Bamboo Bamboo Gonged

Asian eatery bites the dust

Perhaps the greatest piece of wisdom Voltaire never said was uttered by Confucius: "I have never seen one who loves virtue as much as he loves sex." Which has absolutely nothing to do with restaurateuring unless you sub virtue with great food and sex with money. Bamboo Bamboo, a casual welding of Asian cuisines from the "bamboo regions" of the world, seems to have had too much of the former and too little of the latter. So it's been snuffed. Opened just last fall, Bamboo was created to rescue the shell of the shuttered Voltaire--the über-upscale destination restaurant created by media mogul Scott Ginsburg. But the spark didn't catch, and in February Ginsburg struck a management deal with Consilient Restaurants, the small restaurant/nightclub conglomerate (Cuba Libre, Genghis Grill, Sense and Candle Room) founded by Tristan Simon. "We were able to build sales moderately," Simon says. "But Scott [Ginsburg] started to field some pretty compelling inquiries with respect to selling the property or leasing the property." Simon says Ginsburg, who couldn't be reached for comment, is weighing a number of options far more attractive than the time investment it would have taken to build Bamboo into a profitable enterprise. "If Scott didn't have these other opportunities, we'd still be operating," Simon insists. Simon's Bamboo team, which included former Riviera chef Blaine Staniford and manager Marc Antonio, displaced Voltaire/Bamboo chef/manager Joseph Gutierriz, who went on to found the tapas bar Rouge in the former Bali Bar space on Lovers Lane. Simon says most of the key Bamboo employees will be absorbed into other Consilient operations. He says Bamboo's loss is moderated by the steady rise of his most recent acquisition, Genghis Grill, following a long and agonizing absorption process. Initially purchasing a 50 percent stake, Consilient recently took complete control of the multi-unit "create your own stir fry" Mongolian grill concept after founder Jeff Sinelli sold out his interest and resigned. Simon then improved the stir fry process by having his chefs add selected finishing sauces to the self-serve stir fry mixes after cooking instead of allowing diners to dump them into the bowls before they're tossed onto the grill. He also sliced deeply into his margins by upgrading ingredient quality while slashing prices some 15 percent (from $12.99 to $10.99 for an "all you Khan eat" dinner). Simon insists he's more than making up the revenue shortfall with volume. Which is good, because most people don't love virtue as much as other things.

 
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