A range of different Chinese restaurants, take-away outlets and other oriental cuisine line the extended walkways that make up Chinatown in Melbourne. Often you find yourself bewildered by the choice as you make your way down Little Bourke Street. Some of the premises are presumably serving totally inedible MSG, while others may delight your taste-buds all night long. With the external facades and menus all of a similar nature, it could prove to be a game of luck landing one of the better choices.
Either way, as a good-food navigator, I have a duty of care to my readers to send them in the direction of where I believe they will enjoy themselves. Today’s chom spot is Bamboo House, located at 47 Little Bourke Street, which is about half way between Exhibition and Spring Streets. This house began operations in 1984, offering a large variety of northern Chinese dishes in a comfortable setting. Trading successfully for over 25 years, there is much to love about Bamboo House and it’s excellent choice of Chinese fare. Most importantly, in all those years, the prices have remained reasonable.
There is nothing quite like the typical ‘Aussie-Chinese’ look that can be found at Bamboo House. Waiters are dressed in slacks, white shirts and black vests. The tables are completed with white cloths and the floor is non-other than classic dark red carpet. Some may say ‘out dated, where is the exposed brick’? For me, I can’t stress how much I love it when venues keep their original look eg Pellegrini’s and France Soir.
To begin the feast we had the chicken san choy bau. How can I resist? The cool and crunchy lettuce leaf compliments the chopped chook+veg+ nut mix so perfectly portioned inside. A favourite entree that I would recommend to all. Note: ask for extra plum sauce and drizzle all over, not because it needs extra flavour – it just tastes so damn good.
What an army of dumplings above? Soft, plush, juicy pan-fried beef and steamed pork dumpling. Excellent dumplings – no further elaboration required.
You almost need sunglasses to shade the shiny red glow that is glistening off this Peking duck. We requested the full duck and this is exactly what arrived. It’s so delicious I could demolish this little beauty all on my lonesome.
We were lucky enough that a duck master came out from the kitchen in order to prepare the individual parcels for my troops. This bloke was a lovely chap, cooked some ridiculous duck and likes playing tennis in his spare time.
The photo does not do justice to these two constructed Peking duck wraps. Deep inside, the delicate, warm wrap holds a thin, sweet layer of plum sauce and two strips of spring onion – not to forget a generous portion of duck! Eating perfection.
To help balance the stampede of main courses to follow we ate a plate of steamed Chinese greens with mushrooms. Nothing amazing here, just an attempt to try be slightly healthy.
The steamed Mongolian chicken with capsicum is a crowd pleaser. An above average version of a stock-standard Chinese dish. The chicken pieces are tender, the vegetables are fresh while the sauce is not too overpowering.
I have come to know and love this dish in my more recent chomming years. Sichuan dry fried beef has all too quickly become one of my favourite courses on an oriental night out. Ultra-thin pieces of beef, fried in the boiling hot depths of cooking oil and then drenched in a sickly-sweet dressing. Maybe the description does not sound the best – take it from me this is eating bliss. Each croft (crunchy + soft) bite into these mouthfuls is just ‘top-notch’.
Important to offer something for the fish eating vegetarians and the Omega 3 crowd. The steamed barramundi with ginger and spring onion is an excellent choice. The pre-cut, fluffy pieces of Barra are bathing so eloquently in a very light soy dressing. This dish is light and certainly Chommery approved.
As I am sitting here jibber-jabbering I can’t help but salivate. The Cantonese beef with snow peas was exactly what I was hoping for. Generously sized pillows of beef, meaty goodness, each one more lathered in the sweet Cantonese sauce than the next. The snow peas are only visually appealing, while the whole dish is worth it simply for the succulence of the beef.
We dined here as a group of 11 to celebrate a family members day of birth and the Bamboo staff looked after us considerately by perfectly portioning each dish to suit the numbers. Bamboo House is also great if you are a smaller group looking to get a quality Chinese fix when floating around the CBD. I will say that this is not the most economical option on Little Bourke and neither is my equal favourite venue of Longrain (diagonally opposite). Now, you have seen the photos and maybe read some of my dribble so you can make a more informed choice. Bamboo House is not a house, it’s a home and one worth living in even if only for one night (or day).
The Important Details…
Noise: Mid-level chit chat
Suitable for: All
Dress: More upmarket than usual
Price: $50 per person
My View: Tip top Chinese Fare
Address: 47 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9662 1565