Bu•ku Global Street Food, Raleigh

grilled octopus lemon, white bean, potato, paprika oil, toasted garlic

You had me at Global Street Food. And the menu is even more tantalizing. Hot pot. Pierogi. Biryani. Koren BBQ. Sashimi.

Buku is a new place in the Progress Energy building in downtown Raleigh. It’s the same chef as the former occupant, Fin’s, which I never went to, but understood to be a nice place. The chef, William D’Auvray, is committed to responsible practices in fishing and farming. The menu says:

Chef William uses only wild caught, sustainable, finned fish, shellfish, crustaceans and mollusks obtained in the round and from fisheries using artesian methods passed on from previous generations. All “farm-raised” species are all natural and organically raised, with only the highest standards of humane practices.

Local farms as well as other farms in the US, France, Costa Rica, Spain, Thailand, Greece, Japan, Mexico and Canada supply our kitchen. The world is a smaller place and an abundance of the best quality and diversity of ingredients are obtainable now, this is truly the time to enjoy them!

I went last night with some friends and we did splitsies on lots of dishes. Most items on the menu are small dishes that are best split so everyone gets a taste. One of the best things about this is that everyone has such different tastes. I never would have picked the poke, but it was one of my favorite dishes. The soups, breads, pastries, salads, rice and sauces are smaller dishes for starting (your pregame warm up)—except for the hot pot, which is a large bowl that can be split by four people.  Then there are small plates of fish and seafood and slow-cooked meats. The “In Off the Street” portion of the menu features large entrees.

Here’s how our meal progressed.

This is the first item listed on the menu and after reading the description I was already sold. A fragrant broth is my weakless, and this broth was spicy and sweet—so comforting and good. This soup hits all five flavor points — salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. It’s a party in your mouth.

hot pot, coconut, red curry, straw mushrooms,braised chicken

The BBQ pork bun is something I usually would not have been drawn to, but I’m so glad I got to taste it. The bun is a soft, and very sweet yeast roll. I wish I had a picture of the inside—chopped pork. The salty pork plus the gooey, sweet bun was a delight. It would be hard to eat just one of these little sandwiches if offered at a food cart on the street. I’m not sure what the garnish is, but it was sweet—perhaps marinated jicama?—and it added a nice crunch to each bite.

chinese steamed bbq pork buns (bao)

The chapati was pretty good—every meal needs a bread! But the chutney stole the show. The bread was just the utensil for eating the chutney. Even though cilantro can be very pungent, this chutney was mild in that flavor. It definitely tasted green and herbal, but it was very sweet and complimented the salty bread like jam.

bad picture of indian chapati with cilantro chutney

What a pretty salad. The mildly spicy and sweet vinaigrette brought harmony to the peanuts and cukes. I know it’s picky, but I really like paper-thin slivers of cucumber if the peel is on. That’s the only thing I would change about this dish. These cool, crunchy veggies were the perfect contrast to some of the fish dishes we ordered.

viet cucumber salad, crisp shallot, chiles, fried peanuts, sweet rice vinegar

Not surprisingly—I loved this crepe! If basil and chilies are involved, I’m on-board.  The crepe alone was really flavorful base, and then stuffed inside were all the goodies: perfectly cooked shrimp (not easy to do), crunchy bean sprouts and hardy mushrooms. The basil added a bright freshness to the bite, and the chili sauce–the heat!

viet crispy crepes, bean sprout, Thai basil, mushroom, shrimp

Now for a vegetarian favorite. The paneer was switched up and served with kale, instead of with the spinach I usually see it with. And the kale was not cooked to hell, but retained some crunch and vegetal taste, and was seasoned with a fragrant dressing. The fried paneer was meaty in texture and filling.

paneer, indian cheese, kale, sweet onion, cardamom

Octopus! Never had it; had to try it. I highly recommend this dish. The grilled octopus was tender, not like a rubberband. And it had a very pleasantly off-the-grill smokiness to it. It was as if the white beans a potatoes shifted to the background in color and texture, and allowed the octopus to really stand out. This dish had some Mediterranean flair.

grilled octopus, lemon, white bean, potato, paprika oil, toasted garlic

Favorite dish here: the Hawaiian yellowtail poke. I created the perfect bite: a bit of plaintain stacked with bits of the poke. There was definitely some wasabi heat, but not overpowering to the lime. This was another dish that was stunning because of color and texture, too. The raw fish was balanced with the cruch of the plantain and small cashew bits. And the dish exemplifies harmony of flavors: salty soy, sweet plantain and poke and sour lime juice.

hawaiian yellowtail poke, cashew, lime plantain, sweet soy

Gratuitously giant dessert. It was devoured in seconds. The crust was nice, the apples were thinly sliced and topped with a granola topping. Lots of cinnamon.

grande apple tart

So there it is. Buku. And we didn’t even scrape the top of the menu. I look forward to some return visits and trying some new items. I mean, we didn’t even get to the pierogis or Korean BBQ! For shame.

But my overall impression is this: Buku gives an incredible amount of detail to presentation, quality of ingredients, harmony of flavor and variety of texture. And even though each dish was from a different part of the world, the dishes were harmonious and enjoyed together. The development of flavor and high standards across each dish kept the meal tied together. And it left me happy and pleasantly full.


6 responses to “Bu•ku Global Street Food, Raleigh

  1. Em – Your camera work is stupendous!!! Three cheers for global street food! I’m officially addicted to steamed pork buns.

  2. rdugonnaeatthat

    Hey there, I just stumbled on your blog on twitter. Really enjoying it so far. I’d heard about Buku but I have not yet had a chance to check out. It looks really tasty. Keep up the good work.


  3. Thanks, Julia! I’m glad we could eat some awesome grub together. You picked out some winners on the menu.

    And thanks, Tony. I hope you’ll go try it for yourself.

  4. Must make a visit to Raleigh immediately! This is on the agenda…

  5. LG- a visit is necessary! I’ll take you on the Southern Living tour, too.

  6. Pingback: Great Review from Foodstalkers | bu ku

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