Unlike other religions, it’s unclear what the rules are around Buddhism and booze.
You could always, I suppose, practice the art of mindful drinking, and be conscious of every sip of your cocktail/beer/spirit.
I’d be into that, but the other non-meditative customers at this new venue (a bar first, I’d guess, restaurant second), seemed to be a bit less Zen when it came to imbibing – especially the ones slumping on their bar stools, monopolising the owner’s time.
This place is in the quirky little building that was once vegan-friendly bistro Iglu, which managed to survive with minimal passing footfall on this quietish lane for 15 years.
(“Where is Jamaica Street again?” people used to always ask whenever I wanted to meet them there.)
It was nice before, but better now. The single room downstairs has been freshened up with reclaimed wood furnishings and a few artworks (like miniature kimonos in tiny frames), while in the upstairs hallway you’ll be welcomed by a carved Buddha.
"Definitely not posh, but it puts the ohm in ohmagadthisistasty"
On their Facebook page, this place bills itself as having a “relaxed atmosphere and positive vibes”. Yeah, we could sense that, man.
The bar snacky Asian tapas style of food is designed to sit perfectly with a few drinks, like my Bitter Jerry (£7) – a mojito style drink with crushed ice, mint, rum and ginger.
It’s fast, for one thing (apart from the drinks, which, strangely, arrived after we were halfway through our starters) and we were speedily served with Wee Hings of veggie haggis wontons (£5.20).
These crispy deep fried parcels of spicy lentil haggis had flamboyant pastry wrappers with billowing tails like comets, Murano glass sweeties or shubunkin.
We also ordered two skewers of chaun satay pork belly (£6.90). These looked unassuming, but tasted as you want something to after a couple of tinnies – peanutty, chilli-spiced and charred. Bit pricey, but money is just a material possession.
The set of five gyoza (£6.50) were equally satisfyingly elemental. These pale crimp edged dumplings had toasted underbellies, as well as a hot and satisfyingly salty-juicy filling of chicken and leek. We also loved the soy dip that came with them, which was full of long threads of ginger.
There aren’t many Bowls & Chopsticks mains to choose from – four on our visit. At least that makes for easier decision making if your beer goggles have misted up.
I opted for king prawn Singapore style rice noodles (£8.90), which was like a basin of comfortingly hot wet knitting, with knots of vermicelli noodles, pearly beansprouts, pak choi, eggy omelette bits, and plenty of fat bouncy prawns, all with a light tang of oily sesame. It probably could’ve been pimped up with additional veggie bits amongst the general tangle, but the food in here hits the spot nonetheless.
Our Malay chicken curry (£7.90) featured a coconutty blanket of softly spiced turmeric-coloured sauce, with loads of meaty dollops, peppers, onions and steamy jasmine-scented rice, all topped with poppyseeds.
There was only one pudding – a lemon cheesecake with grenadine reduction – recommended to us by the pony-tailed waiter. It was good, with a clingy topping of mascarpone sweetened with honey, and a toasty biscuit base, though the grenadine’s only appearance was as a few sticky flicks on the plate. I’d love to tell you how much this dessert was, but they didn’t say when we ordered, and forgot to bill me for it. Free for me, probably not for you.
A visit to this place isn’t necessarily a religious experience, but I have to give it 7.5/10 because it does its thing so well. It knows exactly what kind of grub one wants to have with booze – the stomach lining-ly salty, punchy, sweet and chilli stuff. Definitely not posh, but it puts the ohm in ohmagadthisistasty.
Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £35.40
2b Jamaica Street, Edinburgh (0131-538 1215, www.facebook.com/Wee-Buddha)