I've been a resident of Houghton for 10 years. I've eaten at pretty much every restaurant in town, and lived in the area long enough to watch restaurants come, change, and go. I actually ate at Bambu in 2003 during my job interview, when it was a different restaurant. So even Bambu has come and evolved among all choices in town.
Restaurants in the Houghton area are generally very poor. This is a college town with stable enrollment in the local university. So the market is stable, too. Most area restaurants seem to take this for granted and don't compete very hard for customers. Typical experiences in Houghton are inconsistent or bad service, poor value, tired/cheap decor, limited menu and far from cosmopolitan selections, especially beer and wine. Wait staff usually have high turnover... after all, it's a college town and students come and go.
Bambu is the most notable exception to this general rule in the Houghton area! For starters, the washrooms at Bambu rival the best of classy, upscale restaurants in yuppie suburbs of Madison or Seattle. OK, perhaps the washroom is not the key defining feature of a quality restaurant, but consider that if an investment was made in a washroom, then the whole package is probably above par. Foremost, decor and atmosphere at Bambu are top-notch. There are high ceilings, modern fixtures, high quality finishes and pleasant textures throughout. This is a place suited to business lunches and a night out with a significant other. The bar is small but equally classy, and stocked with a modest selection of affordable quality wines. Again quality throughout. Wine and beer prices are also very good, below what other establishments would charge in the region. There's ample parking and a nice waiting area if you arrive on a busy night. Also free wireless internet.
I've been to Bambu at least monthly and more recently almost weekly since it opened, about a year ago? The service and the food has always been very consistent. Staff are crisply dressed in dark uniforms, polite and quick though not always completely cosmopolitan in their knowledge of the wine list. Service is also attentive, and don't be surprised if the owner stops by your table to make sure you are happy with your experience. Last time my sauce was a bit oily; not bad, but just not quite the same as the many prior visits and I wanted to let the owner know. He came back with a discount on my bill and a polite apology, and I left feeling that this restaurant generally cares and wants to please it's customers. How unusual for Houghton!
I'm not a big Asian food fan so perhaps Bambu is not my match, but I have found a Thai curry on the menu that I absolutely adore. Generally, portions are large, hot, and served fast. Selection is well balanced, with typical choices for a North American version of Asian food. There are also a number of vegetarian choices, and a selection of smaller/simpler entrees for kids. I wouldn't describe the menu as elegant, but rather as an upscale version of typical Asian fare. I've only had dessert once and it wasn't spectacular, so that might be one place for improvement.
I'm so glad for Bambu! This saved date night for my wife and me.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.