This week, two of us spent $40 and traveled to seven countries. We ate dinner at Bamboo House on Sheridan Drive in Amherst, near Millersport Highway.
And once again we were reminded not to judge books by their covers or restaurants by outside appearances. Bamboo House looks like a flimsy fast-food joint when you drive by it. Persist anyway. You'll get a big surprise when you step inside.
The little room is sleek and sophisticated. White walls sport brightly colored shadow boxes featuring origami. The dishes are bone white and well-shaped. This restaurant was opened in January by a Cambodian man who moved here from Paris, where he owned an Asian restaurant near the Eiffel Tower. The children now attend the University at Buffalo -- the reason for the move.
So Cambodian food is on the menu of course, as is the food of Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, China, India and Indonesia. It was hard to decide where to go, because there was so much to choose from. We gripped our chopsticks and dug right in.
The Companion ordered Shrimp Dumpling Noodle Soup from China ($5.50), a great big bowl of gently flavored pork/chicken broth with shrimp-filled house-made dumplings. I went for the Cambodian Soup for $4.95. Same broth but filled with rice noodles, thinly sliced pork sausage and shrimp. (There are so many noodles in both of these soups you need chop sticks or a fork to get at them.) Other soups on the menu included Vietnamese Pho and Thai Tom Yum Goong (sweet and sour with lemongrass).
And yes, if you insist, you can get Wonton Soup or Hot and Sour. They cost $2.
Appetizers next. We were hardly going to ignore the Cambodian Grilled Chicken (two pieces for $2.95) served on bamboo skewers. Very nice lemongrass flavor here; very delicate, moist chicken. And a pickled carrot, too.
And of course we had to try the Indian Samosas (two for $2.75). They were good but the least-liked dish of the evening. Samosas are crisply fried pastries, and these were filled with potatoes, green beans and other vegetables. Fine garam masala added a note of mystery, but the pastries were wrapped in a standard eggroll wrapper and that made them too heavy for us. Of course Vietnamese spring rolls and Chinese dumplings can also be ordered. Japanese tempura shrimp, too.
We were getting pretty full by this time but we persevered anyway, ordering Indonesian Gado Gado ($5.75), a beautiful mixture of lightly steamed vegetables on a platter centered by a surprisingly mild peanut-coconut dressing.
And as an entree, there was the old favorite Japanese Teriyaki Chicken ($5.95), which turned out to be super. Other entrees that are offered include General Tao's Chicken, Thai Red or Green Curried Chicken, the Japanese fried pork slices called Tonkatsu and, of course, Pad Thai.
We didn't forget Vietnamese food, ordering hot coffee with condensed milk as a beverage. Of course we could have had an Indian mango lassi or jasmine green tea. Even bubble teas are available, if you must.
One more note: In counting all the food we did ingest, I see we somehow did forget Thailand. So we consumed the food of only six nations. Sorry. We'll eat Thai next time.
BAMBOO HOUSE *** *
WHERE: 3689 Sheridan Drive, Amherst (838-0439). This place serves Pan-Asian food, and don't let appearances deceive you. This tiny undistinguished-looking restaurant boasts a sleek, sophisticated interior and serves the food of seven countries. No wine or beer. Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
FAVORITE DISH: Cambodian Grilled Chicken
NEEDS WORK: Samosas
PRICE RANGE: Soups from $2. Appetizers from $2.50. Entrees from around $4.50.
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon until 10 p.m. Sunday.
HEALTHY CHOICES: Many salads and stir fries
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
PARKING: In the lot
KID APPEAL: Quite high