Photos: Chef Curtis Luk launches new menu at Bambudda in Gastown

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      Chef Curtis Luk has settled into his new job as executive chef at Bambudda in Gastown and his first menu is now up and running. "At the heart of it, it's the cuisine I grew up with, filtered through my personal experience and taste," said the Top Chef alumnus at a recent media tasting dinner.

      The menu is a modern take on some traditional Chinese dishes, and it's divided into small plates and "not so small plates", which are meant to be eaten family-style. Luk said that a good way to order is to have each person in the party choose one dish from each category to share. (Small plates run $9 to $12, while larger ones are $16 to $22 each.)

      Don't forget to add on rice and noodles: both the curry leaf-infused jasmine rice with scallions and ginger ($3) and the ramen noodles ($4) are special. Luk makes the noodles in-house and serves them cold, tossed in sesame oil and sesame seeds.

      Here's a look at what's on offer—but first, it's hard to walk past the bar when this greets you upon entry:

      Fortified wine bubbles away at the Bambudda bar.
      Carolyn Ali

      The above bowl is a bit of molecular magic that head bartender Tarquin Melnyk (in the background) created to top his Powell Street Sour cocktail (below). The bubbles are made from fortified wine, vermouth, cognac, and aromatics with xanthan gum to stabilize it all.

      Powell Street Sour
      Carolyn Ali

      Melnyk takes pride in his cocktails, which he's devised to match Luk's menu using housemade infusions of rose hip, citrus, clove, cardamom, green tea, and rhubarbAfter your meal, I recommend the Post Opium cocktail, a drink made with white chocolate that is dangerously smooth and stands in nicely for dessert.

      But first, dinner. 

      A small plate of beef tongue.
      Carolyn Ali

      Sure, you could order pork dumplings with watercress sauce and pickled ginger salad from the small plates section. But when I see tongue on the menu, I get excited.

      I've said it before and I'll say it again: give tongue a chance. Luk's version (above) has a pleasingly tender texture and is served with a curry vinaigrette, beef floss, and winter melon. 

      From the "not so small plates section", there's a perfectly pan-seared salt-and-pepper Humboldt squid (opening photo) that's artfully arranged on the plate. It's served with a house-made sauce of Szechuan white peppercorns and shallots.

      Black bean beef with shishito peppers and Japanese leek

      This black-bean beef dish comes with nicely charred shishito peppers and Japanese leek.

      Ling cod served "tang cu" style

      The ling cod is simply seared and served in a tang cu sweet-and-sour style.

      Pork belly with taro, fermented red tofu, and lime.

      My favourite dish of the night was the pork belly with taro. This is a lighter, reinterpreted version of the pork belly Luk grew up eating; its crispy deep-fried coating contrasts with the soft taro, red fermented tofu, and zingy lime.

      Asian influences come through in the desserts as well, such as this Chinese opera torte with green tea.

      Chinese opera torte

      Bambudda is at 99 Powell Street. It's open Tuesday to Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to midnight, as well as for lunch on Thursday and Friday from noon until 2 p.m.