Restaurant Review #167: Bamboo Village, Sherman Oaks

General Tso's chicken

Though I can recognize that the deep fried, gooey-sweet orange chicken I unabashedly adore is probably a far cry from authentic Chinese food, my knowledge of what makes Chinese food authentic is severely lacking. I'm familiar with dim sum, but I know that eating cow stomach and pork buns served from a metal cart isn't the way every meal is done. So when I read that a self-professed Chinese food snob loved Bamboo Village, I jumped on the recommendation.

Szechuan beef

On a Friday night, our food came so quickly that I jumped when I heard the knock at the door. Everything was steaming hot and the portions were impressive, especially considering that no dish cost more than $10. Bamboo Village also has smaller portions for a couple dollars less, which is great if you're a light eater, like to try lots of dishes, or are dining solo.

Chicken with cashew nuts

The restaurant made a good impression right away with its menu. Most Chinese menus leave me scratching my head because I don't know what Szechuan sauce is, for example. Bamboo Village describes each and every dish, so what you're ordering shouldn't be a surprise. However, I was surprised by my General Tso's chicken, which is prepared similarly to orange chicken at some restaurants. Bamboo Village's version is more akin to kung pao chicken.

All of the dishes smelled delicious. The vegetables mixed in with the meat were a bit different than usual: they included tender zuchinni and thick slices of succulent white mushrooms. The sauces were flavorful and neither too sweet nor too salty.

Hot and sour soup

The hot and sour soup was the highlight of my meal. I used to think that all hot and sour soup tasted basically the same, but I've recently had my share of soups that weren't hot enough or sour enough and had too much cornstarch. Bamboo Village gets the hot and sour soup base just right and crams it with shredded bamboo shoots, woodear mushrooms, egg, and tofu.

The restaurant's disappointing deal-breaker was the quality of its meat. While not the worst protein around (that's reserved for cheap Chinese buffets), rubbery and crunchy fat globules lurked within the meat, which was enough to make me stop eating all but the vegetables in the dishes. Why raise and kill a bird for food if it's not going to taste good?

With so many fine attributes, it's a shame that Bamboo Cuisine's meat, which is the main event in most dishes, is subpar. Not every bite was bad, but far too many were. Based on my experience with the meat, I wouldn't be inclined to try their seafood, either. I might order from Bamboo Village again, but I would be sure to stick with vegetarian dishes.

Bamboo Village
12910 Magnolia Blvd (at Coldwater Canyon Ave)
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
818 763-0083
Bamboo Village Chinese on Urbanspoon


Erin S. said...

bummer about the meat--I've definitely had a similar experience elsewhere. Glad the favorite weekend post produced a recommendation that was worth trying :)

Sara said...

I'm glad you reviewed this place. It's right by my house and I've always wondered about it (I frequent the yogurt shop in the same minimall; Tony's Mexican is also pretty good). Bamboo Village is always empty and I've never understood how it stayed in business, but now I get it--delivery and takeout. Well, thanks for saving me the trip, anyway.

Chubbypanda said...

Well done. I love reading reviews about places like this because they fit so well with my belief that ethnic doesn't have to be authentic to be tasty (although in this case, the results were disappointing).

I'm pure blood Chinese, descended from famous generals, child of gourmands, yada yada. I love Panda Express. It's not really "Chinese for 'tasty'", but sometimes you just need that sweet, steam table lovin'.

Keep exploring and keep writing. I love your style.

- Chubbypanda

SN said...

If you're by the Beverly Center, try California Wok across the street. I dont know how authentic it is but...The meat is always very tender, they always have large shrimp (unlike other chinese places with their tiny anorexic shrimps).
The Wor wonton soup is awesome.
Tho sometimes i feel its a bit on the salty side, overall it tastes very good in my experience.

WillyWonker said...

I understand about the meat issue, and I do find it hard to swallow sometime. After traveling in the Republic of China with my Sister In Law (who is Taiwanese) I realize that it is often those fat globules and ligamentous chewy bits that mark Chinese food as authentic! In chicken the Chinese generally prize dark meat over white, and the bits still attached to the bone are most prized of all. I enjoyed the review and will try this place next time I'm in the Valley.