Sunday, February 28, 2010

Adventures in Veggie Dining: Red Bamboo


This is the kind of restaurant in that's paradise for adventurous vegetarians (and oddly enough, it's two doors down from a similarly awesome Chinese restaurant called Vegetarian Paradise 2.  More on that in a minute.)  If you're a veggie, you're used to the experience of going to a restaurant and opening up a glossy,  wide-ranging menu only to be segregated to a tiny box on the lower left-hand side of the back page listing "vegetarian options."  The menu at a place like Red Bamboo, on the other hand, completely inverts this situation.  While on first glance it looks like a traditional high end "soul food" joint with items like "Creole Soul Chicken," "Oxtail Stew" and "Codfish Cakes," but the kicker is the preface at the beginning of the menu:  it's all completely and totally vegetarian.  

About 12 years ago, Vegetarian Paradise 2 provided my very first experience in faux-meat dining and has held a very special place in my heart ever since.  I first discovered it again last fall during my first failed attempt to snag student rush tickets to David Cromer's Our Town at the Barrow Street Theater (there's a $40 deal on Playbill right now.  You won't regret it.)  But my traveling companion at the time was not in a gastronomically adventurous mood, so we passed on.  

Last night, however, I was on them move with my favorite veggie partner-in-crime Laura, up from DC.  I presented her with the idea of checking out a vegetarian Chinese place, and she was all for it.  As we approached our destination, we passed by Red Bamboo first on our right.  Drawn by the bright red-tiled exterior, she perused the menu and asked if I'd mind eating here instead.  Always up for an adventure, I eagerly stepped down the steps into one of New York's many little holes-in-the-wall.

Though the set-up of Red Bamboo is rather snug, the decor is tasteful with soft hipster music in the background.  For an appetizer, we decided to share the Cajun Fried Shrimp.  Now while I've been a veggie my entire life, I did dabble with some meat items during a rebellious period of high school, and fried shrimp was one of the few dishes I had actually sampled during that period.  So my evaluation of this dish carried a tiny bit of clout.  Visually, the dish was stunning.  Four breaded, shrimp-shaped pieces with cocktail sauce in the center.  Biting in, it was hard not to be impressed by the attention to detail in the pink tails and the white "meat." Taste-wise, Laura and I were both extremely impressed.  The "meat" was tender and the breading well-seasoned.  

For the entree, Laura and I both decided to avoid the many faux-chicken items, not because faux chicken isn't amazing, but it's so readily available and this was a special treat.  Laura decided on the Ginger Beef and I chose the Butterfly Soy Chops with fresh apple-raisin sauce served with collard greens, veggie ham and corn mashed potatoes.  Both dishes were elegantly presented and were generous portions.  While I found the ginger in Laura's dish a bit strong for my tastes, she liked it just fine, the tender "beef" strips stir-fried with garlic, ginger, scallions, carrots, sugar and snap peas served with white rice.  My butterfly soy chops were a site to behold:


When I read the words "apple raisin sauce" i had pictured something more liquid like and was delighted to see whole sliced apples and raisins.  The perfect flavor and moisture of the fruit provided a wonderful balance to the dryness of the chops.  The collards with "ham" bits and the sweet corn mashed potatoes were forgettable, but serviceable enough to provide a balance of textures to the breaded "pork" and the fruit.  

My only major gripe was with the service, which was on the slow side.  And the fact that they were out of the organic peach beer.  But if you're in Greenwich Village looking for a reasonably-priced vegetarian adventure with enough variety to please everyone in your party, save a place for Red Bamboo on your itinerary.

Red Bamboo
(212) 260-7049
(212) 260-1212
140 West 4th Street
(between 6th ave & macdougal)
12:30 to Midnight
Noon to Midnight
Last Seating:
Sun - Thurs: 11:15
Fri: 11:40
Sat: 11:40
Delivery Until 11PM Daily


1 comment:

  1. Glorious adventuring in faux meat land with you! - Laura