An elaborate new setup involving plenty of red lacquer and a pervasive dusky amber glow has given sushi-and-cigar purveyor Bu Da Lounge (148 E. Market St., 317-822-8522) plenty of room to spread out and reinvent itself. The multi-level space just east of Monument Circle and west of City Market includes a main room dominated by a monster of a bar left over from the address’s past life as the upscale J. Pierpont’s Restaurant and Bar, one of downtown’s finest during the Market Square Arena days. (Scenes from the movie Eight Men Out were filmed in the vintage classical revival building.) From there, the space honeycombs into dark nooks and sexy ante bars adorned with Buddha statues, paper lanterns, and lotus motifs.
The square footage lends itself to multitasking—designated spots for sipping, puffing, and getting the VIP treatment in private upper-level rooms with bottle service and dedicated bars. But the menu has changed only slightly, with the addition of a few lunch items and a new emphasis on noodles. A no-nonsense pho is heavy on the broth and light on the add-ins, and a pungent lunch-time Sriracha Noodle entree features egg noodles so saturated with heat that the dish will likely appeal to only the staunchest rooster-sauce fans. The Asian Beef Noodle Soup contains large hunks of stewed beef, carrots, daikon, onion, and cilantro in a rich brown broth with a giant tangle of egg noodles at the bottom of the bowl. Cajun Cigar Chips—a surprise standout on the appetizer menu—are ethereal little housemade crisps, flecked with fennel and served in a wooden cigar box.
But in the spirit of not fixing what isn’t broken, Bu Da is sticking to its sushi guns, offering the same menu of dolled-up specialty rolls that earned it a loyal following in the first place. The Hot Blonde (a tempura roll topped with tuna, a sliver of jalapeno, and a crosshatch of sauces) and the Bangkok (stuffed with sauteed cabbage and carrots and topped with teriyaki chicken) still deliciously typify the convoluted tempura-fried, masago-sprinkled, aioli-doused sushi offerings. No wasabi required (or provided).