By: Jason Perlow
Poke, which rhymes with “Smokey” — is the healthy Hawaiian food craze that’s sweeping the nation.
While the dish has been served on the islands for many years, originating with fishermen looking to use less marketable cuts of ahi tuna to feed themselves with, the modern form of poke, which is analogous to a sashimi salad that you might find at a fine Japanese restaurant, has been around since the 1970s.
In the mainland U.S., the late 2000s saw a rise of “bowl” concept quick-serve restaurants such as Bolay, which has recently been expanding into South Florida. A Coral Springs location on Wiles Road in the Royal Eagle Plaza is expected late 2018/early 2019.
But Bamboo Healthy Food, which opened its pilot location in March of 2018, has beaten Bolay to the punch in the Coral Springs area.
Bamboo, which is in the Ramblewood Square shopping center off North University Drive and Ramblewood Drive, isn’t positioning itself specifically as a poke restaurant because it offers other things such as hot and cold sandwiches, acai bowls, yogurt parfaits, smoothies and fresh juices.
It’s your one-stop shop for eating healthy in Coral Springs.
Like many other bowl concepts, Bamboo goes with the Base/Veg/Protein approach. You choose what base you want on the bottom, be it white or brown rice, quinoa, zucchini noodles or salad greens. Then choose your proteins, such as the traditional ahi tuna, salmon, shrimp, crab, chicken or tofu — and top it with your choice of vegetables/add-ons, toppings, and a signature dressing.
All of this is artfully arranged in a big bamboo bowl, like a composed salad. There are many different combinations you can come up with, and the offerings should make anyone on any kind of diet happy, whether you are gluten-free, low-carb, vegetarian or even vegan.
On our first visit, we went with the poke. Ultimately, we feel this is what the restaurant does best. In fact, for marketing reasons, I would suggest the restaurant actually call itself Bamboo Poke, due to the huge popularity of the dish. It’s hard to tell what this restaurant does otherwise, just from the curb appeal and signage.
I chose ahi tuna and salmon for my proteins, whereas my wife went with the king crab. The tuna and salmon was sushi quality, and the produce used was nice and fresh.
We particularly liked how they used a very fine mandoline to cut the raw zucchini into noodles of an almost angel hair-like consistency.
While she enjoyed the other elements of her bowl, my wife did not particularly like her king crab. She felt it was stringy, salty, and a rather small portion.
Each poke bowl ($12.95) comes with one protein, one base, five add-ons (fruit and veg), three toppings (seeds and spices), and one sauce. Anything above that costs extra, such as additional protein (+$6). There is also a $2 upcharge for fresh and spicy salmon. So the price of these things can balloon pretty quickly.
We tried both the “House” sauce which is the traditional poke soy-based dressing, as well as the soy ginger. Both of us liked the House dressing better.
We were less impressed with our second visit where we decided to try their hot menu items. I got the Shrimp Arrabbiatta bowl, and my wife got the Vegan bowl.
The Shrimp Arrabbiatta ($14) uses a zucchini noodle base, with mushrooms, red pepper, eggplant, and broccoli. It’s cooked up front in the open prep area. They use a commercial marinara sauce, Bertolli, as the base, which they tweak with chili flakes to make it spicy. As a healthy food restaurant which prides itself on its freshness of ingredients in its marketing literature, I would expect that they would use a higher-end product than Bertolli which actually lists sugar as an ingredient.
You can certainly do a lot worse than Bertolli, and I realize that based on the frequency of how often this dish is ordered it may be impractical for them to cook their own marinara sauce from scratch or even from canned tomatoes. But perhaps they should consider a better product such as Muir Glen Organic or even one of the products available at Whole Foods or Lucky’s.
The dish itself isn’t bad but I felt it was a bit stingy on the white shrimp (we counted six not large ones). It’s the kind of thing my wife and I could easily throw together in our own kitchen. It’s certainly quite healthy, although I would argue it needs more protein for the money they are charging for it.
My wife’s vegan bowl ($12) which was composed of quinoa, roasted organic tofu, red peppers, zucchini, eggplant, broccoli, and spinach certainly was a vegetable paradise. But it was lacking in any kind of real flavor other than a little bit of olive oil and salt. We asked them for some poke sauce to spruce it up because it really needed it.
These subjective judgments aside, we actually do like the place a lot, and it’s good that there’s a restaurant in town that is actually trying to promote a healthier lifestyle when we have so much junk being foisted on folks in the Coral Springs area.
In addition to pick-up service, the restaurant also offers free delivery via its website to Coral Springs residents, with a $10 minimum order. That sounds like a great healthy alternative when the lure of pizza, wings or greasy Chinese take-out is just a phone call away.
BAMBOO HEALTHY FOOD
1251 N University Dr
Coral Springs, FL 33071
Monday-Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Jason Perlow is a long-time foodie who spent 20 years in the New York City and New Jersey metro areas reviewing restaurants for The New York Times and his personal food blog, Off The Broiler, which he started in 2006 and ran for ten years. He is also the founder of eGullet, a popular food discussion site and not-for-profit organization that was formed in 2001, which was featured on Tony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” cable television program.
As a technologist by profession, he writes the Tech Broiler blog for CBS’s ZDNet web site. He has been a Coral Springs resident since moving to South Florida in 2012.
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