By Dane Feldman
Photos by Dane Feldman.
Bamboo 52 is a Japanese restaurant that specializes in tiki cocktails and sushi. A friend of mine discovered the spot, located on 52nd Street in Manhattan between Eighth and Ninth Ave, when we were looking for a place to meet on a Friday night somewhere between Harlem and the Financial District. Bamboo 52 turned out to be the perfect place.
Bamboo 52 covers Japanese cuisine from hijiki salad to udon noodle bowls, but my friends and I went for some shareable appetizers and then a large plate of sushi.
To start, we ordered the tuna tataki, which came with a side of shredded radish ablaze. The tuna itself was fresh and thinly sliced, wrapped around sliced cucumber and lettuce. The presentation was amongst the most interesting I’ve seen for tuna tataki, but the end result was to be expected: good quality fish.
After the tuna tataki, the four of us shared a small plate of ribs over salad. The ribs were cooked to perfection; the tender meat slid right off the bones. I won’t say we fought over the last rib, but we came close.
Then, we ordered four rolls to share. We had three classic rolls (eel avocado, spicy salmon, and Philadelphia) and one signature roll: the New York roll. This roll contained tuna and mango inside, wrapped in rice and soy paper, with spicy crunchy salmon on top. The rolls were fresh and solid, but not much to write home about. This is mostly because I normally order more adventurous rolls (which Bamboo 52 does offer), so this is likely not a reflection on the restaurant itself.
The drinks are where Bamboo 52 steps up its game. The restaurant boasts a full bar and one of the best happy hour specials I’ve found in the city of New York. Wine, beer, sake, and specialty cocktails are all on offer, but if patrons are here pretty much any time before 9pm, it’s happy hour. That means two for the price of one on a pretty large selection of the cocktails, wine, and beer.
Of course, my friends and I took advantage of the tiki-inspired menu (and of the happy hour). I had a Mai Tai, a pear mojito, and two beers. I’d never ordered a Mai Tai before, so I figured this was a great place to do so. It was too sweet for me, which is why I ordered a pear mojito for my second drink. The mojitos at Bamboo 52 are reason alone to go here. Whether patrons are looking for a classic mojito, a passion fruit one, or a guava one, Bamboo 52 has it covered. Seriously, that guava one is no joke and the pear was deliciously gritty.
Because Bamboo 52 has a full bar, the restaurant is pretty busy right from 5pm on. Thankfully, the space is large enough and fits a decent amount of high-top tables, lounge-like booths, and even a backyard patio.
The wait staff was friendly and kept up with our various requests for new drinks and more food. Bamboo 52 is a great time with a pleasant atmosphere and altogether transporting cocktails.