Chinese restaurant and buffet

Revised about 12/2001 - They're still a Chinese restaurant but have another name and don't do a buffet. I tried one or two lunch specials at about $4-5 and they're ok.

Bamboo Cafe 6/19.1/99
12725 S. Hawthorne Blvd.
Hawthorne, CA 90250
phone 310-679-3831, fax or phone 310-679-4966

Location. This is on the northwest corner Hawthorne Blvd. and El Segundo Blvd., about three doors north of El Segundo Blvd. There may be parking on Hawthorne Blvd., but it's easier to park in the large, free lot behind the buildings, and use their back door. You can check out their one and only bath room, to the right, as you enter. It just passed my bathroom test, and that's ok.

Introduction. The current owners have been there about seven months. A couple of years ago, under the previous owners, they advertised the buffet in the local paper, and I tried it. It food was ordinary, and for that reason alone I might not return. However, I had planned to checkout the Pic 'n' Save and the three 99¢ Only stores in the area, but almost immediately distress forced me to return home, and I just made it. I can't prove or disprove that they caused it, it happened so fast, but I didn't return till now. I'm glad there's a new owner and new people now.

Hours and prices. I didn't see the hours posted or printed anywhere, and I forgot to ask. The menu says the buffet runs from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., I think they said 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., so call first. The to-go menu says all prices will be reduced by 10%. My buffet listed for $4.99 but cost only $4.90 including tax. They have 15 specials for $4.99 at lunch or $5.99 at dinner. There are 82 items on the menu from $3 to $9 with most dinners at about $6 or $7.

Buffet. I entered, was greeted by a cheerful hostess, checked out the buffet, and dug in. There was one soup: egg flower and corn. The salad and fruit section has a green salad and two dressings, four fruits, and jello. Next are steamed and fried rice and chow mein along with fried wontons and egg rolls. There were fried chicken wings, sweet and sour pork, kung pao chicken, terriyaki chicken, sesame chicken. The vegetable dish was fried green beans with mushrooms, carrots, and onions.

There was one outstanding dish which at first they called fried chicken. But, when I pushed them for a Chinese name, they said "chicken leg in brown sauce." Normally I'll only eat a chicken leg done in the Indian tandoori style, so I can't believe I ate three small legs. I think the legs were stewed, then deep fried, and then stewed again. The meat had a deep, marinated taste, became tender, and the skin and fat were vaporized. It is common in Chinese cuisine to use multiple cooking techniques on one item.

Summary. I tried everything except the fried rice and the egg roll. I like less eggs and thickener in the soup, but it didn't have that creamed-corn taste which I dislike. Everything was at least ok, there were no bad items. The green beans were good, and the chicken leg was outstanding. If you like crisp-fries items, you'll like the chicken wings, the sweet and sour pork, and the fried wonton. For the the sweet and sour pork, you add the sauce, so it doesn't get soggy. The kung pao chicken was a little spicy.

This is a little out of the way for me, but I suggest you try them on a Saturday while the price is still $4.90. They do change the items daily, so the hostess said to call and ask if they have the "chicken leg in brown sauce." The menu says they have over 20 items daily. The hostess did ask about four times if everything was ok, and any server who doesn't ask at least once should be elsewhere. I should have left her a bigger tip, and I will the next time. The buffet does include hot tea.