Despite offending the sensitivities of millions of Buddhists around the world, the Buddha Bars flourish in Paris, Dubai and Monte Carlo. Now a new branch has opened in Washington DC.
Here we publish extracts of a review that appeared in the Washington Post’s Going Out Guide under Bars and Clubs, flagged as Editors’ Pick.
Buddha Bar's worldly vibe
By Fritz Hahn
Friday, June 4, 2010
The buzz: Buddha Bar, which first opened in Paris in 1996, has a solid international reputation, with branches in such cities as Dubai, Kiev and Monte Carlo. The lounge is also known for its soundtrack mixes, which combine house, world music and chilled-out grooves, and are sold around the world.
A main factor in its appeal: Though Buddha Bar has all the trappings of a nightclub, from DJs to bottle service, it is primarily a restaurant, serving food until 1 a.m. on weekends, so it draws an older, not-quite-clubbing crowd.
Perhaps that's why there was such a buzz a few years ago when a group of investors announced they were bringing Buddha Bar to Washington. Despite, or maybe because of, those expectations, the place has been given a mixed reception since its opening in early May on the edge of Chinatown. It has been both welcomed with open arms and subject to a bit of a backlash.
The international reputation probably explains the Tower of Babel vibe I've gotten on occasion, catching snippets of Hebrew, French, Spanish and Italian floating through the lounge.
And more than once, I've found that the people hanging out were here for a convention and came over because they'd been to the Paris original.
On the other hand, a friend jokes that the place is like "Hot Tub Time Machine" -- make that "Night Club Time Machine" -- because its aesthetic feels dated. Where we've seen an increase in mixologists crafting old-school cocktails, Buddha Bar has a menu heavy on drinks based on flavored vodkas and a full section of Saketinis, which were last a big deal in D.C. around the turn of the millennium. While popular lounges have shifted to a minimalist, modern look (think Current, Josephine or the Shadow Room), Buddha Bar's decor is a sumptuous mix of deep reds and burnished golds, from the walls to the low couches in the lounge.
Floor-to-ceiling curtains line the front walls. A 20-foot Buddha statue, brought from Indonesia, gazes serenely over the dining room. The lighting is soft and flattering. Despite the two-story ceilings, Buddha Bar never feels cavernous. (The only odd note: the glowing white cube of a DJ booth set high on one wall, which feels distinctly out of place with the rest of the room.)
Music, too, sticks to Buddha Bar's worldly oeuvre: downtempo electronica, Bollywood remixes. The sound system is world-class, with dozens of speakers. A DJ from the Parisian Buddha bar is in charge until later this month, when locals will take over.The warm vibe was an instant hit with Stephanie Carpenter and her husband, Khaalis, who were enjoying drinks in the lounge with friend Shelly Dames.
"It's sensual," said Stephanie Carpenter, 37. "It has a really sexy feel." She had almost as much praise for her house BB Gin and Tonic, which adds mint, vanilla sugar and grapefruit to the familiar mixed drink.
"I think it's beautiful," said Dames, 37. "The ambiance is luxurious. I want to have a party here."
The scene: Happy hour draws suited work groups, couples grabbing snacks at the bar, and plenty of girls-night-out get-togethers around tables in the lounge. One night, a group of men on their way out told me "the ratio [of women to men] in there is probably 3-to-1." They weren't far off.
On weekends, the music gets a little louder, as does the buzz from the crowd, and there are more people standing around the bar. (Despite the focus on the DJs, Buddha Bar doesn't have a dance floor.)
It’s upto Buddhists in the US to take it up
By Himal Kotelawala
The controversial Paris-based restaurant Buddha Bar opening this May in Washington D.C., USA did not make local headlines. The world famous restaurant chain that operates under a Buddha theme is known to serve liquor and meat products to its customers and has previously sparked controversy in Buddhist countries including Sri Lanka.
A 20 ft Buddha statue brought down from Indonesia adorns the recently opened restaurant located at 455, Massachusetts Ave., NW Washington, DC 20001.
When contacted by The Sunday Times, Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne who is also the Minister for Buddhist and Religious Affairs said he was not aware of the matter but added that Buddhists living in the US could raise the issue with the Ministry of External Affairs.
The Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington however did not respond to our e mails regarding the Buddha Bar.