Monday, 28 April 2014

Bao Bei - Dim Sum Tapas & some fabulous cocktails

Another Vancouver entry - to a place we've been wanting to visit for a while....Bao Bei, located in Chinatown in Vancouver - on Keefer St, about half way between Columbia and Main St.

French brasserie meets Chinatown.

The Chinese part has some cheeky cards in the restaurant to help you with…

But they are serious about the food, the space and the cocktails…

Bao Bei's space is bustling, but not over crowded (I'm actually surprised we only had to wait about 10min for a table on a Friday night; seating god sacrifice successful, apparently). The front section of the restaurant is very open & airy and the decor is a combination of classic and modern twists on a brasserie setting.

There's a large, two-sided bar on the right, surrounded by a dozen stools - filled by folks sipping beautiful cocktails. The bar is framed in painted white cabinetry with a substantial mirror hanging above the liquor selection. The back portion of the space is split evenly between seating (left) and kitchen (right). This dining area is anchored by a long, upholstered green bench, running the length of the wall. Simple round wooden tables dot the run and are paired with classic bentwood bistro chairs. At the very back of the seating space is a lovely booth for a small group, feeling much like a private dining area.

The food focus is small plates and the cocktails are inventive. After careful deliberation (and some very, very helpful advice and explanations from our server), I opted for Ba Ba's Root Beer (a boozed up, more earthy/tincture'esque drink…which I loved! And, more importantly, was exactly as described). Kept company at our table with a (new to us) Irish Cider: Kepplers (also great).

Keppler's Irish Cider & a Ba Ba's Root Beer Cocktail
After some more suggestions from our server (plus spying a few things getting delivered to our neighbouring table {I'll have what she's having}), we dove in. First up was the crispy tofu, drizzled in a sweet, thick soy sauce and topped with sliced water chestnuts and spring onions. Think sumo-sized agadashi tofu - and delicious (and hot, be patient so you can taste the rest of your meal). Next dish was a great fusion one - truffled pork dumplings. They'd been drizzled with just a touch of truffle oil - giving that wonderful earthy scent, but not so much it overpowered. Fresh, soft wrappers filled with moist, flavourful minced pork.

Crispy tofu with sweet soy sauce

Steamed truffled pork dumplings

And speaking of pork…then the big guns arrived - pork belly. Seared crisp at either end, plated on a delicious tomato sauce and topped with pickled onions; we didn't need an invitation to dive in. Moist and tender, we quickly flaked apart the meat and ate it along with an order of steamed rice (because the sauce is calling out to be sopped up).

Crispy pork belly (intact)

Pork belly busted open, radish, pickled onion garnish

The final dish, which I fully admit to ordering based on seeing it at the neighbouring table, was the Shao Bing. A lamb sirloin seasoned with cumin and served on a sesame flatbread with cilantro and pickled onions. It's obviously a very popular dish - as the waiter's response to my half-spoken half-gesture towards the next table's meal was "oh yes, that's THE Shao Bing, it's THE best". Again, the servers here do not lie. Great dish.

Shao Bing - lamb sirloin on thin, crusty sesame bread

And I am ashamed to admit this….but we were too full for dessert. The chinese donuts were calling my name, but my stomach had already waved the white flag. Quelle domage.

Thoroughly enjoyed our time at Bao Bei - everything we had was interesting and delicious. I loved the diverse preparation styles & food textures (even in our small sampling of dishes): from our soft tofu that we tore into with chopsticks to soak in the sweet soy, to bite-sized dumplings eaten right out of the steamer, to piling pork belly & sauce on steamed rice, to the crispy lamb sandwich using our hands.

And next time, I'll leave room for the donuts.

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie
163 Keefer St

Tue-Sat 5:30-midnight
Sun 5:30-11pm

Phone: 604-688-0876
Facebook: Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie
Twitter & Instagram: BaoBei1

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie 寶貝小館 on Urbanspoon

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