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Bam-Bou, Percy Street W1

Kim Luu was bowled over and got quite home sick!

Situated in the very heart of London's Fitzrovia, is the elegant French-Vietnamese restaurant Bam-Bou. It is the perfect hide-away from the hustle and bustle of Soho. Both its exterior and interior are very chic: inside, the décor is furnished with traditional Vietnamese lacquered furniture, artefacts and soft candle light. The color scheme is that of the typical urban Hanoi home - authentic Vietnamese embellishment with a touch of French sophistication. The atmosphere alone was worth our spending! A sweet hostess greeted us and then we were guided to our corner table situated by the bamboo-textured linen curtains that adorned the windows. where our waiter offered us his undivided and most attentive service. As we ventured from the foyer to the dining area, the familiar, and to me, poignant aroma of far Eastern home cooking was present the minute we walked through the glass door.

To start off what was anticipated to be a lavish meal, our host suggested a smooth-tasting Vin D'Alsace Tokay (2000). These crisp but delicate Alsatian wines seem particularly well suited to East Asian cuisine, and this one quickly got us in the mood. After placing our orders, a dish of eddamame (steamed fresh soya beans) was brought out for us to occupy ourselves with. The final touch of the rock salt on the soya beans made it that more interesting.

The menu offered a variety of entrées that ranged from seafood, curry, meat and fish and poultry dishes. It was quite consistent in that it offered four choices for each of these respective dishes. I found the meat and fish selection impressive because of its uniqueness and with the use of banana leave cooking. Besides caramelized ginger chicken, the menu offered honey-roasted duck with pak-choi and water chestnuts, black beans and garlic, and fragrant monkfish with kumquat and pac-chi-lao.

For starters, Kat (a young Philadelphian chef) and I shared the salt and pepper tiger prawns, crispy beef with papaya and coconut and lime dressing and hot and sour soup with mussels and sorrel. What I noticed, not only in these dishes, was that of the recognizable Vietnamese way of cooking which entails much of the zesty lemon flavour along with fresh herbs, specifically that of lemongrass. These ingredients produce a piquant and flavoursome aroma and offers the tingly sensation to the taste buds. Other starters included: barbecued pork ribs with lemongrass; fragrant Asian crudités; fish cakes with nuoc cham; pumpkin and coconut soup; and mushroom and buckwheat noodle soup.

For my main course, I decided to go with the seared scallops with Chinese broccoli, black beans and garlic. It was a wonderful combination of all the spices, especially the sautéed black bean scattered on the caramelized Chinese broccoli, topped off with toasted sesame seeds. To complement my dish, the host suggested the wild mushroom noodles. The powerful oil that it was cooked with made it glistened in its bamboo bowl, yet it tasted very light - quite out-of-this world! As for Kat's entrée, she decided on the green curry with chicken, bamboo and sweet potato and a small bowl of jasmine rice. If you like coconut, this dish is just the answer for you. The sweet curry sauce was smooth and the chicken was cooked to the perfect tenderness.

To finish off our feast, we decided to share the green mango and pineapple fritters and the spiced pineapple tarte tatin with green tea ice cream. The mango sauce was incredibly tart but once I'd recovered from the initial shock, its touch was what made the dish. We probably made a mistake sharing, because a later bite into our spiced pineapple tarte tatin was so very sweeeeeeeeeet. May I ask for some water??? Water, please???

In addition to the authentic French-Vietnamese dishes, I was very content with the exclusive, yet friendly, service and the soothing atmosphere. I highly recommend that you make a trip to Bam-Bou! And if you enjoy it as much as I have highly praised it, you should try its sister restaurants, Daphne's and Pasha. All three share the same owner and executive chef.

Cost of Meal: Starters £5.50 - £6.50; Side Orders (small) £1.90 - £2.50 or (large) £2.90 - £4.50; Salads £5.75 - £7.25; Soups £4.00 - £5.25 (small) or £6.00 - £7.75 (large); 
Mains £8.75 - £13.75; 
Dessert £3.75 - £8.50 (dessert selection plate for two); 
Ports & Sweeties £6.50 - £12.00 (125ml) or £24.00 - £90.00 (bottle) Wine £14.50 - £39.00 

Set Lunch Menu Includes your choice of starter, main and/or dessert - £12.50 (2 courses) or £15.00 (3 courses) Open Daily:

Bam Bou 1 Percy Street W1   020 7323 9130

Kim Luu, March 2003

See also March 2003 review of sister restaurants: Pasha  and  Daphne's

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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