To begin, a confession: I would rather eat traditional Asian food in modest surroundings than nibble gourmet 'fusion' off white linen tablecloths. Which is why I love Green Bamboo Vietnamese restaurant at West End.
Green Bamboo is a relative newcomer to the suburb's host of Vietnamese eateries, setting up shop about 18 months ago in a spot on Boundary Street that's been home to a number of other Asian restaurants of varying quality. In its early days, Green Bamboo's interior was your basic white walls/white tiles/white tables affair. About six months in, its young proprietors gave it something of a makeover, adding buddha statues, wall hangings, and new tiles, chairs and tables. It now offers what I find a perfectly pleasant decor, but is still a place where the main priority is to serve good food for a great price.
My dinner -- rice paper wrap with sugar cane prawn
So, what is on offer food-wise? Well, all the usual suspects you'd expect to find at a decent Vietnamese restaurant, including good pho (noodle soups served with fresh herbs, lemon and bean sprouts) for around $11, vegetarian and carnivore spring rolls (deep-fried and transparent) for $6.50-7.50, vermicelli salads (where you get noodles mixed with herbs, bean sprouts, peanuts and your choice of meat or tofu) for $11-12, and plenty of rice and stir-fry dishes.
But you also get some offerings that aren't so common, and some of which are very, very good: beef salad with ginger and lemon dressing (my personal favourite at $14.90), Vietnamese barbecue pork chops ($10.90 for a couple of succulent, caramelised chops served with rice), and a good soft-shell crab ($17.90, available weekend nights only).
More exotic dishes -- which I've yet to try -- include Fruits of the Gods soup (pork ribs or chicken slow-cooked with lotus seeds, shitake mushrooms, gingko nuts and Chinese dates) for $12.90, and jellyfish salad (jellyfish mixed with pork, prawn and pickled vegetable) for $15.90. Green Bamboo also does some interesting variations on the duck theme, including roasted duck salad ($16.90) and duck with egg noodle soup ($11.90).
There's a page of vegetarian dishes, including some unusual ones (for example, tofu casserole Vietnamese style), and a fair number of seafood options,though don't come expecting fresh seafood here. I've visited Green Bamboo numerous times with different friends with varying dietary requirements, consciences, and tastes, and always managed to find something to keep everybody happy. The dishes lend themselves to sharing, as long as you choose well (in particular, balance deep-fried options with the cleaner flavours of soups, salads, and stir-fries).
Service is relaxed and friendly, and generally pretty efficient. Things can get a bit slow with large groups, as what I suspect is a fairly small kitchen works hard to get lots of meals out at once. But when I visited with a group of about 14, nobody really minded waiting because we were having such a good time and enjoyed our food so much when it did reach the table. We left very well-fed for around $12 per head, having sampled around 20 dishes all up.
Just one final word to the wise: in keeping with the general priorities here, Green Bamboo's name appears nowhere on its exterior -- in fact, as at mid-2011, it still bears the name of a restaurant that occupied this site many moons ago -- the New Asia. But just look for the menu outside (which does bear the Green Bamboo name), and the good food inside, and you'll know you're in the right place. (You can also look for the clearly signed Sling cocktail bar, which is right next door.)
yum!! I have a uni friend I am overdue to catch up with...this would be a great venue!
By wordo - reader Friday, 29th of July @ 08:42 am
New reader comment. Waiting for approval.
By Anonymous Friday, 29th of July @ 11:05 am
Hi folks, I''m afraid that I need to give an update on this review. We dined at Green Bamboo recently, and it was not the restaurant it used to be -- food- or service- wise. The menu is much smaller and I think that the chef has changed. I took a quick look at some other online reviews and found a number of regulars like me saying the same thing, though some said it was still good on certain days, and wondered if there are two chefs involved now. So please don't expect to get the same menu or quality that I talk about in the original review. :(
By West End Girl - senior reviewer Thursday, 7th of June @ 07:54 am