6600 Main St, Williamsville, NY 14221
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A nice, if outdated family Chinese restaurant with a fair array of non-Chinese items, including a handful of Korean choices and Polynesian appetizers; generally good food.
Some items aren't great; portion sizes can be a little skimpy for the price, and some items are bland in the flavor department. Decor is outdated.
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Chinese Korean Williamsville
"Bamboo China shut its doors, as its owners decided to operate a take-out location elsewhere in Williamsville. We wish them the best of luck in their new restaurant."
When a restaurant opens up and does a good job, it can continue to grow and improve, or stay pretty much the same. Bamboo China is every bit the restaurant that it was 20-some years ago, a Main Street in Williamsville locale that has continued to offer well-above-par Chinese cooking for years alongside a nondescript collection of Korean dishes. Though everything from the menus to the decor appears to have remained literally and exactly the same from when the place first opened, it's hard to fault cooking that yields generous portion sizes and rich, authentic Chinese flavors. At a different time, and in a different place, Bamboo China might come across as a relic just waiting to be replaced with something cleaner and fancier, but given the somewhat sorry state of Chinese cuisine in this area, we view it as a positive holdout in almost all the ways that really matter.
The Story: Dishes are typically served family style, with enough food that two people could actually share their dishes rather than starving each other. The menu, still laced with the sorts of Polynesian appetizers that have gradually disappeared from "authentic" Chinese restaurants, lets fans of Pu-Pu Platters and teriyaki beef sticks have as much fun as those seeking multi-person seafood soups, traditional Chinese specialties, or plates that sound Chinese but actually borrow more from Korean classics such as Chap Chae. Though it could stand to be updated, it's a menu guaranteed not to offend the palates of true Chinese aficionados or those whose greatest thrills are in the sweet and sour, chop suey, or fried rice categories.
Highs: Some of the interesting items on the menu include standard appetizers like Steamed Dumplings (6/$3.50), Beef Teriyaki sticks (4/$4), and Hot and Sour Soup ($3.25/quart), all of which are done nicely if not spectacularly. Lucky Family ($10), known elsewhere as Happy Family, combines chicken, pork, lobster, and shrimp in reasonable quantities with mixed, sauteed vegetables and brown sauce. Chicken dishes, such as the classic deep-fried, tomato and chili sauce-covered General Tso's Chicken ($10), are generally very good, as is the Mu Shu Chicken with pancakes ($7). Mongolian Beef ($9) is also competent. Notably, two sections of the menu are devoted to "Northern Style" and "Soft Noodles" items, which surprisingly include Korean dishes such as Jop Tong, Tsa Yo, and Kim Chi, plus a few Chinese oddities such as shark's fin and braised sea cucumber.
Lows: Though we were generally impressed by the quality of the table service here, a recent take-out order wasn't quite as good. A Sizzling Rice Soup ($4.25) was sparse on seafood and bland in flavor; similarly, a Seafood in Bird's Nest ($13) featured small pieces of lobster, scallops, shrimp and vegetables in brown sauce with crispy noodles, but wasn't generous in portion size or especially delicious; we've been far more impressed with similar dishes at Sun Garden.
Additionally, it's worth noting that Bamboo China looks and feels a bit like the Chinese restaurant that time forgot, with a somewhat relaxed attitude and outdated ambience that would be as well placed in a Twilight Zone episode as on Main Street near professional offices and shopping. A bar area in the entry looks as if it hasn't been actively used to serve alcohol in some time, though the kitchen has bottled beers and other drinks aplenty. Though the expenditures might be too much for the owners to bear, updating this place's look and feel would go a long way to bringing the experience up to par with the cooking.
The Verdict: Overall, we've found Bamboo China to be a better dine-in restaurant than a take-out one, but the quality of the food is generally good enough that you'd be hard-pressed to have a legitimately bad meal either inside or outside its doors. Affordable prices are offset only by portion sizes that vary unpredictably, so you're best off expecting to order both an appetizer and entree if you want to feel sated - order things you like, and you'll be satisfied, most likely not blown away.
Updated: On August 3, 2008, Bamboo China shut its doors, as its owners decided to operate a take-out location elsewhere in Williamsville. We wish them the best of luck in their new restaurant.