I was going to include some initial thoughts on west Columbia’s new Chinese restaurant, but based on lunch today – again, amazing – I’ve decided they warrant their own post outright.
Some background is in order. Basically, the west side of Columbia is home to almost no good restaurants. You have Shakespeare’s, which is fine, and Mandarin House, which does decent Americanized Chinese food. But after that, it’s ho-hum (Pasta Factory) to worse (Truman’s, where the food and clientele vie endlessly for most awful thing about the place).
To this mix has been added Bamboo Terrace, located in a former El Maguey location just west of Walmart on West Broadway. My first visit was auspicious, with “House Special Pan Fried Noodles” and “Velvet Beef in Hot Chili Oil” both delivering the goods. Bright, distinctive flavors, proper attention to vegetables, no gloopy, all-purpose gravy. My impression was, “Damn, there are some people in this kitchen that actually care.”
Even better have been slightly more adventurous dishes. “Malaysian Style Curry Chicken in Hot Pot” (photo above) featured tender, dark-meat chicken, Thai basil, potatoes, coconut milk and loads of heat – absolutely delicious. Today, thinking I might trip them up, I went with “Eggplant with Garlic Sauce in Hot Pot.” I mean, eggplant, right? Instead of a misstep, I got the best eggplant dish I’ve ever had – slices of purple eggplant in a garlicky, firecracker-hot sauce. Again, each ingredient remained distinct in flavor and texture. The place truly is the Chinese anti-buffet.
That’s not to say Bamboo Terrace is flawless. The interior is sleepy and cold-feeling and the appetizers (drab “Curry Seafood Rangoon” and oily “Basil Duck Rolls”) have been average. And for some, the prices are going to seem a bit steep for Chinese food. But that’s only because we’re conditioned to Chinese food being – mostly – cheap junk. They don’t play that game at Bamboo Terrace and price and food reflect it. Bravo, I say; it’s worth every penny.
I asked about their approach while paying for my lunch today. The hostess – owner’s wife, I believe – said they are shooting for a more authentic style of Asian food than many restaurants serve. They stir-fry each dish individually, she told me, so customers are welcomed to request a little more chilies, a dash extra of sugar, a touch less salt. Also, if something is labeled “hot,” they’re not kidding – both hot pots packed a mean punch. But again, at Bamboo Terrace, they’re flexible…and Columbia’s west side just got a whole lot tastier.
3101 W. Broadway, Suite 101