189 Grey St, South Brisbane
I remember walking past Bamboo Basket some several months ago and thinking 'I have to try this place'. I was sucked in by the decor. The restaurant looked so invitingly red! I didn't even inspect the menu or anything... it was automatically appealing.
As time went on, I heard this place mentioned via various sources: friends, internet and etc. Just as my interest was gaining momentum, Kat told me she just went to this 'mad Chinese restaurant in Southbank' and when I asked her what it was, she told me Bamboo Basket.
That settled it. I had to go. Kat was more than willing to oblige my request so we set a date.
Most of what I'd heard was that the food was good but it was quite pricey. I was willing to give it a go anyway, all in the name of new restaurant discoveries.
When we got there, I was once again taken in by the decor. There are huge glass windows facing the street and inside, chefs are pulling and rolling and making the noodles and dumplings that are served in the restaurant. Unlike many Chinese kitchens, this one is open and visibly neat and clean.
The dining area isn't huge but there are some large function tables at the back that are slightly screened off from the rest of the floor. That would be nice for a special event. We took a seat at the side of the restaurant.
The menu is based on Shanghainese cuisine and comprises of a section with yum cha type items (e.g. dumplings, buns, pancakes), a section of noodles and the usual main meal dishes designed for sharing.
We chose a bunch of starters to share.
The pan-fried pork dumplings were a must order for me because it's really typical Shanghainese food. They came out on a plate and we were all a bit confused because they were placed bottoms up with a layer of something (?) sort of... connecting the dumplings to each other. This had to be pieced apart to distribute the dumplings.
They tasted OK, bit oily. The filling wasn't authentic and there wasn't any soup inside.
The little dragon buns (which Byron referred to as 'ball bags') were really fat and juicy. A mark of a well-made dragon bun is thin skin and lots of soup. These had both; especially ample squirts of gingery soup. The filling wasn't the same texture as traditional ones and the shape was a bit... er, rounder. But they're minor details that don't really affect the enjoyment.
Kat also chose some pork and prawn steamed dumplings that are very much like what you get at yum cha. I never normally order this type of thing because I'm not a huge fan. They were quite unmemorable.
We got some chicken and chive water dumplings. They contained Chinese chives, which is quite pungent and possibly unacceptable to certain palates. I didn't mind the flavor but again, unmemorable.
For mains, I went for something really simple, which was the spring onion mixed with noodles. The idea is that spring onions are fried in oil to flavor it and this infused oil is mixed through noodles with some soy sauce. Really basic but when done well, so delicious. This one was unfortunately disappointing. I liked the unevenness of the noodles because it seemed rustic but the oil wasn't flavored enough so I just tasted bland, oily noodles. Adding more soy sauce helped but that just made it soy sauce noodles... boring?
Byron got a bit of a shock when his dish came. I'm not sure if here was a mix-up some how but he chose a dish that had he term 'wonton' in the description but was listed under the noodle section. We expected there to be both wontons and noodles. It was instead, just a small number of wontons with sauce. No soup. No noodles. It was tiny and at around $20, you expect MORE. He didn't like flavor but when I tried it, I thought it was pretty tasty. Not sure if that was the original flavor or because of all the sauce/chili oil he was pouring on.
There was confusion all round when an unexpected dish was placed in front of Katherine. She thought they misunderstood her order but proceeded to eat it anyway. It was a bbq pork in sweet and sour sauce. I thought it was quite nice but nothing more than a normal, home-made sweet and sour.
Napolean's dish came out an unacceptable 20min or so after everyone else's. This turned out to be what Katherine ordered. They had gotten their plates mixed up. Anyway we all ended up picking at his food to keep him company. It was a crispy chicken (I asked if anyone could remember what it was called exactly but all I got was 'crispy chicken') with peanuts crushed on top. I really liked it but well, you know, fried chicken. Hardly going to taste gross.
Overall, Bamboo Basket was nice for atmosphere and location but that's what you're paying for. The food itself was unremarkable and the servings were small. Service was really friendly but disorganized (mixed orders and one dish took ages longer than the rest).