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The Gossiping Gourmet: Thai spice (if you ask) at Bamboo Bistro

March 19, 2013|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • One of Thai Bamboo Bristro's lunch specials is the Fried Tofu with Peanut Sauce, served on a bed of spinach. It includes the soup of the day, a choice of steamed white or brown rice, and a small salad.
One of Thai Bamboo Bristro's lunch specials is the… (KEVIN CHANG )

We were on our way to dine at a restaurant in the Quail Hill Shopping Center in Irvine, but when we arrived, we discovered it was packed, so we wandered around the center and came across a sweet little Thai place called Thai Bamboo Bistro.

This casual restaurant has a pleasing décor. The ceiling has been lowered with the use of a floating bamboo lattice. There is attractive stone tile wainscoting around the room and soft lighting from small hanging fixtures. Attractive, tilted wood-framed mirrors line the wall on one side of the room.

In general, we thought the food was less spicy than in most Thai restaurants. We found that the little red chili symbols, indicating heat, next to a menu item could not be relied on, so we had to resort to the condiment tray for heat. Only after we finished our meal did we see the notice on the bottom of the lunch menu saying we could request a level of heat on any of the dishes.

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We began with angel wings, which turned out to be the biggest we've ever seen. These were made from ground chicken meat, cellophane noodles and green onions, lightly seasoned, then battered and deep-fried. The only evidence of the wing bone itself was the boney tip. Traditionally the bones are left intact after the chicken is scraped off them and the skin is wrapped around the stuffing. What we ate was a lot easier to prepare and had a lot more to it. The coating was dark golden brown and very crunchy. The accompanying sweet sauce added a lot of flavor, and we zipped it up a bit with the red chili sauce on the condiment tray.

Thai Bamboo Bistro's version of traditional coconut milk soup with chicken was light but especially flavorful and complex. Subtle undertones of galangal (a type of ginger), lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves provided the perfectly balanced seasoning. The restaurant uses the best quality coconut milk and mixes it with chicken broth and adds an extremely generous amount of sliced chicken breast, as well as sliced mushrooms and bamboo shoots.

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