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Review | Twisted Bamboo

Twisted Bamboo offers an Asian greatest-hits

At Twisted Bamboo, textural contrasts abound, as in these Vietnamese spring rolls served with nuoc mam and cooling lettuce leaves or a Thai chicken salad topped with crispy noodles.


At Twisted Bamboo, textural contrasts abound, as in these Vietnamese spring rolls served with nuoc mam and cooling lettuce leaves or a Thai chicken salad topped with crispy noodles.


Christian Lander has made a living cataloging Stuff White People Like, first via his blog (www.stuffwhitepeople and now in a book published this month by Random House.

Scrolling through the L.A.-based Canadian writer's list, it doesn't seem specifically white, nor does it seem entirely accurate. (I'm white and I don't like bumper stickers.) Still, No. 45 seems amazingly, resoundingly true.

White people like Asian fusion food.

Lander is snarky about it, but there's some validity to his point. Go to a Vietnamese restaurant and you just get Vietnamese food. Chinese restaurant? You're looking at General Tso and sesame chicken. And so forth, with many small mom-and-pop places a little lean on romantic atmosphere or martini menus.

At an Asian fusion restaurant, menu language is seldom intimidatingly foreign, choices are broader and no one has to compromise. It's like a greatest-hits list, globetrotting from one beloved spot in Asia to the next, somehow all of it playing nicely together.

Twisted Bamboo, opened a month ago in Bay Arbor Place, is doing it just right. Owners Robbin Hedges and Dan Spear refined the concept at their two pan-Asian restaurants in Orlando and West Palm Beach. It's a lovely space, moodily lit with pagoda-reminiscent rafters, lots of bamboo wainscoting and a bar with a hefty swank factor.

For a new restaurant, they've done the miraculous, equipping a smart service staff to gracefully minister to customers and guide as needed through the menu.

Beyond "Should I go for the Singapore noodles or the shaking beef?" not much guidance is necessary. You recognize this food. Sweet and sour chicken ($13.95), pad Thai ($8.95-$11.95) — you have probably had a better version of each at some point in your life, but probably not at the same place, especially one where you can also get a competent filet mignon ($20.95). During our visits, flavors were lively, sauces weren't gloppy or oversweet, veggies had nice snap and meats came as requested.

Settle in with a glass of wine from the familiar but fair-priced wine list, or go silli-tini with a kaffir lime version ($7.95), graham-cracker rimmed and emphatically liquid dessert. Of the appetizers, a tuna poke ($8.95) was our fave, jeweled cubes of ahi sesame-oil slick and scooped with crisp, salted wonton lengths. Pan-seared pork and shrimp potstickers ($5.50) needed a minute more searing for texture's sake, but the lemony ponzu-soy dipping sauce was elegant. Salads eat like a meal — if you want one to start, split the Thai peanut chicken or spinach tofu (both $7.95) with friends, the latter's miso ginger dressing just right.

Nibble a little bowl of salted edamame ($1.95) in anticipation of an entree of fat udon noodles ($9.95), together two of the only contenders from Japan. The noodles are dotted with sliced chicken breast, shiitakes, scallion and wokked bok choy, the soy-ish brown sauce subtle and pleasant. Kung pao ($13.95 chicken, $15.95 shrimp) isn't prototypical, the addition of fragrant Thai basil offsetting the spicy chili sauce. Still, very satisfying, served with green-tinged bamboo rice.

I was skeptical of the most popular dish: pretzel-encrusted grouper ($16.95). Hmm, not very Asian with its shades of Snyder's of Hanover. Really, it's a nice panko-crusted piece of fish (the addition of crushed pretzel mysteriously lends an almost popcorn flavor), served with a sweet-spicy fruit relish, perfect for the Asian food-phobe, as is the Caribbean-accented pork tenderloin ($15.95).

Thus far, nothing particularly twisted about this Bamboo. It's accessible and crowd-pleasing, a trend that continues with dessert. Oozy flourless chocolate cake ($4.95), an airy and lemony cream cake ($4.95) and a range of ice creams end things on the same sweet note that this newcomer has started on.

Laura Reiley can be reached at or (727) 892-2293. Her blog, the Mouth of Tampa Bay, can be found at Reiley dines anonymously and unannounced. The Times pays all expenses. Advertising has nothing to do with selection for review or the assessment.


Twisted Bamboo

Bay Arbor Place, 3687 Tampa Road, Oldsmar,
(813) 749-8999

Cuisine: Asian fusion

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, until midnight Friday and Saturday

Details: Amex, V, MC; reservations accepted; full bar

Prices: Lunch $5.50-$14.95; dinner entrees $9.95-$20.95

Rating out of four stars:





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Twisted Bamboo offers an Asian greatest-hits 07/08/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 14, 2008 7:39pm]
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