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Bamboo Gardens in Bellevue

Anybody been to this place? Supposed to be linked to Szechuan Chef...which is a good thing in my mind.

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  1. I like this place alot. It is tough to identify anything that sets it apart from Szechuan Chef, except maybe its decor is better. I think Chef's menu is a bit more extensive than that of Bamboo Garden, but both places have huge menus compared to 7 Stars Pepper Szechuan in the ID. Here is a post that links to the Seattle Weekly review of Bamboo Garden toward the end. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/10695

    1. I just wrote about it in the Chinese thread further down. I've never heard that it's linked to Szechuan Chef-it doesn't have the same owners. It does have a similar menu to SC and 7 Stars, as well as a former 7 Stars waitress as manager.

      1 Reply
      1. re: christy319

        The waitress also worked at Szechaun Chef--perhaps that's why people think the places are linked. I haven't heard of any other connection between Bamboo Garden and Szechuan Chef either.

      2. The link to SC is that both SC and BG have cooks that were at Seven Star Peppers. I enjoyed BG's Twice-cooked Fish.

        3 Replies
        1. re: kirkj

          Do they have a hot pot at Bamboo Garden?

          1. re: fuzzyboy

            Yes. I haven't tried it but it seems to be a popular order there.

            1. re: equinoise

              UPDATE: Upon a visit tonight, the dinner menu offered at Bamboo Garden had changed drastically. What been a menu of over 150 dishes was probably down to around 100. The previously lengthy "szechuan cold appetizers" were slashed including the delicious and regally named "strange flavor tripe"; the only item remaining was "szechuan cold noodle". The usually popular hot pots were all gone, as were any dishes including intestine or "wild chili pepper". Not surprisingly, all of the Chinese-American banalities readily available anywhere else uniformly avoided the axe. The damp, cold turn in the weather had made me seek the hot pot, so I tried to get it anyway, and the waiter said that it had been purged one month ago. I needled him, asking if the place was "going farang-style" and he just smiled. Later, he asked me privately: "you like Szechuan food?", and I replied that I loved it and was sorry to see the hot pot abandoned. "It is very spicy. American don't like spicy" he said.

              The dishes we did order were prepared as well as before, and those that had been marked "spicy" on the menu were as bright with chile and numbing from szechuan peppercorn as I recalled: dan dan noodle, chongqing hot chicken. The camphor wood and tea smoked duck was rich and tender.

              I was saddened to see hard evidence of a fine restaurant sacrificing its deep and authentic menu and robust flavor to perceptions of the xenophobe palate. While I would like to think these perceptions are often unfounded, I couldn't help but notice that before ordering, several members of my family were greatly preoccupied by avoiding the potential for heat, and devising means of requesting its elimination. Still, catering to this "American" fear seemed sort of spurious--every time I've come in for dinner the patrons have been almost entirely Asian. Maybe its the lunch crowd that seals the deal. Say it ain't so, Bamboo!

        2. The lunch here is a STEAL at $4.99. Can't believe it's so cheap for the quality of food and location. Service is so-so, but at this price I'm more than happy to find my own water pitcher :)

          1 Reply
          1. re: CriticalEater

            Thanks EQ! I did sneak a hot pot in here before they shut it down. Too bad. I love that stuff and I'm disappointed that they changed their menu.

          2. i'm shocked by the good reviews this place has seemed to have gotten. Perhaps it was a fluke, but my brother and i tried this place during it's grand opening month and have never wanted to go back. the soup was woefully underseasoned while the crispy fish was so salty, it was inedible. the chicken was very sweet and was about as good as the general tso's chicken featured at safeway..blech. however, one positive note was the scallion pancake...We were just very disappointed that it was the only thing that we could finish.

            1. I just had the Swimming Fire Fish here (twice in one week!) and it is out of this world. It is a soup with fish, tofu, mushrooms, bean sprouts and a thin red broth. HIGHLY recommended. The staff kept telling us how spicy it is but I really didn't find it THAT spicy--if you are fine with the Szechuan Crab, you'll be fine with this. And, the pancake and dry bean curd with chives were a nice, non-spicy foil to the soup.

              1. I went there for lunch during memorial day weekend.

                All I can say is do not order off the lunch menu. The few Chinese people that were eating there were not using the one sheet lunch menu they gave me.

                6 Replies
                1. re: renes

                  Disagree. There's some interesting stuff on the lunch menu. Alot better than other places. Dry Fried String Beans, Spicy Fish, I've had some other good ones. Soup's always too corn starchy though...

                  Just don't pick the sweet and sour chicken and expect something better than some generic chinese dish.

                  I will agree that the dinner menu is alot more interesting and diverse, though.

                  1. re: GreenYoshi

                    I did not pick the 'sweet and sour chicken'.

                    I picked the 'crispy chicken in hot garlic sauce' and got 'sweet and sour chicken'.

                    Maybe something was lost in the translation.

                    1. re: renes

                      funny....our group also once ordered 'crispy chicken in hot garlic sauce' from Seven Stars Pepper and also got 'sweet and sour chicken'....maybe chef from one went to other

                  2. re: renes

                    Isn't that pretty much the rule of thumb at any Chinese restaurant?

                    1. re: kirkj

                      Well, yeah... My point is that many Lunch Menus have alot of that stuff. Bamboo Garden's has that stuff too, and if you order it, you'll probably be disappointed. (although, to be fair, there are times when what I want is Sweet & Sour Pork and Honey walnut prawns...)

                      BUT unlike other places, Bamboo Garden has other more interesting dishes that people should check out before ignorantly trashing the entire lunch menu.

                      1. re: GreenYoshi

                        You're right. There are exceptions. I found Szechuan Chef's lunch menu an economical way ($5.95 & $6.95) to sample things that I haven't tried. So too at Seven Stars. If you have a group, you can get 3 items for $16.88 or 5 items for $28.88.

                  3. okay, now I'm confused. I read all the past posts, I even went to the website and the place sounds pretty good. Still, i suspect that what my family would want is probably on the special secret must know password menu and I can't tell from what I'm reading if thats available at lunch.

                    Just reading the secret menu, the regular menu and the top twenty menu, there's a lot that looks good there but--and no one is more flumouxed to read this than I am to type it---with the menus all in English without characters, I can't tell whats really there. I mean there are certain dishes that I really "know" by the Chinese characters. If we go there, is in in Characters on the menu? And why does the top 20 menu have stuff---like rabbit which I LOVE--on it that I can't find on any of the other menus?

                    Last and maybe most important, if my husband can ask for it spicy and normal for a sichuanese person IN CHINESE, and the pups verify in Chinese that they want it HOT, will they give it to us as ordered even if we grups are all white guys? Because there is little in the world more disappointing than getting your mouth all set for spicy Sichuan only to be served a lot of dumbed down white guy food [see my thoughts on Old Sichuan on jackson].

                    thank you!

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: jenn

                      Jenn-

                      I am a fan and regular at Bamboo Garden. I have liked almost everything I have tried here, as you can see from my posts above. I think if you go in and pick up a take-out menu (which includes all of the items listed on the web site), every item will have chinese characters, which apparently don't appear online.

                      I generally favor the "wild side" menu, and I imagine that most of the things you are interested in will be there (though I highly reccomend the chong qi hot chicken from the regular dinner menu). You can order anything you want from the dinner and wild side menus at lunch- I have never ordered anything off the lunch menu, which favors the safe, gringo items. Posts above from bambesfresser (really the owner's husband) confirm that the dinner crowd is typically asian while the lunch clientele is farang.

                      The rabbit is always listed as a "special" on the white board inside, but it is really a fixture. I suppose that is why it is curiously included in the top 20.

                      As for heat, while I speak zero chinese, for the last order I specifically asked for "extra ma la" with the chicken dish mentioned above, and it was buzzing hot, noticeably more so than several times before. Awesome.

                      1. re: equinoise

                        just what i wanted to hear!

                        thanks!

                        1. re: jenn

                          I was surprised you hadn't been yet. Enjoy.

                          1. re: jenn

                            When we started coming here, we were regulars at both 7 Stars and Szechuan Chef, so we knew we liked spicy Szechuan food. When we first ordered some spicier dishes at Bamboo Garden, like the Swimming Fire Fish, the staff warned us that it was spicy, and we said, that's okay, we like it. And we LOVED it, and staff kept coming by and saying things like, "Ha ha, Americans like it spicy! You like the spicy soup? Ha ha!" It was pretty funny how they found it so amusing that we loved the spicy stuff. So anyway, no, they won't dumb it down-they'll be really pleased you like it.

                        2. re: jenn

                          The rabbit as well (as the 2 frog dishes that we added a couple of months ago) are called out on the white board. We are likely to add them to the printed menu when the next rendition comes around. Keep in mind that it costs money to reprint the menus. With the white board we can offer a new dish, see the response and add them later to the menu. The rabbit had been so popular that it made the Top 20 without the benefit of the printed menus.

                          You can always ask for the other menus at lunch time.

                          Unless you ask for a dish to be non-spicy, dishes marked spicy will be spicy regardless of who you are. The waitstaff may give you an extra warning but that's about it.
                          I am not sure why someone would ask for a non-spicy version of a spicy dish as it is no longer the same dish but that's a different story.

                          I hope this answers your questions.

                          1. re: jenn

                            I forget - do they have rabbit on the lunch menu? Sounds like a good thing to try today for lunch.

                            My wife and I have 2 pet rabbits at home. I'm so going to hell for this... :-)

                            1. re: HungWeiLo

                              not necessarily. my youngest pup wants a pet bunny in the worst way. she also chows down happily on any form of cooked rabbit........

                          2. If you like this place, and you like spicy, try Lao Sichuan...Sichuanese Cuisine in English -- in the Sears shopping center in Bellevue 15005 NE 24TH St
                            Redmond, WA 98052-5531
                            Phone: (425) 562-1552
                            and now (HOORAY!) in Kent...on my way home...I may never cook again!!! Kent location is near but not in the Great Wall mall.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jiaotzegirl

                              I heard that Sichuanese Cuisine changed hands. Is this the new ownership? What's good there? Did the Seattle location change hands too?

                            2. I had another top-notch dinner at Bamboo Garden this evening.

                              Tonight my only two dishes were as follows:

                              the cold appetizer listed as Fu Chi beef 夫妻肺片: thin slices of well-cooked beef with some additional bits of omasum tripe, as in the dim sum 牛百頁, in a scallion, garlic, and peanut sauce based on chili oil, topped with cilantro. This is a straightforward, satisfying dish. A little spicy, but mostly flavorful from the rich meat -- I think the beef was top round, but I am not great at distinguishing beef cuts. Whether it was round or brisket, it was a very flavorful, well-cooked, tender cut. The tripe added mostly a textural dimension, but it was an excellent addition. The peanuts brought the dish together and made it memorable.

                              My main was something called Succulent Chunks of Sole Fish & Intestines in a Spicy Broth on the menu, 毛血旺. The dish is centered on a brown sauce, moderately spicy but very, very intensely flavored with Sichuan peppercorns. (I had asked for hěn mà, hěn là -- very spicy and very Sichuan-peppercorny.) The ingredients were a fairly even mix of fish slices, blood cubes, Chinese cabbage, tofu (Bamboo Garden has delicate, flavorful tofu), bamboo shoots, more omasum tripe, and chitterlings. I enjoyed eating it, and the serving was easily large enough to make a meal for three.

                              I think that this dish might be a good introduction to organ meats for someone who likes Sichuan sauces, is sufficiently bold, and just hasn't tried innards: congealed blood is a tough sell when you describe it (however, it isn't listed as such in the menu). It has a pretty tame, rich beef flavor and the same soft texture as good tofu. The tripe is just tripe, and therefore a new texture for many people. The intestine itself is more flavorful than the tripe, and its appearance is certainly the most off-putting of the elements in this dish. I thought that it was the best part, and the fish the least interesting part.

                              Again, I think you people who live near Bellevue are lucky to have a really good, affordable Sichuan restaurant with a menu diverse enough to suit most palates. The total cost was under $20, plus tip, and I had plenty of leftovers for at least one more large meal. The waitstaff was fast, accurate, accommodating with recommendations, and tolerantly code-switched between Mandarin and English for me.

                              (Replating in downtown Bellevue is a different story. I couldn't find a single public trash can, so I left the containers atop an unemployment newspaper box. I hope that's the right procedure in these parts.)