it's a terribly confusing restaurant, for sure. garlands, tall vases of plastic granny smiths, landscapes hung seven feet up, geometric "modern" art in the group seating area... trying to make sense of it all, we sort of
wincedstared from our booth, seated at a darkly varnished and "lacquered" table like you'd find in a chinese buffet. despite our head-scratching, we actually found it kind of kitschy. darnit, they tried.
the hostess was very friendly and warm, and our server was endlessly attentive and careful--almost personally concerned. even the sushi chef was chatting up customers and keeping everyone good company in the front end. the most striking part to us was that none of the staff's behavior seemed forced or insincere at all. we started to feel a little bad about judging their flower baskets dressed in prim bows.
as is our m.o., we had a certificate to spend so we went to town on ginger bistro. for sanakuu (starters... get it? :] ), we ordered the spring rolls, which were filled with deliciously crunchy lettuce, carrots, and piquant mint sprigs, folded in a tender but sturdy rice wrapper. the dipping sauce, while not as spicy as we'd hoped, was also quite nice--we even used the rest of it on a later dish.
for entrees, we shared the curry noodles and the house fried rice. we were a little disappointed by the noodles. "curry" promises fragrance, warmth, and complexity, but we found this dish to be pretty flat. not only were there very few actual vegetables in there, but the noodles just didn't seem coated enough and the curry flavor wasn't fully developed. we're not sure what it is, but we've noticed a similar problem at other establishments in the city--that curry powder isn't being cooked or paired with other spices properly to really maximize its full flavor potential. we had much the same complaint with the fried rice: too few veg, unevenly seasoned rice, and a little light on flavor (what they call "delicately seasoned" is somewhat of an understatement). we did opt to add some fried tofu (which our diligent server assured was prepared vegetarian-friendlily), which made a big improvement to the rice. otherwise, the texture would have been too one-note: all a little soft, no chewiness, no crunch. but the tofu had a nice sponginess and crisp outer layer--just enough variation to save the dish, along with the hot sauce from the rolls. somehow, despite our pleading to kitchens across the city to make us sweat, the food still never comes out quite as hot as we'd like.
finally, just to taste, we ordered a side of szechwan green beans and a banh mi with tofu. the portion of the beans was quite generous, and we actually ate all of them smothered over our noodles and rice. perhaps a little salty and coated with that sort of off-putting gelatinous sauce, they definitely weren't flawless, but the beans themselves were fresh and crunchy and actually packed a little heat. the banh mi, on the other hand, was the blandest offering of the night--fried tofu on a loaf with a few greens (albeit fresh and yummy in their own right) just don't offer a whole lot of flavor or texture variety. more hot sauce and mayo should help, though.
we really didn't know what awaited us at ginger bistro before we went; overall, though, we were more satisfied than we expected to be. their menu is crazy extensive and the kitchen seems willing and able to improvise for the needs of vegetarians if you only just ask. if you're looking for great service, some bang for your buck, and a plate of fried rice in the loop... then this is your place.