The Greedy Buddha has supersized their little plates of heaven
You can't get too much of a good thing, which is why this Umhlanga restaurant has added full-sized mains to its menu of Asian small plates, writes Shelley Seid
Apparently the mental image of a fat, chortling Buddha that we Westerners carry around with us is a case of mistaken identity.
While the real Buddha - the thin one, born Prince Siddhartha - lived the life of an aesthete, reached enlightenment and became the spiritual leader of millions, another bloke - a chubby, cheerful Chinese monk called Budai - wandered from village to village handing out gifts and treats to children like an alternative Santa Claus.
They don't tell you this at the Greedy Buddha, the Asian-inspired upmarket restaurant just behind Gateway shopping centre, as they portion out great dollops of Budai philosophy - generosity, comfort and joy - even when it comes with the slightly uncomfortable sensation of having gone that one bite too far.
What they do tell you is that their tasting menus are their claim to fame and can include delightful treats like five-spice confit duck pancakes, crispy roasted pork belly on smoked potato purée, chilli chicken steamed wontons or tempura seven-spice prawn tails.
There are varying set options to choose from. For R209 per person, for example, you get a teeny espresso cup of soup, two "Classics" that could include Dim Sum or tempura brinjal, three "Signatures", a half portion of Bang Bang Noodles and - if you have the room - a dessert. For R20 more you get the deluxe option.
This tapas-style style of eating means the grass is never greener, you can have your coriander cake and eat it and you never have to say: "I'm sorry, can I just have a taste."
But greedy is as greedy does and apparently The Greedy Buddha got enough requests for man-size portions to persuade owner Jess Watts to supersize things, overhaul his signature mains and add 11 new items to the menu, all available on big plates for real men.
We tried - in more prudent portions - crispy pork belly and prawn tails with a cauliflower puree that bore no relation to banting; flame-grilled baby chicken with a peanut "satay" sauce; and what could easily be two Oscar-winning fish dishes: kingklip on a coconut and herb risotto with a curry cream and a miso charred salmon sitting on a wizard-of-Oz green wasabi pea puree.
We were a table of seven and try as we might we could not settle on a winner - the jury was well and truly hung, which means keep hedging your bets and go for lots of little plates of heaven. Budai is right behind you.
NEED TO KNOW
Who to take: Gourmands, gourmets and the indecisive
What to drink: Speciality cocktails, a huge choice of wine or something from the full bar service. Or just drink in the Zen of it.
What it costs: Small tapas servings range from R49 to R99 and man-size meals from R149 for flame-grilled chicken to R89 for confit 5-spice duck and R239 for seared miso glazed salmon.
When it's open: Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner. Closed Mondays. For bookings, phone 031-566-4383 or visit greedybuddha.co.za.
Address: Shop 1, 12 on Palm Boulevard, Umhlanga Ridge at Gateway.
• This article was originally published in The Times.