A Bad Taste: The Night Buddakan Became Buddakan’t


Recently a group of friends and I gathered at Buddakan to celebrate a birthday. At a long communal table, the 13 of us ordered three $36 pitchers of Zen-gria, rounds of sake, and added on dishes when our waiter suggested that we might not have ordered enough food for the party. We even got dessert — you can’t go to Buddakan without getting the dim sum doughnuts! — even though we had brought along our own personalized chocolate cake.

But as dinner was winding down and we were getting ready for a big birthday sing-along, our waiter informed us that we would be charged $7 per person for the cake. Let me help you with that math — that’s $91, for a cake that cost about $26 at Whole Foods. An additional $91 on a check that had already soared close to $900.

Despite a great meal, the cake matter really left a bad taste in my mouth. A couple of days later I reached out to Starr Restaurant Organization to find out more about this policy, and I received an official response from Stephen Starr via e-mail: “The cake-cutting fee at Buddakan and all Starr restaurants is $7. This fee includes cutting of the cake, as well as plating with ice cream and sauces to create an even more special experience for our guests. This is a standard fee for our restaurants and is waived if the party orders additional dessert.”

Not in our case. After a long argument, the staff finally did bend … sort of. They agreed to slice the cake into quarters, charged us for only four slices, and brought out lots of spoons for sharing. That a manager or waiter wasn’t willing to (or maybe aware that he was able to) override company policy on a $900 bill certainly was discouraging. At least we got this mea culpa from Starr: “We do apologize for our mistake.”

Have you encountered any unexpected charges at restaurants? Let us hear in the comments.