Monday, October 5, 2015

Hot Pot and more at the Purple Bamboo in Billerica

I've been driving by Purple Bamboo, a new restaurant in Billerica on my commute for a few weeks now. The restaurant recently opened up in August in an awkward location on 3A near McDonalds/Stelios.

I finally got a chance to visit for a birthday celebration with 6 other girls on a Fall Sunday evening. The restaurant has a main dining area with a bar as well as a separate dining room featuring tables with built in burners for hot pot.  Hot Pot or "Shabu Shabu"  or "Sukiyai" isn't a new concept but the popularity is growing.  Boston's Chinatown alone features many eateries with the nabemono style of eating with restaurants like all you can eat Hot Pot Buffet, Shabu Zen and The Q.  The "cook your own" meal features a variety of meats, seafood and veggies that you can choose to cook and simmer on your own tabletop served alongside with other noodles and condiments.

Purple Bamboo Hot Pot Buffet and other entrees

Once we arrived at the restaurant, the server was quick to take our drink orders.  A few got Pina -Coladas and a couple of us got Patron Tequila shots.  What's a birthday dinner without birthday shots? We also put in a couple appetizers from their Chinese menu and ordered the scallion pancakes and salt and pepper calamari.

Scallion pancake $4.95
One of the differences that sets Purple Bamboo aside from Hot Pot Buffet and Yong Yong is that the hot pots are individual and not shared.  The meats and vegetables are also a la carte or from a set meal and not unlimited.

Diners have many options and variations to choose from.  For the broth base, prices range from $1.00 to 3.00.

  • Chicken broth
  • Spicy Chinese broth
  • Mushroom broth
  • Tomato broth
  • Vegetable Broth
The popular choice for our table were chicken (which many said it was VERY bland), mushroom and spicy Chinese that was reminiscent of a Thai Tom Yom flavor.

Purple Bamboo chicken broth
For those who wanted to keep it simple, there were 5 combinations that included noodles and assorted vegetables:
  • Top Grade Rib Eye: $22.95
  • Prime Rib Eye: $19.95
  • Beef: $14.95
  • Lamb: $14.95
  • Seafood Combo $24.95

Seafood combination with shrimp, scallop, squid, salmon and flounder
al la carte seafood balls

Meatballs and sliced taro
Tofu and assorted meat and seafood balls
I didn't like the fact that everything seemed "dime and nickel-ed."  For instance, you had to pay an extra dollar if you wanted sesame or seafood sauce to flavor the bland broth although the garlic and scallion was included.

For carb options, choices were udon noodles, rice noodles or white rice.  The udon noodles were prepackaged and served in a bowl with its packaged square shape intact.

The portion of the meat and vegetables were very generous and the tables were easy to use. Once everyone got their items, it was time to feast.  Since some of the ingredients took longer to cook (corn, taro, etc), those went in first.  Items like the rib eye are better off blanched and eaten medium-rare (in my opinion at least.)  The individual hot pots had lids so they meal would cook faster.

Purple Bamboo Hot Pot
Instead of doing the hot pot option, I wanted to try a few entrees from the "Asian Cuisine" menu which has Chinese fast food staples like beef and broccoli and general gau chicken.  The flounder in tomato sauce looked intriguing so I went with that as well as orange peel beef.  You can't screw that up right?

When I ordered the flounder dish, I imagined it would be a whole flounder steamed or deep fried and covered with the tomato sauce.  It was actually served with battered boneless flounder fritters accompanied by a tomato dipping sauce. Nonetheless, it was delicious.

Flounder in tomato sauce $11.95
 The orange peel beef was on par with other Chinese restaurants.  It was very good but my favorite version is still from Sichuan Gourmet down the road.

Orange Peel Beef  $12.95
There were lots of vegetables and meats leftover but you can't really pack a doggy bag home for hot pot.  Even though I ordered the Chinese dishes, I ate off my friendly neighbor Lisa who couldn't finish her meal among the others who were also struggling.  It's best to order a bunch of the items a la carte and share them among the table.

Service was super friendly and she was eager to please.  She brought us extra condiments and broth bases to liven up the bland soups to improve our dining experience.

I think the restaurant was OK.  I'd go back for drinks and appetizers but I don't think the hot pot is worth it. I think you'd get a better bang for your buck at an all you can eat place or a group dining place at a Cambodian eatery in Lowell.

Tip: If you work in the area or have a weekday off, you can try their hot pot for a fraction of the price on the lunch menu.  The beef order comes with vegetables, noodles and broth for only $10.95!  

and once we are full, we are happy!

  • 265 Boston Rd
  • Billerica, MA