We were invited to an exclusive food tasting of Bamboo Union’s latest additions to the menu. Amongst the new additions were the Spicy Tempura Maki Rolls, the Ginsoy Prawns, Teriyaki Fish, Kung Pao Chicken and Spicy Basil Beef. Bamboo Union gained popularity in a quick span of time mainly because of its unique flavours and Asian spice blends that hit the right spots with an explosion of flavour to tantalise your taste buds.Bamboo Union is based in a posh locality of Lahore with high-end cafes and restaurants all around. Having such a highly competitive placement geographically has worked to its advantage and secured quite a throng of loyal customers. The minimalist yet smart decor gives you the feeling that their focus is truly on their gastronomic creations. They don’t intend to impress you with an ostentatious façade and substandard food. With an open kitchen, the live cooking stations are visible at all times from the ground floor seating.
The 32-year old entrepreneur Raza Ahmed, not a chef professionally, told us that at Bamboo Union they strive to stand out by pushing limits and trying new techniques of combining contrasting flavours and textures whenever adding something new to the menu. His passion for good food is what drives him to experiment and get creative. He adds “Since I wanted to get into a sustainable business and not just a faddy place, I opted for Pan-Asian cuisine. We Lahoris love our desi food and second favourite food preference is Chinese. Pan-Asian that way appeared to be a safe choice. Sadly we, as Lahoris, tend to go with the “safe options” rather than trying something new or different each time.”
Soon as we were seated, they served us their version of a refreshing chilled Mint Margarita, one of the better ones in the city. Spicy Tempura Maki, for most of you who have never tried sushi, is probably your safest choice. It contains cooked shrimp. This is slightly different from a regular crunchy maki, as the outer-crust of the roll is just glutinous-rice with some Japanese spice, topped with a small piece of shrimp, to be dipped in a spicy sauce. One bite and we were in love with these rolls. Then came the Ginsoy Prawns, apart from being absolute eye candy, they were packed with flavour. These prawns are deep fried, coated with a spicy wasabi mayo sauce and finally dipped into thinly sliced deep fried potatoes, creating an unusual crunchy coating. The entire construction is too good and a pleasure for the taste buds.
Coming to the main courses, the Teriyaki Fish was excellent, as the sauce was pretty well balanced and the fish had perfect texture owing to the fact that they only use fresh river sole. It’s always safe to order fish here. Kung Pao Chicken was also very nice, I think. The same can be found elsewhere with a similar sauce but we had no complaints with the flavour as the one at Bamboo Union has some extra secret to their sauce which makes the dish better balanced in terms of spices. Lastly, the Spicy Basil Beef with its blend of aromatic savoury essences, served with long, fried red whole chillies on the top, is a firecracker for your palate. For all Thai food lovers, it’s a must-have as the beef is extremely tender and succulent. The fresh basil and Thai chili made the flavors stand out. If your spice tolerance is low, this dish is definitely not for the faint hearted. Bamboo Union has also started a secret menu which changes from time to
offering some intriguing innovation or tantalising specialty.
Our regular favourites at our favourite Pan-Asian haunt include the Grilled Broccoli with Chili Sambal Romesco, a hot, garlicky, nutty red-peppered relish atop grilled broccoli- a must try for broccoli lovers. Another great dish is the Black Sesame and Ginger Chicken Noodle salad, a safe option for ordering if you’re not very adventurous with your food choices. The Chinese Treasure Soup and the Tom Kha Gaye are two soups which are my personal favourites. Having holidayed in Thailand many times, (Thai food being one of my favourite cuisines), these soups are as authentic as they come. Sometimes I do feel the need to add some extra spice to the Tom Kha Gaye as it’s a primarily coconut-based curry soup. A little fish sauce and chilli-oil goes a long way in terms of enhancing flavour.
For starters, Chicken Dumpling Nachos have tantalising pickle-based cheese dip; these fried stuffed dumplings pack quite a flavour punch. Chicken Dumpling sare tender warm pockets of chicken with a pleasant sauce. The Fiery Tempura Prawnsare quite a favourite of ours as they are served fresh and tantalising. The delicious Thai Green Curry, Sichuan Chili Dry, Grilled Prawns with Garlic and Red Chillies,Beef Chili Dry, Crunchy Honey Beef are all very enjoyable dishes with their own distinctive tang to tease your senses. They are best served with Sticky Jasmine Rice, the yummy Egg Fried Rice,or the mouth-watering Garlic Rice. The Lettuce Wraps with Wok-Fried Chicken/Beef are nice when you don’t want to have just the usual rice or noodles. The Beef Bibimbap is a Korean dish in which the rice is topped with sautéed vegetables, chili paste and beef with a nice fried egg on the top. This is a wonderful concoction for those cold winter nights when one wants warm soothing comfort food. The Pad Thai with Chicken/Prawns is the best pad thai Lahore has to offer! Last, but not the least, Lemon Grass Tea is necessary to help digest all the delightful food that one consumes so eagerly at Bamboo Union.