Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lucky Bamboo: Good Chinese and Nashville Food, Together At Last?

     Nashville restaurant goers pretty much gave up on having anything like a Holy Grail for Chinese food in the area, long ago. There have been any number of kitchens in every area — Nolensville Road, Green Hills, Midtown, North,  Downtown — over the years that serve passably okay meals. Buffets, more. What's typical is a restaurant will have one thing on their menu they do very, very well, but everything else, not so much. You'll get good Garlic chicken here, great green beans there, and amazing sweet & sour pork on another side of town. Cheap, frozen ingredients probably don't help.

All photos ©2013 Mary Brace all rights reserved.
    A lot of people did enjoy going to Lucky Bamboo for Dim Sum, though, and were disappointed when it shut down last spring. However, new owners have taken over, and it's the same crew that gave Chinatown (Green Hills) a make-over, much to the Scene's delight.

    Lucky Bamboo only re-opend on Thanksgiving Day of this year and the current verdict is: they're still finding their feet, but it's worth supporting while they try to work out the kinks. I went with a group of 8-12 on both visits and each time, some of us were thrilled with our take, and some were deeply disappointed.

   First a look at what Lucky Bamboo is doing right:

   Reaching for authentic: Appetizers include chicken feet (although I can't say I enjoyed it) and and wontons stuffed with real crab meat and two types of cheese, neither of which come in a little silver cardboard box and foil wrapper.

     Pretty much anything in chili oil seems like a safe bet, as long as you like spicy food. Wontons in chili oil, cold noodles in chili oil, and whatever meats they cook in chili oil are making people happy. The pic on the top left is Lucky Bamboo's Chongqing chicken and everyone enjoyed it. The kitchen will spice it up or down to order.

      Cold noodles: something I never saw on Nashville's Chinese  restaurant menus until now. Lucky Bamboo offers two versions, one in sesame oil and the already mentioned chili oil version for people who like it a little spicier.

     Firecracker shrimp was another winner, with a crunchy exterior and tender interior.

     What people are less than thrilled with, so far, are the doughy things. I was served curried potato puffs that were deliciously spiced but the dough was on the heavy, condensed side. Scallion pancakes were another disappointment, as they were too greasy to enjoy and weren't very flavorful to begin with.

     Service is also still very spotty. I get the feeling that they're still working out the plan for who does what, and have some inexperienced people on their wait staff.

    On opening day, the servers seemed flat-out overwhelmed by a packed house, so that was easily forgivable. There were mix-ups in who got what. On the second visit, I was a few minutes late joining my party and our waitress passed the table several times until I flagged her down. Another who arrived late had the same experience. After a water spill, the busser who came to clean up neglected to come back with a mop for the puddle on the floor. I had to get up and find a manager. Most eaters had some food delivered in a timely manner, while others were kept waiting for ages.

   So, it's not the Holy Grail. Not yet. But it's still worth going back to be taunted a third time.

Lucky Bamboo China Bistro on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Post a Comment