Bamboo Gardens, Bellevue: heat and oil
Thanks to several positive postings, I had dinner yesterday at Bamboo Gardens, the large Sichuan restaurant in downtown Bellevue, an easy stroll from the shopping malls or the transit center.
Bamboo Gardens has taken the precaution of dividing their English-language menu into easily accessible dishes for those who aren't used to Sichuan cooking and something they creatively call the "wild side", which is where you'll find most of the cold dishes, plates centered around innards, and some of the spicier creations. (If you are interested in why they do this, consult some of the other posts about the restaurant; it seems to make sense.)
Of the foods I ordered, the Sichuan dumplings were fine but the standout was something called swimming fire fish. This is a large pot of white fish, tofu squares, bean sprouts, scallions, and sea greens in an elixir of chilli oil and Sichuan peppercorns. I asked to have it very hot; very peppery (hen la; hen ma). It did come out very peppery -- surely the most Sichuan peppery dish I've ever gotten in a restaurant. And it was hot with chilli oil, but not numbingly so.
The fish and tofu were of equal tenderness, and I think maybe the dish would be almost as good without the fish -- the tofu, sprouts, and greens made a nice vehicle for carrying the broth's flavors.
The pot is huge -- I imagine that three moderate eaters could make a good meal from it, along with bowls of (very good) steamed rice. The picture at http://bamboogardendining.com/SwimmingFireFish.aspx will give you some sense for how the pot brims with solids.
I also think that some diners will be put off by how oily this dish is, and perhaps by the oiliness of a lot of Sichuanese cooking.
I will go back to Bamboo Gardens when I'm in Bellevue. This pot tells me there is a lot more worth trying.
Bamboo Garden of Bellevue, 202 106th Pl NE, Bellevue, WA 98004, (425) 688-7991. http://bamboogardendining.com