Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Smokin' Buddha: Port Colborne, Ontario

A long time ago, I used to live on Lake Erie in Wainfleet, Ontario. I loved this house – it was breezy, surrounded by trees and water and I always had the very best naps outside on the deck. Our neighbours were the Echlin’s, Kevin and Kyla, and after years of being out of touch, I was lucky enough to reconnect with them a few months ago while visiting their restaurant The Smokin’ Buddha in Port Colborne, Ontario.

Avocotta dip
Located in the old train station, the Smokin’ Buddha has a warm, cozy vibe, with super friendly service and an impressive menu. What started out as a small stall at the Port Colborne Farmer’s Market (in which he used to sell the very best homemade mango salsa I have ever had!) in 2005, blossomed into a successful restaurant that officially opened on October 5th, 2007. The menu and set up of the restaurant are largely inspired by his time in Japan, with the addition of other colourful, bright and unique dishes from all over.

When I visited a few months back, my good friend Sarah and I decided to try a few different items. We of course, however, started with some beer... but not just any beer. Kevin partnered up with Great Lakes Brewery in Etobicoke and created the Smokin’ Buddha lager. This lager is the perfect balance to the varied and often spicy offerings available on the menu.

Bulgogi bowl
For our appetizers, we started with the Avocotta Dip – an avocado and cottage cheese guacamole hybrid. The dip was creamy and light and despite not being a particularly huge fan of cottage cheese, it worked well with both the chips and the antejitos. Antejitos are one of my favorite appetizers and this place does them better than anywhere else. For those of you who have never tried them, they typically include a mix of beans, corn, peppers, cheese and spices in a flour tortilla which gets rolled, then baked and then cut into bite size pieces. Where the Buddha’s are best however, is in the fact that they coat the outside of the tortilla in a spicy dry rub, before quickly frying it and then serving it. Perfection!

Lavender Crème Brulée
For our mains, Sarah ordered to Yam-A-Rito and I ordered the Bulgogi Bowl, two of the Buddha’s staple items. The Yam-A-Rito is a delicious sweet potato tortilla, with salsa, cheese and a bit of heat. It was sweet, savoury and very filling! My Bulgogi bowl was filled with tender sesame, ginger, garlic and soy sauce marinated beef, cucumber cut into matchsticks and shredded carrots on top of warm rice. The dish had the perfect balance of saltiness and flavor, and I have since been trying to replicate it at home!

As if all of that food wasn’t enough, we decided to order dessert. 3 words = Lavender. Crème. Brulée. It was heavenly. Light, sweet but not too sweet, with just a subtle hint of lavender. It was the absolute perfect ending to our meal and further proved why The Smokin’ Buddha is doing as well as it has been. Did I mention that they were featured on You Gotta Eat Here? Well they were, and you do!