Riu, Ibiza, Iles de Baleares, Spain
Find out more: To visit the website, click here