Bambuza Vietnamese Bistro

When I order Vietnamese food—cheap, no-frills, and plentiful in the International District—it's generally garnished with only a Styrofoam container. So I was a bit moonstruck by Bambuza's slick black counters, chichi orange balloon light fixtures, giant pots of bamboo, and lime-green walls. My wallet burrowed in fear in my pocket after the only other diners in the restaurant—a twosome—ordered one of everything on the six-item, $5 food menu during happy hour (4–6 p.m., Mon.–Fri.); how many plates of value-priced food would it take to make an indent on our hunger? I feared our veggie salad rolls ($4) would arrive Smurf-sized. Happily, they did not. I loved the feel on my tongue when the sticky, tight rice wrapper split under my teeth to let loose the tangle of basil-infused noodles, tofu, carrots, and peanut sauce. We also enjoyed happy-hour priced pate/ham baguette sandwiches ($5), a freshly squeezed lime drop ($5), and a mango-nectar Bellini Fizz ($5). The disappointing vegetarian Rangoon ($4) however, tasted, oddly, like bitsy, crispy fried pot-pies that lacked any hint of cream-cheese—a shame because we'd imagined rich little pillows of the stuff after reading the menu description. In case the address doesn't make it obvious: Bambuza's happy hour is probably best for walkers and bus riders. You'd have better luck finding a vegan Texan than street parking downtown at 4 p.m. on a weekday, and the price of the parking garage is more than what most people would pay for a gigantic-enough-for-two-people-to-share bowl of Bun Bo Xao at one of the Vietnamese joints on Jackson Street. 820 Pike St., 206-219-5555. www.bambuza.com. DOWNTOWN

 
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