The Asian fusion cuisine at Bamboo on 2nd has the authenticity of some mouthwatering roadside snack that you might see Anthony Bourdain sinking his teeth into in a remote Chinese province. However, you can forego the malaria pills and the jet lag for these epicurean delights, because this Asian-inspired hot spot is right in the heart of downtown Birmingham.
Self-taught Chef Abhi Sainju developed his culinary skill set from a longing for his native Nepalese cuisine and other Asian dishes from his youth. He was working in Birmingham restaurants, but like all driven perfectionists, he sought additional opportunities to perfect his craft and grow his network with the ultimate goal of one day owning his own restaurant. He approached Blue Monkey Lounge owners and veteran restaurateurs Sam Fallow and Bernie Smith with the proposal to cater his sushi to the lounge’s late-night patrons on the weekends. They agreed, and after working his shift at another restaurant, Chef Abhi brought his one-man sushi army, Everest Sushi, to the Blue Monkey Lounge. Tasting the chef’s melt-in-your mouth, creative sushi rolls was like striking epicurean gold. The Everest clientele quickly grew into a sizable and loyal foodie following, who Yelped, tweeted and blogged not only about his sushi-making skills, but also took note of his exceptionally friendly nature. Sam and Bernie upped the sushi service to five nights a week, and Everest Sushi became a beloved Blue Monkey fixture and cult favorite in the Birmingham foodie scene.
The chef’s entrance into Sam and Bernie’s lives was restaurant alchemy. After the doors closed at their Tavern on the Summit restaurant in 2013, the veteran restaurateurs took their time looking for the right concept and the perfect location for their next project. “After getting to know Abhi, we got really excited about working together on a project,” says Bernie. “We all shared a similar idea of what we wanted—a small restaurant and bar featuring Abhi’s sushi and other Asian-themed hot dishes.”
“We wanted to try and fill a niche that we felt was missing in Birmingham,” says Sam, adding, “the opportunity to experience some of the specialties from Abhi’s homeland of Nepal, as well as dishes with diverse Asian influences from Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and more.” So the trio set about finding a space, perfecting the menu and implementing the design concepts, and Bamboo on 2nd opened its doors last month, much to the delight of devoted Everest sushi fans and new Bamboo diners.
The extremely popular Momos are Nepalese dumplings stuffed with ground turkey, vegetables and spices, steamed and served in an Alabama Tomato Vinaigrette-infused broth. The Pork Belly skewer, braised in adobo sauce and served with honey-Sriracha dipping sauce, is out of this world! And the aromatic ramen bowl includes authentic wheat ramen noodles in a rich, house-made, pork broth with shiitake and tree ear mushrooms and a perfectly soft-boiled egg, topped with vibrant cilantro and green onions, fresh bean sprouts and crisp carrot strands. Diners can choose to anchor this flavorful bowl with beef, chicken, tofu, shrimp, pork shoulder or pork belly, and add Sriracha, soy sauce, oyster sauce or the house hot sauce for added heat or spice, making each bite a personalized tasting experience.
And you know it is good when the staff orders it. Case in point: Chef Abhi, Sam and Bernie order the Thukpa multiple times a week. Thukpa is a Tibetan-style noodle soup with homemade chicken stock, rice noodles, carrots, spinach, green onion, cilantro, a choice of meat or tofu and the highly recommended, house hot sauce on the side for added kick.
“We had a really great experience working with Appleseed Workshop, which custom-designed and fabricated everything,” says Sam of the sleek, modern-industrial interiors that give the casual dining experience its edge. One of the most striking accents is the oversize orange front door with a round window displaying the Bamboo on 2nd logo. “It’s unique and very cool,” says Bernie of the impressive front door. He then points out the ceiling, saying, “It’s what we call ‘the zeppelin.’ Appleseed designed metal frames and fitted them with fire-retardant burlap, stenciled with Buddhist good luck and fortune symbols.”
In Buddhism, the meaning of Karma, put simply, is, “Do good, and good will come to you.” It seems as though Chef Abhi’s pursuit of culinary perfection and his commitment to building a circle of enthusiastic foodies is being rewarded in this new downtown venture. And Birmingham also reaps the rewards as this talented and deserving local chef’s dream of owning his own restaurant has become a delicious reality.
Bamboo on 2nd is located at 2212 Second Ave. N., Birmingham. Hours of operation are Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. No reservations. Learn more at bambooon2nd.com or call (205) 703-0551.