Well-kept secret

House of Bamboo offers tasty food in a quiet little location

HOUSE PARTY<br>A lot of Southeast Asian fusion at the cozy locale of House of Bamboo.

A lot of Southeast Asian fusion at the cozy locale of House of Bamboo.

Photo By Brittni Zacher

House of Bamboo

163 E. Second St.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 893-8811

I was in for a perfect night. A dinner of Southeast Asian fusion at House of Bamboo, followed by Shaolin Warriors demonstrating 1,000-year-old practices of kung fu at Laxson Auditorium. Sometimes, life is just good.

Walking quickly, my friend and I might have strolled right past the wooden door, but for the specials board on the sidewalk announcing pineapple fried rice and dragon curry.

House of Bamboo has a hidden-nook quality to it; I find this intriguing and inviting, as though I’ve discovered a new secret spot. Which, based on the quality of food and service, I have.

Combining non-Westernized Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine, they create a diverse menu of spicy and savory Asian food sure to please almost everyone.

Inside, the lighting is dim, which, combined with the simple color scheme of the modern interior, makes for a pretty sexy environment. The vaulted ceilings, the deep reds and greens of the walls and the low-hanging elongated lights complement the clandestine-romance feeling of the place. The shape of the bamboo stalk is repeated in the décor; even the glasses and folded napkins resemble the namesake plant.

That evening, while perusing the menu over a Sing Ha, I decided to sample the vegetarian rolls ($7), spring rolls filled with a delightful mélange of jícama, carrots, sweet potatoes, bean thread noodles, onions and mushrooms, served with a sweet chili sauce. The rolls were a tease of the nuance of flavors to come.

I examined the entrees and went with the savory fish filet ($13)—pan-seared salmon served with a Thai side salad. The salmon filet arrived completely covered in sesame seeds, which unfortunately overwhelmed the delicate mingling flavors of fish and soy sauce. The seeds graced the side salad, too; however, combined with a mixture of jícama, cucumber and carrots in a sweet vinaigrette, the result was perfect, and I ate up every last julienned vegetable.

I tried the pineapple fried rice from the specials board and marveled at the taste; it would have been a perfect side to anything on the menu. We went with sweet purple Thai rice with jackfruit ($4) for dessert. Served with sweet coconut cream, the nutty purple rice is the perfect dessert.

Or so I thought.

On my next visit, I was famished but I had to wait for a late date—annoyance squared. I simply couldn’t wait for an appetizer to be cooked, so I went with a pot of green tea and avocado ice cream ($4) to start. The creaminess of this mild tasting, vividly colored concoction is oh-so-good … and not just for dessert anymore.

My hunger temporarily sated, I ordered the chicken satay ($8)—chicken breasts marinated in Thai herbs and served with a tropical peanut dipping sauce—and the tofu-stuffed vegetable plate ($10).

The chicken satay was reliably delicious; the tofu stuffed with sautéed mushrooms and spinach in a garlic sauce fell short of being spectacular. Some of the dishes I tasted relied too heavily on soy sauce for flavor, this being one of them. It was still good, though, and the white rice balanced out the slightly overwhelming saltiness of the dish.

My dinner date, perhaps inspired by the décor, decided to heat things up with the dragon curry ($8)—mixed vegetables sautéed in a savory red curry sauce, with a choice of chicken or shrimp. The curry was hot; unfortunately my date was not. Intending to cool things way down, I ordered dessert. Two orders of ice cream, I told the waiter, one coconut and one lychee.

Unlike my date, House of Bamboo is a keeper—Southeast Asian fusion cuisine served in a refined, elegant setting, and complemented by good service. I’d go back just for the ice cream.