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America, May 31, 2005

Surrealist Culture & Cuisine

Dali would've asked for a third round of the Asian BBQ Pork

Where's the grub?
Pre Buddakan
is that a lobster?
belly = full & wallet = empty
Post Buddakan
Memorial Day weekend is the official start of summer, and what better way to celebrate than taking one of the $15 Chinatown buses to Philadelphia for two days of old-school culture and new-school cuisine.

With a retrospective on Salvador Dali as the draw, the Philadelphia Museum of Art provided the cultural infusion I needed. It's been too long since I checked out Dali's masterful strokes. As my favorite Surrealist painter, I've seen many of his works worldwide, from the mass of his works at the Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg, Florida to singular paintings at the Tate and the MoMA.

I also remembered that to have a good museum experience, you need to get to a high-profile exhibition like this early in the day or better yet, on a weekday. The last day of the show, and mid-day on a weekend, Memorial Day weekend no less, generated such crowds I wanted a stick to beat back the others.

All that museuming worked up a surreal hunger. A hunger I dispelled with a trip to Philadelphia's Buddakan restaurant. With friends Jeff, Denise, and Samantha leading the way, I grabbed Dave for a feast of epic proportions.

Starting with 'Colossal Shrimp', which were truly colossal, larger than my head even, and coming in at a wallet-breaking $55, the meal got better with every round. Lamb, duck, beef, fish, and pork were all well represented, especially the pork.

Buddhakan's Asian Barbeque Pork (slices of grilled tenderloin with Chinese broccoli and giant panko crusted onion rings) was melt-in-your-mouth goodness. So good that it starting too many pork jokes and even a fight over the last pieces, and required a second round of pig-meat pleasures.

By the time plates were cleared and bellies bulged, it was a $350 meal (including tips) which might not seem much to hard-core foodies but it was a lot for me. It was worth it though, the food, the conversation, even the demand that I dress up nice. You can see that for yourself in our happy post-dinner faces.

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