went to this vegan/vegetarian spot near washington square for the first time last night. my friend and i each ordered an appetizer and entree and while not all of the dishes were particularly notable, i still came away impressed.
most of the dishes are vegan, w/, i think, a couple of offerings having some dairy in it, all noted on the menu. the place bills itself as vegetarian 'soul food' but the dishes aim for soul, japanese, korean, italian, indian, mexican, etc etc. it runs all over the place. there's pae jun, faux unagi, kabobs, pasta and lots more. and as far as the soul food goes, it might resemble asian food more than anything else. we ordered, for example, the soul fried 'chicken' which was more like chicken katsu, made japanese style w/ panko. even the 'mushroom gravy' seemed more like the katsu dipping sauce my japanese moms makes at home.
my friend and i both shy from mock meat, but most of the entrees are made w/ it. we wondered how closely one could get soy protein to resemble squid, scallops, catfish, salmon, chicken, beef, pork, all of which are among the mock meats on the menu. after trying the chicken, i realized the answer is surprisingly close. while i wouldn't mistake it for chicken, i was really amazed at how nearly the texture resembled chicken. the flavor was a little sweet, which was somewhat odd, but, being that there was flavor, it somehow seemed more interesting than bland and tasteless chicken i find too often. the panko was seasoned made the whole thing quite good and i ate it w/o the dipping sauces. (in addition to the mushroom gravy -- which was more like a tart/spicy tomato-ey concoction -- there was a soy based sauce that was rather good.) this entree was served w/ corn/starch mash (it said potato, but i thought it might have been taro or something) that was, alas, too sweet and steamed zuchinni, squash and carrots.
the other main we had was a black bean/ginger vegetable stiry fry. we were warned that the dish was quite spicy and the server wasn't lying. i'd have wished for more black bean, less hot pepper, but the veggies were fresh and well cooked. served w/ brown rice topped w/a bit of fried taro strips.
the real highlight was one of the appetizers: collard green rolls. fried egg rolls filled w/ collard greens w/ smoked ham. these were excellent! the collard greens were better than what i've had at most soul food joints in the city. while the texture of the soy ham in it might not have convinced anyone that it was ham, this was all about the great greens and crunch in the wrapping. (the flavor might not have been convincing either, but i've never had greens w/ real ham.) another item that was served w/ a dipping sauce -- sweet chili -- that i ate without; it was good on its own.
i'm interested to hear of other folks' experiences w/ red bamboo. the place is very small and seemed quite popular. (it's the replaced one of the 2 vp restaurants on the street.) we met a little after 8pm and the place was full and we had to wait 'til almost 8:30 for a table. several folks came in for takeout as well.
red bamboo is on w. 4th b/w macdougal and 6th ave.
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