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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

[Restaurant Spotlight: Bambu Vietnamese Restaurant]

Springfield, Missouri, is fairly well known for its distinct style of "Chinese" food--specifically of the cashew chicken and sweet-and-sour chicken variety. As such, one doesn't really expect to find much in the way of authentic Asian foods--mostly Americanized versions that, while tasty, are loaded with MSG and fried fat. However, that's changed in recent years.

For one thing, sushi has really taken off as popular local cuisine, and several restaurants dot the landscape, including Sakura, Nakato, Kyoto, and Wayo. All I've eaten so far, have been quite tasty, but like sushi in general (particularly here in the U.S.), eating it out can get expensive very quickly. While those little rolls are surprisingly filling, on my budget, I can't justify spending seven-to-fifteen dollars for one roll except on very rare occasions.

It's sad, too, because I love the Jurassic roll at Sakura's. Oh, lordy...

There are a few others popping up, covering cuisines from Thailand, India, Korea, Vietnam, and more.

But, still, no true dim sum, and I love me some dim sum. I guess that's what I get for living in the Midwest....

Home  I have found a tasty little restaurant on Battlefield Road, however: Bambu Vietnamese restaurant. A quick look at the menu reveals a largely lactose-safe menu, and their website even shares a list of menu items that are also gluten-free. Score! Ratings online reveal that, while not completely on par with Vietnamese restaurants in some of the coastal cities, most patrons consider the food to be authentic, healthy, filling, and delicious.

I have no previous experience with Vietnamese cuisine, but I can vouch for the other three factors. First off, within a three day period, I ate from the restaurant twice--once with carryout, once eating in with my mother.  Both times, mostly because I craved the meal after eating it the first time, I ate the:


Charbroiled Shrimp & BBQ Pork on Vermicelli
Charbroiled Shrimp and sliced BBQ pork on the top of vermicelli, shredded lettuce, carrots, sliced cucumber, mints, bean sprouts, and roasted peanuts. Served with fish sauce on the side

Holy moly.

Crazy-fresh vegetables, filling vermicelli, and no sign of preservatives... so no funky feeling afterward.

Without even trying, I made three full meals out of the dish. The pork is succulently sweet and moist, and the shrimp, well... it's shrimp! And I'm a lifelong shrimp connoisseur. It was charbroiled without being spicy, and if spicy is your thing, have no fear--Bambu gives you plenty of spicy condiments to choose from at your table. I nearly died laughing as my mom made the same rookie mistake I did by trying one of the chili sauces...

"Oh, now that's not too bad." She figured she'd pour some on her meal when it came.

"Hang on, Mom, it takes about thirty seconds to--"

Suddenly, her eyes bulged. "Right on cue, Mom."

Good times.

I haven't tried any of the other meals yet, since I don't get paid next month and therefore have to make every penny stretch, but the Pho noodle soups come highly recommended from Yelp patrons, and most of the items on the menu seemed to be largely dairy-free and beneficial for those of us watching our weight.

Now, it may surprise you since you know I have a bit of a spice aversion, but I'm a pretty adventurous eater. I made a vow early on in life that I would try everything at least once (with only a few exceptions, and none due to a food's exotic or weird nature), and most things, if I didn't like them, I would try them again a year or two later. So it's not a challenge for me to try out new foods, and it doesn't intimidate me much. If you are a little nervous to try Vietnamese, let me reassure you--there are a lot of similarities to some of the fresher Chinese dishes. It has its own distinct flavor, but you can easily taste the fact that both nation's cuisines come from the same area of the world.

Springfield restaurant patrons, whether visitors or residents, have you eaten there? What did you think? What menu items do you recommend for the uninitiated?

And non-Springfieldians... can you recommend similar restaurants in your area?

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