Restaurant Review

Bamboo Leaf

Bamboo leaf is a casual restaurant serving Thai and Vietnamese food in an unprepossessing part of Bradley Beach. You may have to push past the young men leaning against the building to enter the restaurant, but it’s worth it.

Inside, the casual atmosphere is appealing, with soft lighting, wicker-back chairs, chocolate-brown walls, and a trellised ceiling. The menu is divided into Thai and Vietnamese dishes.

The steamed dumplings are rather heavy, and neither the Thai nor Vietnamese spring or summer rolls are anything special. But grilled squid tossed with lemongrass-chili dressing over romaine leaves is tangy and satisfying, and a Vietnamese jellyfish salad—thin-sliced pork, shrimp, and amber-colored saline jellyfish strands tossed with mint leaves, celery, and shredded carrot—is as refreshing as a spring shower. Although the tom yum and tom khah soups are both good, they pale beside the mang cua Vietnamese soup, an intense chicken broth filled with snow-crab meat and asparagus.

A salmon special with mango, red peppers, and onions tastes far too sweet to me, but my guest who orders it devours every morsel. Crisp duck with tamarind-honey sauce is far better. The Vietnamese deep-fried fish with red sweet-and-sour sauce is all crunch and little fish, and it tastes of stale oil. Two Vietnamese main courses are outstanding. The first, bo nuong vi, comprises thin slices of delicious raw beef marinated with lemongrass and Vietnamese spices presented with an individual broiler on which you cook the beef yourself. The other, lau do bien, similar to Japanese shabu shabu, is a large pot of simmering broth in which you cook an assortment of raw seafood and vegetables.

The limited dessert menu includes sticky rice with coconut, bananas wrapped in a crêpe, and deep-fried ice cream.

 

Reviewed in: September 2005

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