After last week’s story about a man being asked to leave Fat Buddha for wearing shorts, everyone concerned was glad I hadn’t made that particular sartorial choice on a visit here on Saturday night.
While the jury may still be out on dress codes at restaurants, everyone around me seemed to have made an effort when it came to dressing for dinner at this new kid on the block. Seaburn’s been missing somewhere swish for a long time, but this site, though controversial at the planning stage, is certainly bringing a buzz to the former seafront shelter.
I’d booked a month in advance and, even then, couldn’t get the time slot I’d initially asked for – it may have been open two months, but the hype is still huge.
Does it live up to said hype? On my visit, it certainly did.
The decor is all about grabbing your attention, from the metal tendrils which trail to the floor either side of a central catwalk-esque walkway to the eponymous fat buddha statues and stocky wooden chairs carved into the shape of crabs.
It’s an impressive interiors effort, but it can’t quite compete with the uninterrupted views of Seaburn beach which stretch out before you. Few things could.
In the restaurant section, the prime views are reserved for the tables for two which hog the window seats. There’s room for larger groups on the bigger tables and booths.
While the view is Sunderland at its best, the menu will take your taste buds on a trip around the Far East, from South Korea and Japan in the north down to Vietnam and the Philippines en route to Indonesia and Malaysia, and not forgetting the most familiar dishes of Thailand.
As you’d expect from a menu which straddles so many countries, it’s got a vast range of choice with plenty on there to tickle most palates, from a mild crispy aromatic duck (£11.95 for a quarter) to a more eye-watering Thai red curry (£13.80), as well as a more than decent vegetarian section for those who eschew meat.
We chose to get stuck straight in by sharing edamame beans (£3.50) and prawn crackers, £2.50 – though it always irks being charged for something other restaurants offer for free.
I chose the salt and chilli king prawns to start (£6.75). The menu warns you it’s spicy, and it’s lip-tinglingly so. I had to take a break from my wine to glug water on more than one occasion. The stir fry base was a colourful taste sensation but the more subtle nuance of the prawns still shone in all their plump glory.
I’d heard mixed reports about the service ahead of booking here, but I couldn’t fault ours which was attentive and amenable to our picky requirements, even timing our mains to accommodate one friend’s late arrival (and, no, they didn’t know they were being scrutinised for a review).
Despite the staggered order, all arrived together. Lips still feeling flush from my starters, I was slightly wary of the Singapore vermicelli (£12.50) but the waiter served the dish’s chillis on the side so I could spice up my life as much or as little as I fancied.
It arrived in a deep, ergonomic bowl – none of your roof tile nonsense here – and was almost full to the brim with a huge heap of moist springy super-thin noodles punctuated by king prawns and char siu pork with bean sprouts adding some crunch to the proceedings.
Forget your flaccid take-away versions, these were Singapore noodles worth singing about.