Monday, April 9, 2012

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie

About a year and a half ago, a friend of mine got a job at Bao Bei and told me I should come check it out because it was delicious.  Fast forward to last week, and we finally got around to stopping by for dinner.  It's located in an area that most would define as 'sketchy' at best, but the reality is that even if the denizens there are a bit seedier, they generally leave you alone or are too high to care.

Upon entering, the first thing you notice is the bar.  Everything has a great worn down feel to it, and the restaurant is filled with lots of dark wood-y colours which definitely adds to that classic bar feel. 

My friend is a bartender there, and he came out to greet us and seated us at the bar.  The restaurant wasn't too busy, but it was quite small and from what I understand there are often lineups.  The first thing we did after sitting down was ask him to make us a couple of drinks.  Flowerbunny requested something fruity, and I mentioned I liked rye a lot.  I honestly don't remember what was in this drink as he just made it for Flowerbunny, but she liked it a lot.  It was fruity and tasty.

For me, my buddy made one of his own creations, something with Grand Marnier, a couple different bitters, and some other things.  This was quite strong, but also really good.

Food-wise, we started with some Tofu Skins.  This was my second favourite dish of the night. This came with king oyster mushroom and a truffle vinaigrette.  The bean curd skins were super flavourful and tasty and the mushroom was a great accompaniment.  The texture of the bean curd was perfect.

Next up was the Beef Tartare.  This had a raw quail egg on top, and was served with watercress, burnt scallion oil, and taro chips.  Individually, each component was OK, but when you combined them you got a bite of food that was truly delicious.  The saltiness of the taro chips and the acidity of the dressing on the watercress combined perfectly with the savory creaminess of the tartar.

The Mantou was probably the dish I was most looking forward to trying.  It's a steamed bun with pork belly, bean sprouts, preserved turnip, and sugared peanuts.  The meat was super tasty, but I wish there had been a little more of it.  The meat to bun ratio was slightly off.  the sprouts, turnip, and peanuts added a nice crunch to contrast the soft texture of the meat and bun. 

We hadn't had much in the way of veggies so far, so we decided to go with an order of  Vegetable Potstickers.  These had a delicate flavour, maybe a little on the bland side.  The filling had some nice textures throughout, and the dumpling was nicely cooked.  At $6, they were a tad too much though.

The Kick Ass House Fried Rice changes weekly.  This time it had duck sausage in it, along with egg and broccoli.  This was a bit expensive at $18, but was also quite good.  The duck sausage was really tasty and despite being chopped up into little pieces, you still got that nice snap from the casing.  The rice was fried perfectly and exhibited that desirable wok taste.  I'm glad we ordered this, as up to this point, the portions had been a little small, and this one was quite big and filling. 

Brussels Sprouts have become a bit trendy in Vancouver over the last couple years which is fine with us as we love them, so we decided to try Bao Bei's version.  These were wok-charred and came with Westfalia ham.  The ham added a nice salty, slightly smoky taste and the sprouts tasted delicious, having soaked up the fragrant paste and black vinegar.  The one thing I would've liked is if they'd been a little crispier.  At $9, they're probably a couple dollars too much, but they are tasty.

For dessert we had three types of ice cream: Mandarin Szechuan Sorbet, Vietnamese Coffee, and Jasmine Tea Butter Caramel.  You could really taste the quality of the ingredients in all three.  The mandarin sorbet was refreshing with an interesting spice to it, while the Vietnamese coffee had a deep rich flavour.  The jasmine tea ice cream alternated between fragrant tea and sweet buttery caramel.  This was a perfect way to end the night, as we were quite full at this point. 
Overall Impressions:
- Really well made, delicious food
- A bit expensive; everything feels like it should be at least $2 cheaper.
- Nice decor
- Really good service
- Great place for drinks

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie
163 Keefer St.
Vancouver, BC
Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie on Urbanspoon

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