If this is a part of the country where eaters are easily bored, Bambu is a restaurant designed to keep its customers occupied. You can sit in the compact dining room and, if you like, watch the action in the open kitchen. Or you can sit at the counter, order from the tempura and seafood menus (fried spicy tuna-wrapped shiso, yellowtail salad), and observe the technique of a sushi chef named Go.
Located in the Malibu Country Mart, next to a store called Malibu Shaman, Bambu is a restaurant full of California spirit--the sort of place that feels people will be attracted at least once to the broccoli-hazelnut puree that comes with the seared salmon, that if you're going to serve a grilled steak, it's better to call it a "20-ounce cowboy steak" and serve it with not just mashed potatoes, but also fried green tomatoes and Java mustard.
Lisa Stalvey, the chef who put together the various components of Bambu's menus, knows that even though we're suckers for anything that sounds new--black bean lasagne made with a cilantro puree and low-fat ricotta, "popo" chicken, ginger crabcakes--we like our menus to have a few safe choices. And so, she's included a Caesar salad, a plate of grilled lamb chops (with roasted corn and a rosemary-potato casserole) . . . and for the beach bum in all of us, "kick-ass" fries.
* Bambu, 3835 Cross Creek Road, Malibu, (310) 456-5464. Entrees $9.50 - $25. Seafood bar and tempura prices $1.20 - $8.50.