Sunday, July 15, 2012

Green Bamboo - Memphis

As is often the case for this time of year, I was on my way to Indianapolis for Memorial Day weekend. With visions of good times with college friends and maybe a little racing on the side, I decided to stop in Memphis for lunch. Normally this would mean seeking out more of Memphis’ most famous product, bbq, but I had a different plan for this year. Knowing that any idea of Asian cuisine would be hard to come by in the upcoming weekend, I decided to explore a little of what Memphis had to offer. Being in a bit of a hurry and looking for something reasonably priced, pho seemed to be the perfect answer.

Having done a little research earlier in the week, I had found a Vietnamese restaurant with good reviews that wasn’t too far out my way. After a detour off 240 and onto Germantown Parkway, I pulled into a shopping center and stepped inside the cool air of Green Bamboo.

Despite the high temperatures outside, Green Bamboo was cool and a little dark inside making the idea of a hot bowl of pho much more reasonable. But before the pho, I wanted to see a few of Green Bamboo’s appetizers, starting with the spring rolls or goi cuon.
Translucent rice paper and a side of hoisin peanut dipping sauce is a welcome sight in any Vietnamese restaurant.
While there was a fair amount of pork inside this roll, what really stood out was the lettuce and the big flavor of mint.

Next was a fried version of the rice paper, the cha goi or as Green Bamboo called them VN egg rolls or bamboo egg rolls.
Fresh from the fryer, these rolls were hot but not at all greasy.
Inside the egg roll was a big meaty flavor that was punctuated by black pepper and a smattering of black mushroom and carrot. Complimented by a very sweet bowl of nuoc mam, these egg rolls were a welcome appetizer.

Underrated as far as appetizers go, I couldn’t pass up the idea of an order of fried tofu.
Battered, fried, chili salted, and topped with pepper, shredded green onions, and carrots, these thick slices of tofu were both silky and delightfully crunchy.
While each piece of tofu did come seasoned with plenty of black pepper and salt, even with a dip in the sweet chili sauce, this is a dish for tofu lovers.

With appetizers to spare, it was time to move on to the main event, a steaming bowl of pho dac biet. Why do I always pick pho dac biet? With sliced beef, tendon, tripe, and meatballs, it’s just too hard to turn down.
Topped with onions, cilantro, and sliced green onions, this pho broth was lip smacking, unctuous, and armed with a bit of a fatty texture.
On its own, the broth didn’t have an overwhelming beefiness, but even with small tastes of anise and cinnamon, it was hard to pick out main flavors.
Although the ingredients eluded me, the broth was still quite good when mixed with a little chili garlic sauce and fish sauce.
The tripe was nicely shredded, the soft tendon was just tender enough, and I was surprised to see the fat cap still on the slices of brisket.
Although there was plenty of beef for such a smallish bowl of pho, the beef was on the chewy side even for brisket.

As I got back in the car for the drive to Nashville, the question that most weighed on my mind was did Green Bamboo fill the void of Asian cuisine for the long weekend ahead? On the face of it, yes.  Although $9.50 is on the high side for a bowl of pho, even a dac biet with this much beef, Green Bamboo still offered a variety of quality dishes many with bold if a bit elusive flavors. I still need to do a little more digging into Memphis’ selection of pho, but Green Bamboo was a fair start to both journeys.

Green Bamboo Address & Information
Green Bamboo on Urbanspoon

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