On the Menu

Fresh Mex

by Elizabeth Rose

The Pinata special is a monster serving of shrimp, steak or chicken (or all three). Photo by Elizabeth Rose

Bamboo Mexican Grill and Pub is putting the fresh back into authentic Mexican.
By Elizabeth Rose

The American adaptation of Mexican food requires pools of grease and an overabundance of cheese that many restaurants have gladly adopted - and patrons keep eating, all while oil continues to seep out of their pores. Bamboo Mexican Grill and Pub shuns that requirement, refusing to weigh customers down with unnecessary drippings and serves up fresh and lighter versions of Mexican classics.

Co-owners Adam Young and Ernesto Ortega pride themselves on providing a more authentic Mexican flavor for their customers. Despite its two-person kitchen staff, food arrives hot. Until then, the house-made tortilla chips and salsa are enough to make customers return time and time again. The salsa, more pureed than chunky, is the perfect balance of flavors with just the right amount of kick. For all of the food, it's obvious there was very little time between cooking and serving.

Bamboo's two most popular dishes are the Piñata Special and the grilled tilapia, and they're both fairly large, so be prepared to share with a friend or take leftovers home for some awesome egg rice in the morning. The tilapia arrives extremely tender, lightly coated in a secret recipe of spices that seeps into the fish as it cooks, instead of creating a crispy outer layer. Hints of garlic and onion are present, but not overpowering, and the fish comes with steamed broccoli and a small mountain of Mexican rice, which has a slight tomato flavor.

The Piñata Special is a monster all its own - a choice of shrimp, steak or chicken (or a combination of the three) mixed with caramelized onions, mushrooms and green bell peppers, all atop a bed of Mexican rice, sprinkled with cheese, accompanied with a choice of corn, wheat or flour tortillas that arrive on a separate plate with a small boat of white cheese sauce. Everything about it tastes fresh, and you don't leave feeling like an afternoon-long nap is in the near future - as long as you left some food on the plate. A large amount of self-control is necessary to avoid a siesta.

Ortega, who grew up in Mexico, and Young, a Hawaii native, say the challenge in opening Bamboo Mexican Grill and Pub lies in their unfamiliarity with most of Lafayette's residents. "In Lafayette, it's harder coming from the outside. People don't know you," says Ortega. They both worked as managers at Tortilla Soup, but then decided to split off and open their joint venture in March in the former Boulevard Grille on Coolidge Boulevard in the Oil Center. The name Bamboo Grill and Pub implies Asian, but the name came from a divine intervention after Ortega prayed to his father about naming the restaurant.

"We were writing a lot of Mexican names, just like everybody knows," says Ortega. "Just as soon as I asked him, Bamboo' came to my head. I said, Bamboo?' because it's something from Asia, but I said, Well, if he said Bamboo, then it's going to be Bamboo!'"

Bamboo Mexican Grill and Pub
1120 Coolidge Blvd.
Oil Center Gardens