Best Vegetarian Restaurant

Hungry Buddha

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that Blake Brokaw is some sort of genius, if only for the heavenly Hungry Buddha, which cranks out stir-fry weekdays on Washington Avenue. And you don't have to be a genius to not look like an idiot here, either: The concept's basic -- as most brilliant ideas are: Provide some stir-fry fixins -- sprouts, veggies, 'shrooms, nuts, herbs, chiles. Offer them buffet style. Customer plops his fixins of choice into his bowl, sneeze guard between his disease-ridden self and the goods, and when he's done piling produce onto his plate, he presents the package to the pretty princess of the register, who then asks, "Which sauce, kind sir?" You reply, depending on your mood: "I think I'll have ... (Szechuan, peanut, barbecue, black bean, sweet and sour)." "What kind of meat?" You reply: "I do not partake in the wanton slaughter of helpless animals, thank you very much, so I'll be having my entrée sans bloody death. You keep your chicken, beef, shrimp, pork. I'll have tofu." "What kind of base?" You reply: rice, noodles or broth. Then you pay her and go sit while stir-fryers stir-fry the ingredients, add the sauce, sizzle the whole shebang and whisk it, piping hot, right to your table.

The concept's brilliant because, without acknowledging it, Brokaw's offering a menu of -- what, somebody help us -- 5,938,462 different menu items. Somebody call the Guinness people!

In addition to the variety, the plate's damn big for eight bucks, the food's always fresh and the result is uniformly excellent. Here's the genius part: If it ain't any good, you've got nobody to blame but yourself, idiot, because you're the lunkhead who thought shiitakes, peanuts, cashews, tofu and a load of cilantro would taste good mixed in peanut sauce with noodles.

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