Heavenly Bamboo East 39th Street - A Shameful "Chinese" Lunch
At the recommendation of another chowhound's downright gushing review of this new small chinese midtown restaurant I finally decided to try it for lunch today. Big mistake.
Either I ordered completely wrong (although by the looks of every other dish I saw, I do not think so) or this place is destined to be closed within a year.
It seemed promising. A $6.95 lunch special - not so unusual for asian style restaurants, after all, it's pretty easy to eat cheapy with this kind of food frequently. Dishes sounded out of the ordinary. The deal with you got a small cup of soup (and not the usual wonton, egg drop, there was something called "country soup", hot and sour and a couple of others) - your entree, rice, and 2
"appetizers of the day". Sounds like quite a spread, no?
The waiter was new and didn't know anything about the menu at all and had to keep on asking others for help. Ok, I can excuse that. The a/c wasn't working very well. I'll excuse this too - it's 90 degrees out. The tea came to the table - but no cup was given. I had to flag the waiter down for one several times. That kind of annoyed me - but again, he's new so, I'll cut him some slack again.
So, I ordered the country soup and the crispy duck with salted pepper (sp), and white rice and whatever the appetizer was, that would be my surprise.
He brings my soup, the tip of his finger is in it. He puts it in front of me and it dribbles all over the table. Does not offer to clean it up - just walks away.
Again, I make no fuss (today I must be a glutton for punishment). The soup is rather tasty, kind of has a tomato undertone, small pieces of what I think are beef floating in it with lots of onions. Ok, not so bad so far. It's enjoyable. No crispy noodles are given. I don't ask for any - I'm not sure if this is usual or another forgotten item.
My meal comes. A pathetic plating if there ever was one. Slices of duck, on a plate with a couple of pieces of wilted iceberg lettuce, 2 pieces of under ripe tomatos, 2 small slices of oranges. A sad garnish. There is no sauce for the duck, it is served bone dry. Rice is in a small bowl on the side and is lukewarm, making me concerned
about eating it (I've already gotten food poisoning from white rice which was not at proper temperatures before).
Where is my appetizer? I call over the waiter. I mention the appetizer. He points at my plate, to the lettuce/orange "garnish" and says - "that's the appetizer". I'm stunned! What nerve! I say "THAT'S 2 appetizers?" "Yes, vegetable and fruit"
The duck has no flavor at all except for the flavor of the duck itself (which at least was good duck).
This meal was just flat out unacceptable in every way possible as far as a chinese meal is concerned. I've never been served anything so banal and uneventful, so flat and ordinary. Let alone the service.
I heard others there making comments too - a table of 8 co-workers didn't sound pleased and I heard one of them say to another that he wouldn't come back.
For a few dollars more, I'd rather spend my money at Evergreen, as I usually do, where I'm assured a great meal.
My advice - stay away!
I have only had takeout lunch from Heavenly Bamboo and thus have never experienced any of the service issues you wrote about. For takeout lunch, I think it's a good deal, inexpensive and at least average Chinese food if not better (by the standards of Chinese takeout joints). I like the fish or chicken with Chinese cabbage entree.
Ironically, my one experience with Evergreen last year (a takeout lunch) was very possibly the single worst meal I have ever had in NYC, as every dish was inedible and had to be thrown out.
That's really unusual for Evergreen. We a guy in our office who is originally from China, and he thinks Evergreen is (for the most part of course) pretty darn good. However, as is usual, the take out menus/special lunch menus for chinese restaurants are not the same as ordering off the in-house more expensive menu, which is what we do when we go out as a group so I guess anything is possible.
Curious tho, what did you receive as "appetizers" on your take-out dish from Heavenly Bamboo?
I don't think they advertise takeout as including "appetizers". It does include a salad, which I think is the same as your sit-down "appetizers". So basically for about $7 you get salad, soup, entree, brown (or white) rice and a fortune cookie. Good deal.
Other people in my office eat at Evergreen on occasion and don't complain, so my meal there was seemingly an aberration. But it was so bad that I am never going back.
I'm one of those who have recommended Heavenly Bamboo, a.k.a. Asia Culture, but I've never been there for lunch. What this place does really well is dinner, especially Shanghai specialties – lion's head meatballs, Wu Xi ribs, sauteed eel with leeks, etc. None of those dishes is available on the lunch special. So I wouldn't say you ordered wrong, I'd say they wrote the lunch menu wrong.
Then again, offering the office crowd a more familiar American Chinese lunch menu is not necessarily a bad thing. But the strategy fails if they have the C-team working the kitchen and the dining room. Sounds as if lunch is an afterthought here.
Thanks for the warning. I wouldn't write the place off for dinner.
re: squid kun
I'll keep that in mind if I'm ever staying around after work. It sounded so promising, the other side of the menu looked very appealing but spending $25 on myself for lunch made no sense and if the same people are cooking the "better" food that time of day anyway, it probably isn't going to be any "better" than the lunch special.
Lunch however, was a different story. Everyone eating there looked just, well, sad to be there. Thanks for the heads up about dinner - perhaps I'll try it at some point.