Monday, October 22, 2012

Catering by Bamboo Asia

I recently attended an event catered by Bamboo Asia.  I had low expectations, as I'd checked out the restaurant once, and walked out about as quickly as I'd walked in, without actually getting anything.

It is a quick service establishment, divided into several stations: India, Vietnam, Japan.  Everything is already prepared and in big vats, and you just select which things you want combined together, and they slap it together for you.  For example, at the India station, you can create a rice bowl, a tortilla wrap, or a salad, with your choice of Indian-inspired veggies (chickpeas, lentils, cauliflower), proteins (tandori chicken, paneer), and curry sauce.  In the Vietnam section, you can again create a salad or a rice bowl, but also a banh mi sandwich or noodle bowl, and the proteins switch out to be shaking beef, sesame chicken, or lemongrass pork, the veggies turn into things like bok choy, and the curries are coconut and peanut inspired.  And then Japan of course has the same salad or rice bowl options, but adds on sushi, with tuna, salmon, tempura shrimp, etc for proteins, avocado, cucumber, etc for veggies, and wasabi mayo, teriyaki, etc for sauces.

On my visit, none of it looked appealing or remotely fresh, I had no faith in a place serving such varied cuisines.  I hadn't ever really given a thought about them since.

It turns out they also do catering, and when I saw that they had catered the event I was attending, I was a little disappointed   And quite honestly, nothing at the event looked good either.  I wish I had a photo of the platters, everything was plated up on platters loaded with completely wilted, shredded lettuce.  And it was all served cold.  Very unappealing.  We had some selections from the Indian and Vietnamesse sections of the menu.

While the proteins met my expectations of being fairly low quality, I was absolutely shocked at how tasty everything was.  The sauces and spicing were really quite good.  Hmm.  Maybe I will actually check the place out sometime.  And, they are on LevelUp (although they only give $1 starter credit!)
Vegetable Samosa.
I started with the Indian choices.  First up, was a veggie samosa.  Since it was catered, these were cold.  And there were no sauces served with them.  I'm not even sure why I tried this, given how low my expectations were.  I guess I was mostly just curious.

And I'm glad I was.  The shell was nice and crispy, the inside was a standard mix of mostly potato, but it was really well spiced.  It certainly would have been better warm, or with some chutneys, but it wasn't bad at all.  My second to least favorite of the night, because I wanted it served warm or with accompaniments.  This is not part of their regular menu, only the catering menu.
Mini Paneer Wrap.
This was a mini version of what you could create full size.  A wheat tortilla, filled with tandori paneer, greens, and two curry sauces.

The tortilla was a little strange.  Not really what I associate with indian food, and it wasn't roti style, it really was just a generic tortilla.  It was a little bit gummy.  That part was really not good.

But inside, was nicely cooked, firm, tasty tandoori paneer.  I love paneer, and thought this was better executed paneer than I find in most indian restaurants.  Again, it would have been better warm, but it well done.

There were two curry sauces, a green one that I believe was spinach, and a red one that I think was tomato based.  They were both creamy and flavorful, with a little bit of spice.

I really liked the paneer and sauces in here, but it was my third pick of the night due to the tortilla.  I can imagine trying one of the paneer bowls at the eatery.
Shrimp Spring Roll.
Then I moved on to the Vietnamesse selections.  There were assorted spring rolls, shrimp or tofu.  I bravely went for the shrimp, mostly because I don't really like tofu.

It was filled with crisp, flavorful veggies.  I was shocked at how fresh they tasted.  I actually didn't really notice any shrimp, but it must have been in there somewhere.  Again, not served with any sauces on the side, which would have made it better, but it did have a little spicing inside of it.  Not remarkable, but not bad either.  Least favorite of the night.

They also had chicken satay skewers with peanut sauce.  The chicken really didn't look good, but I got some of the sauce, and tried to use it with my spring rolls.  It was not very good, kinda thick, and just gloopy.
Coconut Sesame Chicken Bahn Mi.
Ok, this one looked horrible.  And I don't like chicken.  Again, I have no idea why I bothered trying this!

I was so incredibly surprised.  The bread was a "country french roll", crusty on the outside, super soft on the inside.  Like the spring roll, it had amazingly crisp carrots and diakon, slightly pickled, with a good tartness to them.  The chicken was in sweet sesame sauce, which I didn't really taste, and it was all thigh meat, which I didn't care for.  That aspect was pretty meh.  But there was also a ton of coconut curry sauce, that was creamy, slightly spicy, and delicious. This shocked me so much.  Second favorite of the night.
Shaking Beef Bahn Mi.
Well, after the surprise with the chicken one, I went back to try the shaking beef version.  Since these really looked horrible, no one else was eating them, so there were plenty left for me to check out!

Like the chicken version, the roll was again really quite good.  And it had the same crispy pickled vegetables, and some crunchy pieces of wonton.  The beef was thinly sliced, tender, but otherwise not that great.  But the sauce.  Oh the sauce.  Are you noticing a theme here?  They called it "spicy tomato sauce".  It was creamy, super spicy, delicious.  I could have gladly just had the delicious bread, this sauce, and the crispy veggies.  Who needs the beef?  My favorite of the night.
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