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Bambu keeps its winning ways going with diners

Although it’s tucked away in the Larson Creek Shopping Center off North Phoenix Road in east Medford, one can’t really say Bambu is a hidden gem.

Bambu has been a favorite for Asian cuisine locally, most recently garnering the Mail Tribune’s “Best of the Best” award for Best Thai Restaurant in 2019, and it’s also topped Southern Oregon Magazine’s “Readers Choice Awards” for several years in a row.

On the Monday night my husband and I dined there, the establishment filled up quickly with patrons. It was my first time inside, and I didn’t expect the elegant decor, open-style kitchen and atmospheric lighting. If I couldn’t tell by its awards, I knew immediately this restaurant takes itself seriously.

We were seated in the corner of the restaurant, allowing us to look across the small space and peek at other diners’ dishes. As soon as we heard about the chicken and mushroom potsticker special ($8.95), we had to order it. Served lined up on a narrow plate, the potstickers sat in a shallow pool of soy sauce and were topped with micro-greens. The first bite of a pot sticker often means burning the tip of your tongue from the steam inside, but these were the perfect temperature to consume as soon as they were served to us. The outside was slightly crispy, while the inside was tender and warm. The ground chicken paired well with the mushrooms’ earthy flavors. The soy sauce lingered as a pleasant aftertaste rather than absorbing the other ingredients, and the micro-greens added a light crisp texture.

My husband ordered the Korean BBQ Beef ($18.95) for his main course. The meat was prepared medium rare atop a bed of steamed bok choy marinating in a pool of soy and sesame sauce.

Alongside the beef were homemade potato crisps. The potato crisps were thinly sliced, salted perfectly and practically melted in my mouth. The beef had a similar melt-in-the-mouth sensation. It was tender and best enjoyed when dipped in the soy and sesame sauce, enhancing the beef’s flavor. Bok choy is a staple to me in Asian cuisine, and the way it was prepared for this meal felt like no exception. The leaves were drenched in the soy and sesame sauce, and the body of the vegetable was as tender as the beef.

For my main course, I ordered the Bambu Curry with tofu ($16.95). The curry can be prepared as yellow, red or green, with each color progressively spicier than the last. I chose red for a milder spice. It was served with a small bowl of cucumber salad that was crunchy and slightly sweet.

The curry came in a covered bowl alongside a bowl of white jasmine rice. The curry itself was the perfect amount of spice, tickling the back of my throat throughout the meal but not overpowering the flavors. There were slivers of bamboo shoots and spinach in each bite, and the tofu was a desirable springy texture, taking on all the creamy qualities of the curry. The sticky rice absorbed the thick curry sauce, though it was so creamy and thick I found myself taking sips from the spoon by the end.

For dessert we ordered the Spice Island Ice Cream ($7). This house-made ice cream is mixed with a variety of strong flavors, like Chinese Five Spice, vanilla bean, star anise, golden raisins, macadamia nuts and orange zest. Seeing that many flavors in one ice cream made me wonder if I could taste anything at all. Thankfully, I was easily won over as each flavor melted on my tongue with every bite. The macadamia nuts and golden raisins were the right texture ingredients cutting through the bold flavors of everything else. The best part was the hint of orange zest left behind after each bite.

Our waitress was attentive, sweet and patient. The menu is jam-packed with big plates, curries, small plates, soups and salads. The drink menu is also extensive, ranging from sake and wine by the bottle or glass to beer and Thai iced tea or coffee.

By the end of our meal, it was clear to me why this restaurant was full even on a Monday night. Bambu has won accolades from the bellies of its customers several years running, and it’s clear it doesn’t aim to stop competing for years to come.

Bambu, located at 970 N. Phoenix Road, No. 106, is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and then from 5 to 9 p.m. Orders-to-go are available by calling 541-608-7545.

Reach freelancer writer Jordan Marie McCaw at jmblack1554@gmail.com.

A dish of Korean BBQ Beef tops a bed of steamed bok choy and side of homemade potato crisps.{ }Photo by Jordan Marie McCaw