Asian flair

Bambu earned the distinction of best Asian cuisine in the Mail Tribune's annual newspaper poll in 2010. It's also topped Southern Oregon Magazine's Readers Choice Awards every year since 2009.

A celebratory birthday dinner with a friend brought this diner to Bambu for the first time, and after experiencing Chef Adam Ward's Pan-Asian menu, I can't say enough good things about it either.

Located in the Larson Creek Shopping Center off North Phoenix Road in Medford, the restaurant is in close proximity to Ashland and Jacksonville.

Ward was raised in Ashland and worked through high school for Billy Harto at Thai Pepper. With Harto's help, Ward enrolled in the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. After graduation and a short stay in Hawaii, Ward returned to the Rogue Valley to help run Harto's restaurant. The two opened Bambu in 2001. Ward and his wife, Veronica, bought Harto's share in 2006 and made Bambu their own.

Ward's flair for Asian cuisine blends various styles rather than concentrating on a single country's food. Look for appetizing flavors from Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Hawaii, Indonesia and the Philippines.

An acquaintance, Chris Fidler, manages Bambu's comfortable dining room. She is a former, longtime employee of Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar in Ashland, and she knows her way around a restaurant.

There she was at our table, making quality dining suggestions and expertly tending to our every whim and want.

To start, she recommended Dungeness crab-stuffed wild prawns ($11.95), and my friend selected a bottle of King Estate Winery pinot gris — from the Lorane Valley southwest of Eugene.

Stuffed with the crab, along with minced scallions, cilantro, garlic and lime, breaded and flash-fried, these ambrosial prawns were served with a dipping sauce made with mango and ginger. The dish paired nicely with the wine. Bambu's wine list is substantial, with vintages available by the glass, half-bottle or bottle.

The dim sum ($8.95) also was recommended. This is a delicious and fun start to a meal, with three chicken shumai, three chicken potstickers and a cha shu pork bao cooked in a bamboo steamer and served with hot sriracha sauce and Bambu's housemade teriyaki and sweet chile sauces.

It was plenty for two people, though I sensed a mutual, unspoken desire for one more of those pillowy boas stuffed with barbecued pork.

Ward's basil-encrusted, pan-roasted king salmon — a dish that appears regularly as a dinner special — enticed me the most. Served on a bed of sauteed, baby bok choy and shitake mushrooms and topped with Thai coconut curry sauce ($24), the dish's ingredients were prepared to perfection and beautifully presented in an Asian pottery bowl from a market that Ward shops at in San Francisco.

My friend took a more traditional tack and ordered the Thai chicken sate ($8.95) — two skewers of chicken breast marinated in mild, yellow curry, grilled and served with the restaurant's house peanut sauce and a side cucumber salad. We shared food from our plates and experienced a delicious variety of Asian cuisine. After topping off our meal with a dessert of banana and caramel spring rolls ($6.50), we topped our own list of fine restaurants in the Rogue Valley with Bambu.

That night, we sat at a table in the dining room. It's separated from an open kitchen by a tall, granite bar that provides a good show of Ward and his staff at work. Outside, there's a covered patio with umbrellas, small potted trees, bamboo and other plants that provide plenty of shade for a weekday lunch.

Bambu is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner is from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 5 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The restaurant accepts checks and all major credit cards.

— Laurie Heuston

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