There is always a buzz when a new restaurant opens in Key West. But when a new restaurant opens quietly, on the precipice of an impending global crisis, that buzz, unfortunately, tends to fall on distracted ears. Breezy Buddha Fusion Kitchen opened its doors at the end of February, which would normally be the perfect time for a new business to debut in Key West, what with tourist season in full swing and snowbirds and locals hankering for new additions to their dinner destination rotations.
And then, there was COVID.
Restrictions forced many beloved local restaurants to close indefinitely or transition to delivery- and pickup based model. Many Key West residents have taken to the kitchen, jumping on the bread and banana bread baking bandwagon, but for many, the novelty of cooking at home is starting to wear thin. The collective inability to stroll or bike to a favorite neighborhood spot is beginning to chafe. So with so many restaurants operating with limited hours and menus (or not operating at all), it’s exciting to have a new player in the delivery game — especially when the food is as good as what the Breezy Buddha kitchen is serving.
My teeny dinner party (thanks, Mom and Dad) started with Wu-Tang Clams (served in a sake butter and key lime juice broth) and Curry Poutine (French fries topped with a Japanese curry and melted cheese), which were a perfect pair. The clams were juicy and the fries, delicious on their own, were rendered even more so after going for a dip in the leftover clam broth.
On the sushi side of the menu, we couldn’t resist the Spicy Tuna Poppers. Jalapeños are halved and tempura fried, then stuffed with spicy tuna and drizzled with spicy mayo and eel sauce. Beware: You’ll never want to order once-frozen jalapeño poppers from a bar menu ever again. The Naruto Roll (spicy tuna, salmon, hamachi, jalapeño, shiso leaves and avocado, wrapped in a thin sheet of cucumber instead of sushi rice) was a light and fresh take on your typical sushi roll (and, mercifully, not as filling … we still had a lot of eating to do).
A steaming bowl of soup is just about the most comforting meal one can consume, and the Buddha Ramen is the perfect antidote to the ever-present anxiety many of us are feeling. The coconut ginger broth is deep and flavorful and the grilled tofu adds a smoky touch to the dish, plus the addition of meaty shiitakes and crunchy bok choy will make you feel all the more virtuous (the dish is vegan, so bonus points for healthfulness).
On the other side of the food pyramid, there’s the Breezy Burger, which was by far the favorite of the night. One of my dining companions (hi, Dad!) even tossed around the epithet “Best Burger in Key West.” A nice departure from the burgers topped with so many accouterments you can’t even taste the meat, the Breezy Burger is simply served with a slightly sweet teriyaki glaze and addictive fried onions. It’s a delicious example of fusion done right.
It bears emphasizing that dishes like poutine and ramen don’t typically travel well (soggy fries and cold broth do not an appetizing meal make), but all of the food made it from Key Plaza to the heart of Old Town hot and pristinely packed to ensure maximum tastiness. And going back over the expansive menu today, I see at least a half a dozen dishes to add to my delivery wish list. Mama Tong’s dumplings, here I come.