Staying power seems to have eluded a string of restaurants on Valley Road in Montclair, NJ, a fantastic street that’s chock full of interesting shops and other restaurants.
First was Fawa, on 605 Valley, which kept me at bay its claims about French-Asian fusion food. ‘Fusion’ isn’t a very inviting concept, though I love French food on its own, and any stripe of Asian food, on its own. Fawa sat there for months, ventured into by exactly two friends who didn’t have anything remarkable to say about it, and was replaced by Sakura (click on the link to read a story about that and other sushi restaurants in the area). Before I could even get excited, and despite quickly earning a reputation for creativity with the food presentation (ominously, like its predecessor), it, too, folded.
Along came Bamboo and what I had hoped was a bit of menu decisiveness. As soon as the sign went up, I popped in and asked the manager what kind of restaurant it would be. He said ‘Chinese,’ and I thought, ‘Fab.’ He said the owner was from the Fujian province and would be serving regional food. Yum!
After some minor tweaks of Fawa/Sakura’s decor, Bamboo opened in May to serve not just Chinese food, and not just from the Fujian province, but Thai food, Southeast Asian dishes and (sigh) sushi, too. On a desperate day last week and on a mad hunt for something Chinese, a friend and I popped in.
We ordered simply. What better way to set the scene for future culinary adventurousness than by testing out the benchmarks. Veggie steamed dumplings to start, along with a chicken dish done in a black pepper sauce and vegetable noodles.
Well, the dishes looked very appetizing (see photos), but none of the three stood out as having any particular flavor that we remember. A generic dumpling with no strong tone of ginger, garlic or any vegetable, generic wok-fried chicken (with no yumminess of pepper coming through at all, scent- or flavor-wise, and bog-standard noodle that was bereft of any herb or spice or seasoning that identified it as more, say, Chinese, than Southeast Asian or Thai (it certainly wasn’t Japanese).
I don’t know, is it the curse of the location? Perhaps a bit of focus will help someone who wants to succeed?