Chinese food is like pizza. Most of it is average but still satisfying, unless it is particularly fantastic or particularly nauseating (although, in both cases they can be at the time fantastic and later nauseating, especially if you have a tendency to eat it in the quantities that I do). But in my opinion, the biggest difference is if you find yourself craving it on Jesus’ birthday, you’re SOL with pizza unless it was previously cold. So when we were brainstorming ideas in our weekly meeting at the Fatcave, the inspiration of a post-holiday Chinese food review struck me like the minute hand touches 12. That was intended to be a clock pun but whatever, you try of thinking of something being striking besides lightning.
Having a short window of time in my hometown of Portsmouth, NH, and not willing to be stuck (not struck) waiting for a table at a restaurant the weekend after a holiday, I decided to revisit a classic establishment I’d often enjoy after long shifts as a hotel front desk clerk in the very same city. That is, before I moved to the bigger city for an opportunity to make myself miserable in an environment crammed with approximately 500,00 more people. But my despair was welcomingly vanquished when I walked into what is quite possibly the most hidden gem of downtown Portsmouth, the Pink Bamboo Hot Pot Cafe on Penhallow St. Now try not thinking of what the minute hand touches every time I say Pink Bamboo.
Name jokes aside, I knew the Bamboo would be a great contrast to the disappointing experience I recently had during my last experience as a reviewer for the blog . In that, I was not wrong. The Pink Bamboo is a very clean, almost sterile restaurant with only few of the cultural knick-knacks that you’d frequently find in a typical Chinese restaurant.
Despite my appreciation of the atypical, I decided to go with a standard appetizer platter to maximize my exposure to the food and minimize the damage to my wallet (Christmas ain’t cheap). My selection was a platter that included three sticks of beef teriyaki, five chicken fingers, and four crab rangoons for a reasonable $9.95. It was a pretty nice day out so I ordered my food to go so I could take it to the park down the street. Also partially to get myself away from a possible second Scorpion Bowl because it’s important to be an unbiased reviewer (read: not drunk before 1pm).
I went for the chicken fingers first. They were good, but not the highlight of the meal. They were had a great crunch on the outside and were starchy between the meat and fried outer shell with an oily taste. The meat was thoroughly cooked. I was impressed that the chicken didn’t slide out of its fried casing 5 out of 5 times, an unfortunate common issue I’ve found time and time again at lesser Chinese restaurants.
I then moved on to the beef teriyaki. These were absolutely the star of the show, like the best beef jerky you’ve ever had but much better. I truly savoured every bite of these strips of paradise, which was tricky because of how fast I was inclined to eat them. They had a flavor of garlic and red pepper. Truly fantastic.
That left me with the rangoons, which were a delightful treat. The fried wonton shell was crispy where it should be, with a delightful crunch on the outer edges. The center was softer, almost a fried packet of cream cheese. I barely detected the taste of imitation crab, which again, at times with Chinese food can be overbearing. Overall, I found the combination of oily wonton and cream cheese to be buttery and delicious.
Then I got a message from my pal, Nick. I told him I was downtown sampling some food for the site, and he decided to come down and check it out with me. Time for my second Scorpion bowl, and the best item I had there all day. It was the pork fried rice and it was absolutely grand. The pork and onions were sweet, chives and bean sprouts added a flavorful crunch. There’s no way I’m not immediately going to get this dish every single time I come to Portsmouth. So damn good.
Pink Bamboo Hot Pot Cafe of Penhallow St, Portsmouth- you got the easy A. It was my pleasure to review this exceptional restaurant. This isn’t just some great Chinese place, it’s easily one of Portsmouth’s top five eateries- and Portsmouth has no shortage of eateries. But the next time you’re there, don’t get distracted by some place expensive place on Bow St. Go find Pink Bamboo, and the next thing you’ll be doing is thanking me.
For more info about Pink Bamboo, check out their website: http://www.pinkbamboocafe.com/ , and be sure to LIKE their Facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/PinkBambooHotPotCafe/?fref=ts
Review by Sl33zy
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