202 106th Pl NE
Bellevue WA 98004
What... No Chinese Food For You!!
By: Steve G
The name is Bamboo Garden, but don't get it confused with the Bamboo Garden on Roy St. in Seattle. This Bamboo is on 106th Street in Bellevue and serves food that is infinitely better than what used to be served here in yester-year. Bamboo Gardens used to be known as Cheng Du, a buffet that served mediocre food at best with extremely dark lighting and very drab atmosphere. Some of our reviewers have been there in the past with much chagrin and it was hardly worth mentioning much less claiming to have eaten there.
As we walked through the entrance, we were a little skeptical about what we were about to get treated to. Bamboo Garden has completely overhauled all the decorations, menus, and pretty much everything else about it, to completely eliminate any memories of what used to stand there. Much to our dismay and pleasure, the entire restaurant had a dark, modern look to it with walls outlining the restaurant and pieces of the bamboo sectioning off portions of the room. The bamboo is so thickly placed that for a second we thought we were eating on the set of House of Flying Daggers. Along the edges, raised up booths with hardwood tables and cushy seats provide a little intimacy for groups while the middle portion of the restaurant served smaller parties.
The ambient wall lighting and high ceilings made the room seem very spacious and while they aimed for a more realistic experience in Chinese cuisine (i.e. waitresses in Chinese dresses), it sort of came off as a little too over the top. But compared to what used it used to look like, it is a very refreshing take.
While the décor and ambiance is only one facet of the restaurant, the most important element is the quality of food. Bamboo Garden offers a menu packed full of food that took us quite awhile to decide what to order. We settled on the Green Onion Pancake, Chen Du Dan Noodle (Hand Shaven Noodles), Tea Smoked Duck, and Seafood Hot Pot.
The Chen Du Dan Noodle was an interesting take on the hand shaven noodles. We were expecting something a little different. The dish came in a huge soup bowl, with sliced pieces of noodles mixed into the soup. As we starting gorging ourselves on the noodles, the soup had a spicy taste with an accent of peanut sauce. Served within large bowl with scallops and shrimp, the seafood hot pot does not skimp on any of the fixings. The Green Onion Pancake is one of those great appetizers that has you additively munching on piece after piece. Within a few minutes, you've eaten the entire plate, hungry for more. The dish came with nine pieces and was served with a side of soy sauce, the pieces were substantial thick and still hot to the touch.
What is the difference between normal roasted duck and tea roasted. Just as the name implies, it is prepared and roasted on a heap of tea and wood. In the words of Austin Powers,"But what does all that mean Basil?" It simply equates to mouthwatering, smoky and tender.
Service was not the highlight of Bamboo Garden, as the minutes turned into hours before we were finally able to flag down a waitress to take our order. At one point, we looked to our left to see two of the workers engaged in a pretty heated exchange of words, that of course is in Chinese. After that long ordeal, the food came out relatively fast with dishes being served within a few minutes of each other.
Overall, the amount of portions were gigantic and the quality was top notch. Easily comparable to some of the top places in the International District, you would be hard pressed to find a better place in downtown Bellevue. (If you mention P.F. Changs we guarantee a quick judo chop to the face.) All joking aside, the service is very suspect and while at times it may not be the ray of sunshine that you would expect to be standard, but the food is too good to pass on. If you're willing to take the good with the bad, you'll be treated to some of the best food around.
Follow-Up (11/09/07): Though the food is still good, it would appear that Bamboo Garden has trimmed down the menu size from it's full opening glory. The management has informed us that some of the dishes have been moved to a new side menu titled, "Walk on the Wild Side". So if you were an early diner at Bamboo Garden and can't find what you're looking for on the regular menu, ask for the side menu instead.
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