If there were something Reykjavík could use more of in the gastronomic sphere, it would be ethnic restaurants. Specifically, I’m hoping somebody will open an amazing Moroccan or Vietnamese place here someday (any takers?), but a great way to kill several birds with one stone is by means of the pan-Asian restaurant. Serving a carefully constructed selection of classic Chinese, Japanese, Indian and South-East Asian dishes, these places are sure to have something that hits the spot when you’re craving something farther from home. Bambus, I thought, might be just that kind of place.
A friend and I arranged to go last Thursday, and apart from one or two other parties we had the place to ourselves. The place was brightly lit, almost like a diner, and quite roomy—a plus for groups or families, but lacking in intimacy. Our waitress brought us water and menus, and although we took our time, she was unremittingly prompt throughout the entire evening, always smiling and very polite. So far, points for good service.
The composition of the menu took a little while to grasp, with entrées divided into four categories: curries, stir fries, noodles, and just plain “main courses.” There were also soups, which were cheaper than the appetizers, but apart from the price there was nothing to indicate whether they were meant as starters or mains. Eventually, and with some help from our waitress, we settled on the shrimp tempura and grilled beef skewers for our starters. For our main courses, we chose the lemongrass chicken skewers as well as their most popular dish, the “Roaring Tiger”: beef steak with fried potato cake.
The shrimps were satisfyingly crisp and came with a tasty Szechuan dipping sauce, although I would have preferred fatter, firmer specimens. The beef skewers were pretty disappointing as they were too tough and greasy to actually enjoy. My lemongrass chicken came with brown rice, pan-fried vegetables and a very minimal mango salad: a healthy choice, if not much else. It certainly could have had more kick to it as it really wasn’t very lemongrass-y at all. The serving was perfectly portioned for someone watching their weight, but not so much for a full grown person with a healthy appetite.
The “Roaring Tiger,” was probably the most satisfying dish of the lot but that’s not saying much. The meat was tender and soaked in a nameless sauce, which was quite savoury, although it left absolutely no aftertaste whatsoever. In fact, it would have been a perfectly adequate dish had we been sitting in a diner or a bistro, but neither of us could fathom what made this dish a tiger and not simply a European wildcat, or why it claimed to be roaring – I can safely attest that the flavour was hardly louder than a cat’s meow.
Finally, for dessert, we tried the mango kulfi, which was said to be “a real delicacy, a kind of both ice cream and sorbet,” but what we got was a drippy vanilla ice cream with what seemed to be applesauce topping. At least the strawberries were fresh, though.
This restaurant is a great idea but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. There’s certainly something for everyone on the menu, but perhaps they should stick to a handful of defining dishes that focus on intense flavours. If you’re going to serve pan-Asian, at least start with something Asian, and not merely pan.
What we think: A potentially great idea, with room for improvement
Flavour: Fairly bland Asian cuisine
Ambiance: Bright and spacious – but a tad too much
Service: Thoroughly prompt if a little shy
Price for 2 (no drinks): 6,000–9,000 ISK
Our rating: 2.5/5
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