6:03 PM

• 69-12 Austin Street
• Forest Hills, NY 11375
(• 718) 265-8388 •

As I was writing this review, it dawned on me that I was treating Bamboo Ya, the new Japanese spot in the Austin Street dead zone, as though it was a regular restaurant, and I was holding it to that standard, which is inaccurate and unfair. It's not a restaurant, it's a diner. A diner that serves Japanese comfort food instead of American comfort food. To compare Bamboo Ya with Katsuno or even Narita would be as useful as comparing T-Bone to Jack & Nellie's. Bamboo Ya is a diner.

The first thing Bamboo Ya did upon taking over the location was a complete and utter gut-job. Nothing of the old floor-plan remains. In fact, the new space seems to be twice the size, stretching so far beyond the old walls of Bann Thai that one could think it tunnels under the LIRR tracks. The interior is clean and bright and modern and new and has six seating options: bar, sushi bar, window area, dining room, booths, and Japanese booths. Lutsy and I chose the booths. Then I noticed that they were right on top of the bathroom. Oh well.

Did I mention that the restaurant is bright? It's bright. Very bright. Clearly, fifty ceiling lamps weren't enough to ward off the vampires, so every table gets its own pendant. You could dine in sunglasses, I kid you not. This might be great for families with kids, but it's about as romantic as an airhorn. Speaking of noise, there's no music. Luckily, the other patrons (if you don't count the bar areas, Bamboo Ya was a little less that half full on a Saturday) were talking loudly enough to create some privacy, but once they go home, your conversation will be the only thing breaking the silence.

If there was ever a cover by which to judge the book of a restaurant, that cover is the menu. Is the menu fifteen pages long? Are there photos? Is it laminated? Do they prop it up against the wall behind the salt shaker? Bamboo Ya hits all but the last one, but give it time. Like most diners, the menu is a phone book overflowing with meal sections, from ramens to ceviches. Photos help kids point at what they want, and the plastic pages are easily cleaned with a little spritz of 409.

Lutsy and I decided that there are plenty of other places to get sushi within a fifteen minute walk, so we stuck with the hot food options. Every entree comes with a Miso Soup or salad and we got miso soup. I'll say this right away, it was good, easily the best miso soup in the neighborhood. Very rich, almost heavy with plenty of little bits of greens and tofu. For our appetizers, Lutsy ordered something that looked pretty unique, Duck Nachos, while I went with Barbecued Squid. The duck nachos were actually pretty good, with rice chips and relatively lean duckmeat. The one downside is that it's mostly a salad and once you get past the goodies on top, it's all lettuce. My squid was decent, but I've had better. The portion, as you can see, was a good size, but the meat was a little tougher than it should have been and the glazing was a little too thin. As a result, it was a little bland. In a very un-diner-like fashion, it was beautifully plated, and I threw a pic of it up on my Instagram feed (which you should follow here).

For her entree, Lutsy got the Chicken Teriyaki, which she enjoyed more than I did. It comes on a sizzling cast iron plate over some broccoli and with a little bit of corn. Chicken teriyaki is generally hard to mess up, and this was perfectly fine by diner standards, but the chicken was way too dry for my liking. I ordered the Saki-Miso Glazed Salmon, which was both good and terrible. Although the salmon could have used a little more glazing. it was moist and flaky, and it was not a small portion. They didn't skimp on the filet. However, while the salmon was hot to the point of being scalding, the vegetables that you see pictured underneath it ranged from lukewarm to refrigerator-cold. It was very clear that this dish was not prepared from scratch at the same time, but pieced together from whatever had already been cooked earlier. Not cool, Bamboo Ya. Not cool. Unless we're talking about that potato, which was, in fact, quite cool.

This kind of sloppiness was a consistent theme of the evening, as not a single dish arrived with any of the others. The entrees were served about seven or eight minutes apart from each other and the appetizers were served five or six minutes apart. Even the miso soup wasn't delivered together, with the waiter dropping off one, then running to the kitchen to get the next. Lest you think that this was just our table, I was watching other patrons and everybody got their meals served one dish at a time. When we asked for the check, the waiter wandered off never to be seen again and we had to ask another someone else, who literally provided it within ten seconds.

We didn't drink anything and the whole meal cost about $60, plus tip. I might come back one day to see how the sushi stacks up against the competition, but I wasn't terribly impressed overall, and the fact they've had a location in Rego Park makes this all the more surprising, as this isn't their first rodeo.

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