Lucky Buddha: A New Asian-Fusion Cuisine and Craft-Cocktail Lounge in South City

"Thai Basil Smash" and "Buddha Collins" cocktails at Lucky Buddha. | Photos by Mabel Suen
"Thai Basil Smash" and "Buddha Collins" cocktails at Lucky Buddha. | Photos by Mabel Suen

Lucky Buddha (3701 South Jefferson Avenue; 314-833-4568) opened in south city on February 27 in the space previously occupied by Jefferson Bistro. The restaurant's revamped concept comes from chef Rene Cruz, whose career in hospitality includes working as a chef, corporate trainer and local restaurant consultant. His new endeavor features his contemporary take on Asian cuisine, featuring a fusion of flavors inspired by everything from traditional Thai and Japanese flavors to Vietnamese and Chinese dishes.

"I feel a little of extra added this and extra added that creates what we are. I'm trying to use as many bold flavors as I can," he says. "We're very nontraditional. We wanted to keep the basics of the food styles and flavor profiles, but we really wanted to do something unique."

See also: St. Louis Restaurant Openings & Closings: February 2015

"Porkapocalypse" banh mi sandwich with pickled daikon, carrot, cilantro, cucumber and togarashi mustard.
"Porkapocalypse" banh mi sandwich with pickled daikon, carrot, cilantro, cucumber and togarashi mustard.

The sky-blue walls of the restaurant feature a few nods to Japanese icons including decals of Godzilla, Astroboy and Ultraman. Fifteen tables fill the main dining room alongside a full bar; front-patio seating is available, and a large back patio is in the works for later this spring. A private bar and dining room for rent, dubbed Trend Event Space, awaits upstairs.

From the food menu, choose from appetizers including pork gyoza ($7) with spicy-peanut sauce; "Mom's Spring Rolls" ($6) stuffed with ground beef and veggies served with a soy dipping sauce; and vegetable, tofu or meat yakitori ($5-$7) marinated skewers grilled over binchotan (a traditional charcoal of Japan). Salads include options such as "Green Papaya and Cucumber" ($7) in spicy chile-vinaigrette and "Cashew Kale" with lemongrass vinaigrette.

For something more substantial, choose from banh-mi-style sandwiches, steamed buns and customizable noodle bowls (starting at $10) with options including rice, mung bean or udon noodles; traditional pho broth or vegan broth; and toppings including crispy pork belly, soy-marinated egg, Gochujang pork and brisket. Desserts include a "Five Spice Crème Brulee" ($6) and a trio of sorbet ($6).

Chef-owner Rene Cruz.
Chef-owner Rene Cruz.

Lucky Buddha also features an extensive drink selection, with consultation from Keyan Still of Robust and Planter's House. The bar currently offers sake, wine, Japanese whiskey, beer and house cocktails. Choose from options such as the "Buddha Collins" ($9) with Pickney Bend Gin, lemon, lemongrass syrup and creole bitters as well as the "Thai Basil Smash" ($9) with Old Grand Dad bourbon, lemon, strawberry and Thai basil.

Lucky Buddha's current hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., Friday from 5 to 11 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Delivery is also available. For more information, visit the Lucky Buddha website and follow it on Facebook.

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