The bottom line: Expensive, sophisticated, and with an array of delicious food!
Baku is one of Charlotte’s latest hot restaurants. It’s a tapas style Japanese robata restaurant in the South Park area. Being the voracious foodie that I am I wanted to try this place from the minute I saw a couple of pictures of their menu items. I can’t even tell you when was the first time I saw the first image but it kind of became an obsession after that. Multiple commitments kept me out of town for a while or every time I wanted to go someone in my party didn’t want to wait for a table, or we just couldn’t get a reservation for a convenient time.
Finally, on a Sunday night I was able to get a group together and off we went to feast despite the fact that I had been feeling sick all day (no rest for the obsessed foodie I tell you!). I drove up to the restaurant and their lot was empty. They still had valet parking available for those that want to impress their dates, I suppose. I happened to arrive at the same time as one of my other friends and we walked in. We immediately noticed the dim lighting and fancy atmosphere. You know the usual. This is where it gets a little odd. We stand in front of the hostesses (there were two of them) and I told them we had a reservation. They didn’t really know what to do with us. I mean hello greet me, mark off my reservation, and take me to a table. No, instead we stood there awkwardly for a moment or ten and had to ask to be taken to our table to end the interminable awkwardness. My friend and I sat and just looked at each other and wondered what the heck just happened. We considered telling a manager or another member of the staff but I really just don’t like causing any trouble at restaurants. Unless it pertains to my food, of course.
The rest of our friends arrive and we get down to business. The Baku menu is mostly small plates and is organized so that appetizer-like items, skewers, sushi, salads, and vegetables are ordered first and then later on the meats in different sections. The plates will come out one after the other but not at the same time. Our waitress explained all of this very patiently and gave many helpful suggestions (and she was perfectly normal thankfully).
We started with the spicy edamame. I have had edamame just smothered in chili sauce and other spices several restaurants lately. It’s a messy process but I love it. Edamame is not something that I always liked but it grew on me. Bathed in spice it is simply magical. Be warned that you will be licking your fingers afterward.
Next we had the chicken skewers (not pictured) and the pork belly skewers. The chicken was simple and delicious. It was heavily spiced and you could tell that it was cooked over a fire. I took a picture of it but in my haste to get my greedy little fingers on it the image did not turn out well.
The pork belly was even better. The bits of burnt pieces just added to the flavor complexity mixing with tangy sauce. It was served with a side of kimchi that had additional flavorings for an additional kick.
Next up was the tempura. I am not a fan of fried things so I hesitantly bit into it and it was good. It wasn’t overly oily (as fried things tend to be) and the accompanying sauce had a nice tanginess and kick to it.
Next up was the sushi and the chirasi. Our sushi rolls had bits of jalapeño on it and it added a nice spiciness to it. I wasn’t a fan of the chirasi. The rice just wasn’t right for sushi and it was hard to eat and split.
After that is was time to even out the bad with the good a little. We had the roasted beet salad, which is made with spinach and apples. It was refreshing and delicious.
The roasted sweet potato was next and holy that was delicious. The sweetness and smokiness of it just made it the stuff of dreams. We ordered to plates of this dish for our table and you can bet that I made sure to snag more than my fair share.
After that one of my other friends and I decided to split the foie gras dish. After spending so much time in France I guess it would be unfair to compare it to what I had there but this one simply didn’t do it. It was a little runny and for the price I will skip it next time. It did have a fun presentation as you can see from the gallery above.
After that is was a meat comma session. We started with the baby back ribs (savory and delicious), the wagyu beef tataki, and the spicy filet of beef. The wagyu beef tataki was a star. The crunchiness of the vegetables paired with the softness of the meat was just excellent. The picture above just does not do it justice. The spicy filet of beef was excellent as well, soft, tender, and perfectly cooked. This was probably my favorite part of the meal although a lot of it was truly an experience.
Throughout our whole time there the restaurant wasn’t really full but a different host of characters walked in throughout the night. The overly loud date couple, the group of girls in their hot outfits (the boys in my party really enjoyed this), and the group of four seated next to us. The table next to us was wrapping up their meal when we arrived and dessert had just arrived. I wish I could have taken a picture because the presentation of the dessert was just stellar. Truly a work of delicious art. We were all too full by the end to order dessert despite the small bites taken from each plate. Next time.
I will warn you that this a very pricey experience. One of the members of my group added that he was going to have to stop dining with this crew after that little expedition.
And the thing about Buku is that it’s just different. It doesn’t feel like Charlotte. Or maybe it is the new Charlotte that is starting to emerge. Either way I am left with mixed feelings because while I don’t necessarily care for the environment that Baku is selling I am just enamored with the food and at the end of the day that is what it is all about for me.