Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bamboo Basket

Bamboo Basket
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.

Pan-fried pork dumplings

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.

Separated pork dumpling

They tasted OK, bit oily. The filling wasn't authentic and there wasn't any soup inside.

Little dragon buns

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.

Pork and prawn steamed dumplings

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.

Chicken and chive water dumplings

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.

Spring onion mixed with noodles

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?

Wontons with spicy sauce

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.

BBQ pork and sweet and sour sauce

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.

Crispy chicken

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).

Bamboo Basket on Urbanspoon


  1. I have a friend that tried this place with her family. They had ordered noodle soup dishes, as it was a cold night. One member of the group had ordered dumplings without the soup for the main. But the staff had this confused and brought the dumplings out as an entree and charged the group $18. The whole time, the group had actually thought it was part of their entree dishes, and sat through the main course wondering where the other main dish was.

    All in all, they had mentioned the restaurant was quite a disappointment, where the service was lacking and also the quality of the meals.

  2. Hi Anonymous...

    Ah so it wasn't just us that had that confusion. The problem seems so similar! We also got wontons that looked just like the other entrees but it was charged the price of a main. It really puts a damper on the meal especially since Byron, the one who ordered it, has quite an appetite and was expecting a big bowl of noodles.

  3. Hi Cora.

    I have never been there, so I'm in no position to judge. But, from what my friend had told me about the place, with the mix up/confusion, lack of service and the $18 for the wantons that came out as an entree, I just can't see myself going there.

    I think the most disappointing thing about the $18 wantons was that there were only about 6 pieces. For that price, I would be expecting something lavish, maybe BBQ bun sized wantons? haha

  4. It was seriously no different to the entrees in both appearance and size.

    I'm really surprised how popular the place is. Its completely undeserved.

  5. Actually I found the xiao long bao was especially tasty.

  6. I have been to Bamboo Basket 3 times. The first time was amazing. It was lunch and we had a selection of the dumplings. They were timely and delicious - I raved about the place for about a week! However i didn't think much of the spring rolls.
    My second visit was a late lunch, it was quite busy and it took a while for us to be served after being seated. However, the dishes came out fairly quickly after. We had a group of elderly Chinese ladies sitting at the table next to us who 'ohh'ed and 'ahh'ed each time one of our dishes came up. They even ordered the pan fried dumplings after they saw ours.

    My third visit was at about 8:30pm on a Friday night. Not much to rave about. It took forever for someone to come and take our order. I'm not sure if it was because we were in one of the back curtained areas or because it was later in the evening. It was particularly busy though. We ordered drinks and a pot of Tea. The tea NEVER arrived. The entrees were once again tasty, i found the dumplings very similar to what i had when i lived in China. However the mains left a lot to be desired. The Kung Po Chicken wasn't even slightly spicy, very disappointing. I have wanted to eat quality Kung Po Chicken since i have been back from China and so far no luck... We also had a mushroom dish that wasn't at all memorable. And the mains took quite a while to come out.
    I'm not ready to give up on Bamboo Basket, due to the great experiences i have had at lunch time but i don't think it much chop for dinner. Due to an epic lack of quality traditional Chinese food in inner Brisbane i will most likely go back time and time again.

  7. Hi Anonymous...
    Well I guess everywhere has their good/bad days. If you want traditional Chinese, especially in the form of good dumplings/buns, try Shangpaign Kitchen (http://hungry-kittens.blogspot.com/2010/07/shangpaign-kitchen.html) in Sunnybank Hills. The ambiance is nowhere near as nice as Bamboo Basket but it's cheaper and the pan-fried buns are delicious. So full of soup.

  8. I went there once and ordered the pan-fried pork dumplings (I was equally puzzled by the thin crispy layer of batter connecting each dumpling) and a bowl of wonton noodles (which was unfortunately insipid).

    And both things set me back around $30++ (from memory)

    Never again I say =(

  9. I have just been to the Bamboo Basket and it was a disgrace. The service was disgusting we were ignored and finally when we got their attention they couldn't care less. While the restaurant was still more then half full and food was still coming out of the kitchen the staff started packing up by putting the chairs on the tables, while continuously looking at their watches. The food was ok but over priced for what it was, can't wait for Wang Dynasty

  10. Hi Anonymous...

    Which one is Wang Dynasty?

  11. best xiao long bao in brisbane for mine