Oxtail egg rolls at Buddha Noodle

Buddha Noodle Oxtail Egg Rolls

By Deanna Fox

You know those online memes that show a horrifically frozen snowy scene and ask, "Why do I live in a place where the weather hurts my face?"

I know the answer: It's because the soup tastes better here.

Soup -- loosely defined -- could include anything from chicken noodle to chili, and it tastes better in the Northeast. If hunger is the best sauce, then is frigid temperature the best seasoning?

I went to Buddha Noodle on a sub-zero day to find out.

I'm convinced Broadway in Saratoga Springs is a wind tunnel. It always feels a bit colder walking in Spa City's downtown, as though the breeze is attempting to catch you at the knee and usher you into any of the restaurants that line this noted promenade. There are worse places to land than a ramen bar like Buddha Noodle -- housed inside of Sinclair Saratoga -- on a brumal evening.

Sinclair Saratoga exterior 2017-December

My friend and I found ourselves there on a slow night in the dead week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, so service was quick and attentive. We opted for a few items from the menu to warm us up, both by temperature and taste.

Buddha Noodle dan dan noodles

Spicy Dan Dan Noodles ($11) came replete with a spicy mixture of ground pork and fermented black bean paste blended with peanut butter and pulverized red chile. Peanuts, scallions, and cilantro leaves topped the noodles and sauce, requiring a hefty mixing and constant tossing with chopsticks to maintain consistent bites. The labor was worth it, however, for the robust flavor and chewy texture the noodle dish provided. It's listed as a small plate but certainly constitutes a meal.

Buddha Noodle ramen

We also ordered the Tonkotsu ramen ($16), made from the many-hour simmer of pork and chicken cast-offs to create the broth of legends. Chashu (marinated pork belly), a six-minute egg, scallions, and bamboo shoots accompanied the broth. Noodles, too. What a bleak dish. The broth tasted bland beyond meek traces of salt and poultry bone, the egg was little more than a rubber puck, and the bamboo shoots were flaccid examples vegetables. We slurped the ramen anyway, mainly because it was hot and we were cold (and nothing good comes from sending a dish back and asking for a replacement... nothing). Based on Yelp reviews that herald this ramen as the best in the region, I take it on faith that somehow we were the outliers. But for a $16 price tag ($4-5 more than comparable menu listings in other ramen-focused restaurants in the area) it is hard to see the Tonkotsu ramen at Buddha Noodle as more than a half-flung attempt at Saratoga's legacy of subpar food skirting by because of the importance placed on videnda, activity, and location.

The real star in our experience at Buddha Noodle was the oxtail egg rolls ($9), fried to a blistering crisp and served with duck sauce. The flavors were pungent and showed how a chef of Brady Duhame's caliber can take the processes and techniques that helped make 15 Church a culinary star (not just in the Capital Region, but in the greater Northeast) and translate them into simple bar food. Oxtail is an intimidating cut for many, but the slow braise that allows meat to slip free of bone and cartilage imparts rich, meaty tones with tender mouthfeel that doesn't stray too far into the unfamiliar for lovers of Chinese take-out egg rolls. The duck sauce is fruity and sharp, marrying apricot and plum with vinegar and biting ginger.

We nursed our ramen disappointment with a few rounds of skee ball in the arcade located in the back of the building. Maybe the ramen wasn't all we hoped for or heard about, but it's hard to discredit any location that pairs trending food with classic entertainment. (And an impressive craft beer offering.)

I'm sure I'll be back soon.

Deanna Fox writes about many things, mostly about food. More can be found on her website, Twitter, or Instagram.

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Find It

Buddha Noodle at Sinclair Saratoga
17 Maple Avenue
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

Comments

Wow $16 for RAMEN? I even think the $10-12 range is too much. You can get a few gallons of amazing pho at Van's for $10. NEXT!

Try the ramen at Fujiya Ramen on Central. It's phenomenal and the broth actually tastes like meat, not just salt.

Haven't tried Buddha Noodle yet, but I'll echo what Amy says about the ramen at Fujiya. Really good, complex flavors--by far the best I've had in this area.

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