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Bamboo Café; Blue Marlin

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Once you've found the Bamboo Café, you'll find it harbors few secrets and no gimmicks. The atmosphere is uninspiring yet simple and comfortable; the American and sometimes cross-continental menu is predictable but executed consistently. And when it comes to service, Bamboo ranks high.

We arrived on a Monday to a blackboard selection of specials including chicken, pork, beef and seafood ranging in price from $9.95 to $14.95. The tuna carpaccio came drizzled with a sweet teriyaki sauce with mandarin orange over jasmine rice ($13.95). My friend ordered the oven-roasted skewers of mahi-mahi in basil butter topped with a red pepper pesto over jasmine rice ($14.95).

Though the restaurant appeared to be busier than normal for a Monday, the entrees were served punctually. The tuna was moist and moderately fresh, although the teriyaki sauce was a little overpowering for my taste. The rice and broccoli helped balance the dish, and I enjoyed my meal thoroughly. My friend's dinner also had an excellent presentation. The mahi was roasted at an appropriate medium-well and seasoned delicately; its natural flavor was slightly stronger, suggesting its moderate freshness. Her plate was left as clean as mine, with no room for dessert, or "pie," I should say. — Aer Stephens

Bamboo Café
1 S. Mulberry St.
Sunday - Saturday, Lunch/Brunch 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.,
Dinner 6 p.m. - 11 p.m.,
Everything but entrees 11 p.m. - 1 a.m.

The menu at the Richmond location of this regional seafood chain offers an extensive collection of seafood dishes that are either deep-fried or served with a half-hearted Cajun or Low Country twist. The entrees, which don't exactly push the envelope on creativity, feature selections like blackened catfish ($12.95), deep-fried seafood items like a shrimp-and-oyster platter ($13.50), a shrimp scampi pasta ($11.95), a few sandwiches, and the mandatory chicken and steak offerings to accommodate the inevitable seafood hater.

It isn't that the food is bad, though a few items could have been a lot better, it's just that none of the dishes — with the possible exception of some desserts — rise above adequate. We've all been to a few places like this that are saved by some other attribute, such as being at a waterfront or having some appealing nautical feel. Not the Blue Marlin. The plain interior is decorated with a little neon and a few prints. It feels like a hotel breakfast room with its beige vinyl booth benches that sink so low you want to ask the waiter for the Yellow Pages. — B. Ifan Rhys

Blue Marlin
7502 W. Broad Street
Dinner: Sunday - Thursday 4 p.m. - 10 p.m., Friday - Saturday 4 p.m. - 11 p.m.

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