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Red Bamboo review: Not very good

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Red Bamboo is a fake-meat vegetarian restaurant in the Village, on W. 4th between Macdougal and 6th Ave. It sports everything from classic favorites like buffalo wings to cajun food (think "soul [soy] chicken") and asian fusion. I was excited ot see the varied and interesting menu, because as a vegetarian you don't get to eat a lot of the very appetizing-looking things your friends are always munching on.

Unfortunately, RB does not live up to its promise. It's a small restaurant, with limited seating and a spartan atmosphere. Think of a cheap chinese restaurant built lengthwise and trussed up with a few more mirrors and a shinier materials, and you'll get the idea. It's warm, but a little cramped.

I started by ordering buffalo wings, which ended up being very chewy and stringy. Unfortunately, they were also extraordinarily heavy, and I felt like I was just eating big hunks of whatever protein they used to make the wings. The BBQ sauce coating the wings was gloppy and unremarkable, and the ranch dressing that went with it was mild and a touch sour. Eating even two of these wings was a mistake: I started to feel extremely full.

I had heard that the milkshakes were good here, but that turned out not to be the case. How you screw up a milkshake isn't clear, but screw it up RB did. I ordered a straberry milkshake, and it turned out to be so mild -- lacking either a lucid strawberry or a rich creamy wholesome milkiness or even an intoxicating dulce -- that it was completely pointless. I don't think I've ever said that about a milkshake before. A total waste of calories.

Finally, my entree was a black-bean ginger stirfry with fake shrimp. This was a bland and disappointing spice combination (and certainly not the "slightly spicy" that my server promised). I felt like I was eating a mound of sauteed vegetables, not cooked quite enough, so they seemed to be an endless heap of roughage, into which was sifted bits of a smoky, slightly bitter rubbery material that was supposedly the shrimp. Yuck.

The Vegetarian New Yorker: http://vegny.blogspot.com/

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  1. I love RB, but I've never tried the dishes you ordered so I can't comment on them. I usually order appetizers or dim sum there (the tofu skin rolls, "pork" buns, etc.), and pick at my friends' "soul chicken".

    Granted, the space looks a little cheap, but it never bothers me - I don't expect upscale decor when the food's this affordable. Besides, the service has always been kind and efficient, which has much more of an impact on my enjoyment than whether the tablecloth is paper or fabric.

    1. Red Bamboo is a mixed bag. In my experience, they excel at fried things. Their fake fried shrimp are fantastic, as are their fake fish-n-chips. Non-fried things, not so much, and I've been disappointed by their salads. It's a great place to go when you want something both unhealthy and vegan. They carry excellent if over-sweet vegan cakes too. For dishes starring fresh vegetables, go elsewhere.

      1. I agree that it's very hit or miss, but when they hit, they hit. Next time, try the mint chocolate chip milkshake, chicken satay with peanut sauce, and anything fried, including the chicken or eggplant parm sandwiches. A good rule of thumb here is the junkier-sounding the food, the better. So unless you're on a health kick, I wouldn't cross this off just yet.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ladybuglana

          My wife and I were introduced to the Red Bamboo many years ago by our daughter who lives in Manhattan. Since then, whenever we are in NYC we always make a point of getting there for at least one meal. Our daughter is vegan, my wife is vegetarian and I am vegetarian much of the time, however I do occasionally eat fish and poultry. We were in NYC for a week the beginning of March and we got over to the Red Bamboo twice. We always order the Buffalo Wings which are our favorite, but we have also tried a number of other entrees and we have never been dissapointed.

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          Red Bamboo
          140 W 4th St, New York, NY 10012

        2. We ate at Red Bamboo three weeks ago and had a similar disappointing experience. We got the chicken satay with peanut sauce and that was good. The 'chicken' was great butthe satay sauce could have been better. It wasn't very flavorful. Still overall pretty good.

          The black bean stir fry was very bland -- just a mound of vegetables. The fake shrimp in it was dense and not tasty.

          The worst was the mashed potatoes with corn. Awful and tasted like it came out of a box. We couldn't eat beyond two spoonfuls.

          Overall, a very meh experience. I wouldn't recommend it.

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          Red Bamboo
          140 W 4th St, New York, NY 10012

          1. Inspired by this thread, I paid a visit to Red Bamboo last night. I'd been to the sister restaurant next door, Vegetarian's Paradise 2, a few months back and was disappointed. Can't remember what I ordered, but it wasn't good. I'm not by any means a vegetarian, but I'm always up for something new.

            The chicken satay was pretty decent, but my entree was horrible-spaghetti and soy meatballs. The fake meat was bad, but the sauce on the pasta was even worse. However, they were very nice and let me get another entree. I chose the bourbon chicken (overheard another table raving about it) and it was FANTASTIC! A delectable sauce, good fake chicken, steamed veggies, brown rice, and some salad. I would go back and get this again and again.

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            Red Bamboo
            140 W 4th St, New York, NY 10012

            Vegetarian's Paradise 2
            144 W 4th St, New York, NY 10012

            2 Replies
            1. re: Jess321

              Just a quick follow-up to my earlier post. Get the Buffalo Wings! I really believe both non-meat eaters and meat eaters will like these. There are other great entries but we have not tried some of those listed by other posts as disapointing. We cannot get these Buffalo Wings anywhere back in Minnesota so we actually crave them when we get to NYC. We have ordered some entries from Veggie Brothers that have been close, but the shipping charges have gotten pretty steep since for some reason they think our address is west of the Mississippi, which it isn't. I don't usually take pictures of my meals, but I did take a picture of the Ribs I ordered because I wanted to email the picture back to another vegan daughter back in Minnesota who loves this dish (she was very jealous). I do agree that the mashed potatoes are nothing special but I didn't think they were all that bad. If you do go to the Red Bamboo for the first time, do get the Buffalo Wings and maybe ask the wait staff what entries are favorites, that is what we do and we have not been disapointed.

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              Red Bamboo
              140 W 4th St, New York, NY 10012

               
              1. re: Jess321

                I love Red Bamboo. I don't stray too far from my favorites, though - LOVE the bourbon chicken, the creole soul chicken and the buffalo wings (we make our own at home sometimes!). Agree that the mashed potatoes are terrible, though. In general, faux seafood seems to come out pretty poorly. I think I also liked the philly cheesesteak thing, but I might be confusing my fake meat places.

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                Red Bamboo
                140 W 4th St, New York, NY 10012