Monday, August 27, 2012

Ladies Night at Bao Bei

Bao Bei has been on my "need to eat here" list since it entered the Vancouver food scene in the Spring of 2010 with plenty of buzz and rave reviews. It's become a popular local favourite and won many local restaurant awards with owner Tannis Ling and Chef Joel Wantanabe at the helm putting a modern west coast twist on traditional Asian foods.

Bao Bei is definitely not your typical Vancouver Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. It's a mix of stylish, sophisticated, eclectic, vintage...yet modern. They've put a lot of thought into decor, using interesting pieces of art used as accents and an eclectic mix of furniture styles. The vibe is young, hip, and slightly luxurious. They use soft glowing lights, delicately washed-out signage, and touches of lucky gives an awesome "Old Chinatown" feel. Our tables, near the entrance, was an antique door. Really cool touch! The restaurant seats about 50, and mainly has small tables for 4.

Banana Colada, the menu claims its "The Best Frozen Sissy Drink you'll ever have"- it's pretty damn good!
It was a gathering with some of my lifestyle TV ladies, and I was delighted when Asian Superdirector picked Bao Bei as our location. There were 4 of us for dinner and we ordered a LOT of dishes to share and some drinks. They've got an extensive cocktail list ($9- 12) with inventive offerings like Banana Colada and Ghizou Donkey (Lemongrass Shosu, almond syrup, fresh lime, and ginger beer) and bottled beers ($7-12).

We ordered three of their vegetable dishes which were all tasty, but fairly standard Chinese fare.

Marinated Eggplant ($4) Soy, garlic, and ginger.

King Pea Tips ($7) Garlic and Shaxing.

Water Spinach ($7.50) Salted Soy beans, soy sauce and chilli.

Omelet ($5) Salted Turnip and Butter. This looked super underwhelming when it came out but was quite tasty. ASD was really impressed with this dish, especially how perfectly fluffy and buttery the eggs were cooked while retaining a nice crunch with the bits of salty turnip.

Octopus Salad ($14) Braised and wok charred octopus and scallions, crispy potatoes, kim chi cucumber, confit of garlic, watercress and preserved plum vinaigrette. This was absolutely beautiful and delicious. This salad was a mix of octopus pieces mixed with chunks of crispy potatoes. The octopus was cooked beautifully...I've never had octopus cooked so tender, buttery and without chew. The plum vinaigrette was bright and full of zing that worked well with the sharp garlic and peppery watercress.

Beef Tartare ($14) Pemberton beef tenderloin, preserved mustard root, crispy shallot, ginger root, quail egg, watercress, burnt scallion oil and taro chips. This is delicious and beautiful. I think I actually clapped when it came out. All of the components worked so well together especially the mustard root, ginger, and shallot. The flavours were strong and balanced. The saltiness of the taro chips and the acidity of the dressing on the watercress combined with the rich, creamy beef and egg.

Shao Bing ($12) Crisp sesame flatbread with cumin lamb sirloin, pickled red onion, green pepper, cilantro, and salted chilies. This is another amazing "must-order" dish. This is a fancy Chinese sandwich served on their house-made flatbread, filled with luscious, tender, smoky, braised lamb and the other veggie/ herb fillings.

The bread is crusted with sesame seeds so it's thin, crispy, and nutty. The pickled red onions added some acidity and light crunch to contrast the heavy meat. The cilantro brightens up the whole sandwich. SOOOO Good!

The Shao Bing, Beef Tartare, and Octopus Salad are stand out delicious and every dish we ordered was good. Service was friendly, pleasant, and quick throughout the meal. Overall, the great decor and vibe combined with the delicious dishes and Bao Bei is definitely a cool place to go for a meal with friends. I definitely feel like you pay $$$$ for the cool factor. This place is too expensive, especially considering the small portion sizes. I would recommend coming here for drinks and their popular dishes, but not for a full-on dinner to fill your belly, unless you have uber deep pockets.

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie 寶貝小館 on Urbanspoon

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