Bamboo Bowl worth finding for Vietnamese fare

You won’t stumble across Bamboo Bowl by accident, tucked away in the corner of the Seattle Hill Crossing strip mall between Everett and Snohomish. It is at 132nd Street SE and Seattle Hill Road, with a Seattle Hill Road address.

The natural-light-filled Vietnamese restaurant has pale walls and an industrial ceiling, with modest decor. What struck me as I went in the front door was that the tables, floor and windows almost shined they were so squeaky clean.

The take-out and dine-in menus are the same, with a manageable variety of dishes, boasting that their pho “is probably the longest and slowest cooked broth in town for the most robust flavors.”

If you are a pho fan, the fresh and from-scratch ingredients are worth a try. And, in spite of the long cooking time, service is quick and take-out orders are ready to go in no time.

I ordered a green onion pancake ($4.50) from the appetizer list, which included shrimp and pork rolls, fried wontons, egg rolls and wonton with hot and spicy sauce ($3.95 to $6.50.)

The fried green onion pancake was much different from what I expected. It was fried with multiple layers of dough laden with green onions. It had a delicious flavor with a mild soy-based sauce on the side and was served in wedges, sliced like a quesadilla.

I’ve been wanting to try a banh mi (bon me), a Vietnamese sandwich, for a long time.

At the Bamboo Bowl, it comes on a crusty baguette, from the French influence found in many Vietnamese dishes, and is made with lettuce, cilantro, basil, carrots, soy sauce, salt and pepper, a fried egg, jalapeno and your choice of beef, pork, chicken, tofu or shrimp ($4 to $4.25).

The crunchy bread and crisp vegetables, strong cilantro flavor and thinly sliced pork had fresh and clean flavors, but the jalapeno was a little hot for me. An easy fix was to pop open the sandwich, remove the large slice of jalapeno, close it back up and enjoy.

I also tried vermicelli with egg rolls, which had slices of egg roll, super fresh matchsticks of cucumber and vermicelli noodles. It was finished with a very light and sweet vinegary dressing, which was refreshing ($6.50).

Other dishes include 14 choices of the six- to eight-hour cooked pots of broth for pho, with beef, brisket or tripe, meat ball, chicken noodle, shrimp or plain (medium and large, $6 to $7.50).

Noodle dishes include egg noodle soups, vermicelli dish combinations and two rice dishes.

They also offer three vegetarian dishes: rice with vegetables, veggie noodle soup and vermicelli with tofu.

There are no “stars” on the menu to determine heat or spiciness; the dishes are prepared without a lot of seasoning (or MSG).

On each table, however, is an array of additions to customize you dishes to your own taste.

Choose from black pepper, soy sauce, hoison sauce, fish sauce, chili sauce (with lots of seeds) and the hottest, Sriracha.

Light sauces, delicious ingredients and fresh, housemade dishes are worth the effort to seek out Bamboo Bowl.

Bamboo Bowl

13119 Seattle Hill Road, Suite 101, Snohomish; 425-225-5067; www.bamboobowlrestaurant.com.

Specialty: Vietnamese.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Vegetarian options: Yes.

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