While you’ll all get full details of our experiences with that stormy broad, Irene, later, know that I was without power and so The Betrothed and I decided to venture to West Beat for dinner. Rumor had it the power was mostly on there. We gave a call to Black Bamboo Chinese Restaurant on Farmington Avenue and they said that they were open. The Betrothed’s boss had said it was great Chinese, but let’s be honest, I’m not going to trust a white guy on Chinese food. Whether it was cooked by relatives, in Flushing, NY or at Chinese Cultural Center events, I grew up on damned good Chinese food. I’m picky. So, I went in feeling pretty skeptical.
It wasn’t an actual Chinese restaurant, nor was it as greasy and plain as a regular DCF takeout (DCF=Dirty Chinese Food). It was a weird hybrid with trendy painted walls, flat screen TVs as the menu and a very young, English-speaking staff. Seating was minimal, but even those were sleek and black. The place was also totally packed — apparently, take out Chinese was the thing to do in West Beat after a hurricane. They warned us that it would be a long wait, but we had nothing better to do, so we grabbed some Advocates and hunkered down with some of the free hot tea they offer.
About 50 minutes of listening to the phone ring off the hook and watching tons of people come in, wait for their food, or balk at the wait time and go, our food came out. We had ordered hot & sour soup, Szechuan chicken and tofu & pork Szechuan style. Szechuan cooking tends to be spicier and more flavorful, so that’s what we usually go for. Everything was very reasonably priced — entrees were about $7 and the portions were generous. The menu featured your typical Chinese menu, but also some slightly more authentic dishes like chow fun, mei fun, and Szechuan and Hunan dishes. There were also many vegetarian and vegan options as well — for you hippies.
The food was actually pretty good for a take-out operation. The soup wasn’t gelatinous or overly salty like it can be from a regular DCF joint. There was a good amount of veggies, including several kinds of mushrooms which are my favorite. The style of the soup is one you’d find in a more expensive Chinese restaurant. The entrees were also very good although they could have been spicier. They weren’t coated in a greasy sauce typical of Americanized Chinese food, and were full of lots of nice, big, fresh, crunchy veggies. I thought the tofu and pork dish might be like ma po doufu, one of my favorites, but it wasn’t at all. But it was still pretty damn good with nice chunks of lightly fried tofu and tender slices of pork.
I also happen to hate fortune cookies as a rule. They are not Chinese and they’re also just plain gross. But Black Bamboo had chocolate ones. While I still didn’t eat the whole thing, props on trying to step it up a notch.
The owner, a young man about 21 or 22 named Sonny, seemed to know all his customers and have something to chat with them about. He apologized to everyone about the wait — even though it was totally understandable given the volume of business. He checked in on us a couple of times, despite how busy they were. The place is clean too — you can peer into the kitchen and given that we were there for a long time, I definitely did a lot of peering.
So two and a half saltshakers for Black Bamboo. It’s not my grandpa’s cooking, but it’s the best Chinese take-out you’ll find in the area.