The shining new decor of Bamboo Garden sets it in a class above most of the local Chinese places. The food is good, too.
photo: Soňa Bellušová
Address: Františkánske námestie 3, Bratislava Old Town
Tel: 07-54 43 24 26
English menu: Yes
Hours: Daily, 11:00-24:00.
From the moment you walk into the new Bamboo Garden (Bambusová záhrada) Chinese restaurant, ideally located just off the main square in Bratislava's Old Town Square, you can tell the place is determined to be a serious competitor in the city's blossoming Chinese restaurant war. An artfully constructed waterfall cascades past plastic plants and pandas, leading you into an exotically decorated basement hideaway with over 100 seats. From the thick menu to the free Chinese trinkets at the end of the meal, the Garden is poised to become one of the city's Asian best bets.
Friendly, helpful, English or Slovak-speaking staff also play a part. While reading the menu in Slovak, English or German, you can sit at nice tables on chairs made from bamboo wood with bamboo-leaf motifs and drink jasmine tea served in dark ceramic tea settings. The walls are hung with mirrors and Chinese calligraphy brushes, and more fake plants and huge Chinese style vases complete the picture. Spacious round tables with rotating "Lazy Susans" in the center are a big plus for large parties wanting to eat family-style.
The tables are discretely divided by glass partitions etched with ducks and of course, bamboo, but because the tables are still close to each other, you had better leave arguments and silly comments outside this restaurant. It can happen that among English-speaking tourists, business people and some local foreigners, you will hear the conversation of Slovak families having their "expensive" dinner out in the city and buoying their children's hesitant appetites with promises that if they finish their supper, they can have chips and Coke tomorrow at the swimming pool restaurant.
Just as every table has a number, you can also order your meal by number from the 150-item menu. As a starter, you can't go wrong with "Spring Rolls" for 69 crowns served with a delicious duck sauce on request. If you choose soup, there are 15 varieties, including an excellent hot and sour and very good "Chicken with Asparagus" broth for 65 crowns.
Cold dishes include a sweet "Chicken Salad" for 79 crowns which consists of spicy cabbage sprinkled with tasty soft chicken slices. The copious menu includes all the Chinese stand-bys, from "Beef with Broccoli" to "Sweet and Sour Chicken," plus some rarer items, including traditional Chinese egg dishes, and a very tasty chicken dish prepared in a "fermented flour sweet sauce." The prices for standard entrees, which generally range from 160 to 190 crowns, are competitive for Chinese restaurants in Bratislava, and cheaper than the other fancy and central Chinese restaurant on Laurinská Street.
Those with lighter appetites can try rice dishes ranging from 109 to 129 crowns or rich noodle soups, which cost between 109 and 159 crowns. And finishing your meal, still sipping your tea, which is keeping hot in the special tea setting, you can indulge in an order of sticky fried bananas in honey.
While having that final cigarette, you can practice your German by reading the description of "How to use the chopsticks" on the restaurant's custom made chopstick wrappers. Ladies can even expect a special gift at the meal's end: so far, we've received a tiny toy ceramic tea pot and a Chinese fan.
The restaurant's large outdoor seating area on the square might lack some of the interior's atmosphere, but it may be cooler during the sweltering summer months. Even when it is too hot in the basement, though, the food and décor can still make for a nice experience. And best of all, if you come with children, you may not have to see them for most of the meal. They can hang out at the flowing waterfall and play with the clay duck.