Pan-Asian cigar lounge Bu Da has "finally" made it to Indy, according to predecessing reviews. Indeed, most medium-to-large-size cities have an Asian concept lounge with the requisite Buddha statues and red and black motif, as does this one. Walk past Bu Da Lounge's sloped-ceilinged bar area, and a humidor provides the goods for smoking cigars like one was an Asian emperor. A seat in the place's two plush, high-backed chairs up front should complete the illusion.
The team behind Bu Da is solid: Brothers and owner team Steven and Binh Phan are no strangers to Indy's food and drink scene. Binh Phan used to oversee the cigar collection at Nicky Blaine's, and could always be relied on for mixing a killer cocktail. He demonstrates this insuppressible talent again from behind Bu Da's snug bar, which is fitted with plenty of cutting-edge and top-shelf booze, wine and Japanese microbrews.
Indeed, Bu Da Lounge's strength lies in its drinks. Generous Binh poured me plenty. I started with the "Dirty Geisha" ($9), a classic martini given Asian zing with the addition of a pickled ginger juice and ginger-stuffed olives. I was a little apprehensive about the substitutions and additions, but the end result was clean, different and delicious. Look for other interesting additions to the cocktail menu soon, including an elderflower-flavored liqueur that tastes like Eiswein, and a tangy-sweet concoction of honey, cilantro and pineapple vodka that should make its way onto a special drink menu soon.
And did I mention the Hitachino Espresso Stout ($13.50) they carry? Beautiful, complex, full-bodied and a nice, warming 7.5 percent ABV. Pricey, yes, but you can drink this instead of cognac with a cigar. Another (less haunting) Hitachino is the lighter Real Ginger Brew - good for eating with sushi.
Ah, the sushi. Many food reviewers have already gone all gushy over these "French inspired" uberrolls. Both the lobster spring rolls ($14.95) and the Four Treasure roll ($16.95) featured springy, crisp tempura, where competitors' attempts can be soggy.
The Four Treasure is DEEP fried with crab and broiled shrimp, then topped with fresh tuna and salmon, finished with a little tobiko and unagi sauce, which tastes a bit like maple syrup. It's nothing short of a big, unwieldy taste explosion. But when explosions go off, sometimes you have a hard time telling what or where anything is. Clean, simple flavors these are not. But there is a definite market for that.
The special lobster ($16.95), baked unagi (eel) with cucumber topped with tempura lobster, got a boost from a spicy togarashi sauce. It was easier to take this tasty roll down in one bite.
Dessert? Try a Foo Dog martini, a creamy take on the Colorado Bull Dog (Starbucks liqueur, Coca Cola, vanilla vodka and cream for $9). Or just have another cigar.
On the Web: Steven Phan talks about Bu Da's background, favorite drinks and sushi rolls.