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Buffalo Springfield Mac and Cheese from Keystone Bar and Grill

Posted Saturday, April 4, 2015

By now most of my followers have noticed I haven't been writing much lately. Early this year, I began experiencing a sudden onset of health issues that have so far baffled doctors. The stress from this ordeal has made my appetite --to say nothing of dining out-- much less of a priority. Instead I've focused on eating unremarkable meals aimed at keeping my weight up: tepid oatmeal, gluten-free burrito bowls from various chains and repeated breakfasts of Peanut Butter Crunch.

Now two months into my mystery illness, I've finally begun attempts at re-establishing a routine to get my mind off what nastiness may be happening to my body. I'm slowly folding restaurants back into the mix and attempting to return to a sense of normalcy.

With that in mind, my girlfriend and I opted for an evening of Thai food. Our favorite Thai restaurant, Mekong, closed shop several months ago, replaced by the disappointing Bangkok Street on Montgomery Road, owned by the same folks who brought us Zab Thai in Loveland. In our two visits there, we had dealt with meals so greasy that we vowed never to return again. The availability of nearby Thai is still fairly bountiful, and while we weren't excited about our first meal at the newer Bamboo Kitchen on Kenwood Road, which is co-owned by a niece of Mekong's owner, we felt it was our best bet for another try.

We arrived on a Friday night, so it was surprising and a bit disheartening to find the place empty except for a group of teenagers huddled in the back of the room, apparently hanging out with one of the owner's teenage employees. The small interior was a jungle green with green booths and black tables. There was a very large and very out-of-place LCD TV hanging on both a rear and side wall flashing CNN News, thoroughly disrupting any sense of a pleasant ambiance.

The young waiter provided us water while we perused a menu common at most Thai restaurants, filled with the usual appetizers of spring rolls, summer rolls and pot stickers; soups like Pho and Tom Yum; Thai curries; and an assortment of rice noodle dishes.

We chose an order of summer rolls, to be followed up by two entrees of Pad Kee-Mao. My girlfriend opted for the tofu version, while I chose the chicken. Spice levels at Bamboo are on a 1-3 scale, and we each selected a two.

The summer rolls arrived with three dipping sauce selections: a sweet peanut sauce, Sriracha and a hoisin sauce. The large, plump rice paper wraps were filled with the expected shrimp, lettuce, cilantro and bean sprouts and started things off on a relatively high note.

Not a minute later, our entrees arrived, giving us inadequate time to wolf down the summer rolls before our dinner got cold. Aside from the proteins, our orders of Pad Kee Mao should have appeared identical, but it was clear my dish had been deluged in a sauce made too salty by an overuse of soy. My girlfriend's dish fared better, with a more proportional, light-handed treatment of the smoky sauce. The waiter failed to refill our water until nearly the end of the meal.

Overall, our second experience at Bamboo Kitchen was a disappointment. The ambiance is terrible: we were presented with two large-screen TVs flashing CNN instead of some inviting music and appropriate ambiance; the pacing between our appetizers and entrees was poorly timed; and our entrees, which should have been exactly the same save for the proteins, were inconsistent, and mine barely edible: I ate less than half of it.

This was not the way I'd hoped to re-introduce myself into the world of restaurant reviews. We expected far more from a restaurant with connections to the former Mekong. That said, our ice cream dessert at Whit's Frozen Custard in Blue Ash was right as rain.

Bamboo Kitchen on Urbanspoon
Bamboo Kitchen

Price: Moderately Expensive ($11 - $16 per person)
Service: Fair
Rating: 2.0 out of 42.0 stars

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Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
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