Steven Starr's vastly expanding dining empire includes some two-dozen restaurants, and though Buddakan opened back in 1998, this Old City temple to Asian cuisine remains one of the hottest tickets in town. Housed in a former post office, the dramatic space is famous for its 10-foot-tall gilded Buddha statue — the centerpiece of a room that also has soaring ceilings, a running waterfall, and a glowing communal table that seats 20. Many dishes are designed to share, and standouts include tuna "pizza," Malaysian spicy lobster, and wasabi-crusted filet mignon. For dessert, it’s all about "crying chocolate cake" — so-named for its soft center.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.