David and I had friends in town last weekend, and after an evening at the Comedy Cellar (Aziz Ansari showed up!), we needed to find a place to eat around Greenwich Village. We’d normally go to this Singapore-style noodle bar named, appropriately, Noodle Bar. They have several dishes with veggies and delicately fried tofu, but I had already gorged on coconut curry with udon noodles the Friday before. The choices were Blue Ribbon Brasserie —which is mainly seafood with a few vegetarian options—and Red Bamboo.
I’m pescarian or vegequarian of whatever you want to call my fish-eating ways, but David’s not. So being that we could all eat anything on the menu at Red Bamboo, we and our two conscientious omnivore friends headed there.
Despite the definitely Asian décor, Red Bamboo has a huge menu filled with a variety of food: burgers, sandwiches, comfort grub, and Chinese- and Japanese-inspired dishes.
We had a bit of wait, but we settled in our warm booth by the door pretty quickly.
It continues to surprise me how few vegan comfort/soul food restaurants there are in New York. After the closures of Curly’s and Kate’s Joint this past year, our options are kind of sad. But I was happy with our availability of choices at Red Bamboo. David had sweet and sour chicken, Sean had the tonkatsu chops, Jung had the szechuan beef, and I had the southern fried chicken.
The only dish that resembled its name, however, was the sweet and sour chicken. I focused on my herbed half soy chicken with drumsticks, which had been described accurately in the menu but didn’t resemble the chicken-fried chicken I was expecting and craved. It’s one of the southern dishes I miss and hope to duplicate soon from Celine Steen’s and Joni Marie Newman’s Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites.
The soy-based chicken was pleasant enough, although the drumsticks were unnecessary and dry. The chicken overall had a nice mouth-feel, saltiness, and chew to it without totally falling apart.
I have to say, though, that the sides were the best part. The collard greens with veggie ham were a little crispy, possibly flash fried. And the crinkle-cut sweet potato fries were satisfying. A Blue Point Toasted Lager, which happens to be vegan, finished everything off.
Although the out-of-town omnivores seemed happy, and the faux meat options were numerous, I don’t think David and I will be running back to Red Bamboo anytime soon. And I’m not sure it’s deserves a reputation as one of the best vegan restaurants in New York. But it’s a good choice if you’re in the area for comedy or a movie at Film Forum or IFC.
Rating: 3 stars