I've always had a problem with the "F" word. No, not that one, I'm taking "fusion". For me it smacks of naff, dated ideas or worse, really confused, gimmicky flavour. But I think my issue is just the word as tweaks, twists and inspirations from other cuisines are often to be subtly found on our plates. Señor Buddha has always worried me though. The name, the Spanish and Asian tapas concept, the brash type on the logo (yes REALLY this affects me) and the location. But as Bincho Yakitori has recently taught me, I need to get over location issues pretty sharpish.
This is also one of the smallest restaurants in Brighton with just a handful of tables. At 5'1", I could easily have the shortest legs in Brighton but sat at the bar overlooking the compact open kitchen, even I wasn't the most comfortable. But this is where the action is, so just side saddle up and enjoy the cooking front row.
And straight from the off, I knew I'd got this place all wrong. The dishes were refined, exciting and enticing.
I order the cauliflower steak and pineapple just to see what bonkers turns up on the plate. Hat eaten, this just works. The previously sous vide cauliflower is charred and served with lightly cooked pineapple and a subtle yellow curry sauce. I'm still thinking about it a week later as I still don't understand how the flavours were in perfect balance, but they were indeed. If they still have it on, you must order this.
The dramatic dish of salt and pepper squid sat on top of a squid ink and romanesco sauce was outstanding. This was the best squid I think I have ever eaten, superbly tender and sweet with a light, seasoned cornflour coating to give it that delicious crunch from the fry.
My dining companion was slightly horrified at the thought of the blood sausage mocilla, but soon polished it off after tasting how good it was. Served with scallops, this classic combination was given a new dimension with a cauliflower and coconut puree.
Good ol' patatas bravas that we all know from our Spanish holibobs had Asian inspiration very much alive and kicking in a fiery ginger and shallot sauce. Most of the other dishes were quite subtle but this one had all guns blazing and luckily I adore spicy food.
The crispy confit duck leg was another great dish full of textures, served with a subtle Asian pear, pea and coconut puree.
Lastly the beautifully butterflied, grilled sardines (top image) were the perfect summer dish perched on top of a light, fresh papaya, chilli and onion salad to cut through those glorious fish oils.
Desserts here are minimal but I'm not one for them anyway. They do stock my favourite Boho Gelato who I'm sure will have have come up with a perfect flavour for them.
Señor Buddha is casual and affordable—amazingly so—and you would expect to pay a heck of a lot more for the same food in a fancy fit out with a more premium location. I'm not sure if it's a shame or not that it is due to find a second home in a more central spot. It will do amazingly well, but there is also something nice about it feeling like a hidden gem off the beaten track. Even though there seems to be a huge influx of restaurant chains invading the city (luckily all going down the Marina by the look of it), it's these small, off-beat indies that have made Brighton the dining destination it has become.
The food is far more sophisticated than the concept initially reveals, with a lightness of touch and very clever flavour working. Forget everything you may know about typical Spanish tapas - this is a different perspective on familiar dishes and makes for very unique dining in Brighton.
9 Preston Rd