Bao Bei (Vancouver) – An impressive fusion, and I don’t mean that in a pineapple, thai basil, green curry kind of way

We stayed at J’s brother’s place while we were in Vancouver. Just a few streets down, in the heart of Chinatown, we chowhounded Bao Bei. Described as a modern Chinese bistro, I was keen to try it out as it sounded like a paradox to me. Modern and Chinese aren’t two words that normally go hand and hand. They apparently were known for making interesting cocktails so I decided that it was worth trying it for the booze regardless.

The interior was stunning. Sort of half way between bistro and western saloon, the interior was deliberately decorated with ornate chandeliers, candles, and mirrors. The bar area really looked like it was right out of a western. The servers all had 50s-esque outfits: tight skinny jeans with a plaid fitted collared shirt and gelled hair. They recommended getting several small plates (all priced around $10) for sharing in our group of 3.

This is the Kai Yuen Sour (Forty Creek rye, dried Chinese plum syrup, lemon, bitters, egg white) for $8. It was an interesting drink. The egg white in particular really gave it this foamy creamy texture. The mixture of rye with the sweet and sour plum syrup was really interesting.

This was the Crispy Daikon Cake (Chinese sausage, dried shrimp and mushrooms) for $4. These were really similar to the turnip cakes we got at Dim-Sum places. The dried shrimp added some nice character and there were hard crisp edges that added some nice crunchy texture.

This is the Fried Rice of the Day for $9. This version had egg, green onion, pork, and ketchup. The server told us that the chef used to eat rice with ketchup when she was a kid so that was why they decided to use it in this fried rice. There was something really touching about that story. Maybe I identified with it as I also used to eat rice with ketchup. The rice itself was delicious. Not too salty, with some nice crispiness and salty parts. The ketchup really pulled it all together, giving it a nice sour/sweetness.

This is the Watercress (bean paste, garlic and chili) for $6. Simple, crunchy, spicy. No complaints here. Kind of a small portion for $6.

These are the duck and mushroom wontons in duck consomme with yellow chives for $6. A little pricey for $6 (there are 4 dumplings here). The broth is quite clear with simple flavours. The noodles were thin and delicate and the mushrooms in the filling were strong and delicious.

This is the Shao Bing (crunchy seasame flatbread with braised pork butt, Asian pear, pickled onion and mustard greens) for $10. Quite an interesting fusion of western (the sandwich style) and Asian (the pear, porkbutt and sesame). The flatbread was crunchy with the pear. The pork butt was seasoned deliciously and just slightly sweet. The pickled onion added some nice tartness. I really really enjoyed this sandwich as a nice blend of textures and flavours.

This is the Mantou (steamed buns with braised beef shortrib, hoisin, scallions, pickled cucumber, and roasted peanuts) for $9. This was my favourite dish of the night. The steamed buns were so soft and tender with a slightly sweet coating. The shortrib was flavourful and so juicy. Each bite was accented with the crunch of the pickled cucumber. I honestly ate my portion in 3 bites. It was so amazing. Again, a very interesting fusion of Chinese ingredients presented in such a western way: essentially an open-face sandwich.

This was the Crispy Pork Belly (sautee of soybeans, Asian cucumber, chili and garlic, pickled red onion, tamarind, star anise tomato sauce) for $12. This was the only disappointment of the night. I really was expecting the pork to be crisper. The flavours were there, especially that of pork fat (my favourite!) but I just really wish this dish was more texturally interesting.

We finished the night with Chinese Plum Panna Cotta (confit organic cherry tomato and peanut praline) for $6. J and I disagreed about this dish. She loved it. I thought it was too intensely tomato-ey. It was soo sour and almost savoury. The plum panna cotta was delicious, not too sweet, and the peanut praline added some nice crunch to the dish. I found the organic cherry tomato glaze on top just a touch overwhelming.

I love the reference on line 6.

Bao Bei was really amazing in a lot of ways. Describing it as modern Chinese food just doesn’t do it justice. There are definite elements of traditional Chinese cooking (family style dishes, ingredients, menu sorted by food type: noodle, vegetable, soup) but there were definite Western elements (use of your hands to eat the two sandwiches, very small tapas style portions for some dishes, cocktails, bistro-style seating, 50s-esque servers). Though the word fusion usually is associated with curries, spring rolls, and Thai basil, Bao Bei truly is a fusion of two cultures. I really liked it.

Bao Bei, 163 Keefer St, Vancouver, BC V6A 4E9, (604) 688-0876, www.bao-bei.ca

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie on Urbanspoon

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~ by Russ on October 17, 2010.

2 Responses to “Bao Bei (Vancouver) – An impressive fusion, and I don’t mean that in a pineapple, thai basil, green curry kind of way”

  1. The crispy Daikon Cakes look and sound the most appetizing to me. Something about those little squares that just make me want a bite. Ketchup does not belong in or on fried rice…unless you’re a kid, but this is another one that looks delicious. The buns are probably the least appealing thing to me, but that’s as a result of a past misadventure I had. Definitely not a fan of the texture and I often find the taste of this sort of thing to be lacking.

    • Before you diss the ketchup, I recommend you try it out! Next time you order fried rice from a restaurant, take some home. Then the next day, when you refry it (to microwave it would be sacrilege!), add just a spoon of ketchup. It will brown so nicely. Yum yum yum!

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