A few days ago I had this wonderful opportunity to dine with my good friend J who I had not really seen for a while now. She suggested that we should try out Bao Bei! Being self-proclaimed food enthusiast, we sheepishly admit we have not tried out this tasty well-published Chinese bistro in the heart of Chinatown.
We entered the restaurant and we were very lucky to get a table by the window. I quickly noticed the cool vintage and rustic and still Chinese inspired decor that is definitely something you don’t see in your everyday Chinese restaurant. Plus, those ones that seem to be on the higher end of the food scale seem to have the shiniest and the most golden decoration you can find! This place definitely is intimate and a great takeaway from what you would normally experience at a Chinese restaurant.
Bao Bei serves “Chinese-inspired tapas”. I definitely see a lot of Western influences in the food as well, which makes it really unique. And of course, to make it more Vancouver-esque, Bao Bei only serves sustainable seafood, organic and hormone-free meat, and free-range eggs. How’s that for being conscience free! And did I mention that they never use MSG? Oh-so-awesome!!!
J had also heard lots about Bao Bei’s creative wine and cocktail listing, which really creates this level of sophistication for a Chinese restaurant.
The first thing we had was Beef Tartare - Pemberton beef tenderloin, preserved mustard root, crispy shallot, ginger, quail egg, watercress, burnt scallion oil and taro chips. It was DE-LISH! I’ve had a number of beef tartare dishes in the past couple of months and this is definitely one of the top ones on the list. The burnt scallion oil and perhaps even a touch of soy sauce really made this dish stand out for me. And taro chips? Those were oh-so-creative and I thought I wish I can make them. *idea for the next post!!*
Topping the taro chip with some of the meat, crispy shallots and watercress made me wanting for more.
Then, we went for the Kick Ass House Fried Rice - king oyster, shimeji, shitake mushroom, yao choy, toban jiang, egg, butter. I know, I know. Why would you order something as simple as fried rice at a Chinese restaurant, where you’re supposed to try something out of the box? Well, I wanted to know how you can elevate something as regular and common as fried rice and truly make something awesome. It did not disappoint. Random shoots of spice and a myriad of flavours popping in my mouth… this fried rice was really kick-ass.
The third thing on the list was the Crispy Pork Belly - sunchokes, Asian cucumber, pickled red onion, star anise tomato sauce. We were warned that the sauce was going to be spicy, and it was – but it wasn’t overwhelming. I grew up not really liking a lot of heat in my food, but maybe because I wasn’t introduce to great ones. Nowadays, I’ve grown to really appreciate it as long as I still taste what the food actually tastes like… else it is like putting ketchup in everything!
I thought there wasn’t anything completely amazing with the crispy pork belly, because one it wasn’t crispy. But the meat was really tender inside and the fatty-spicy combination plus the fried rice was a mind-blowing combination. You simply cannot go wrong.
And with Chinese food I just can’t go through it without eating some kind of vegetable. J and I had the King Pea Tips and they were great to balance our meal out. :)
Overall, our experience at Bao Bei was truly pleasant. I really love restaurants like these because you know there is a lot of thought behind creating their dishes. It’s definitely not about just making something everything makes. I think the challenge is for Chinese food is that people aren’t willing to pay for more for more unique, Chinese-inspired dishes. In a lot of Chinese restaurants you can almost expect exact menu offerings! How do you stand out? Bao Bei is definitely more pricey than your average Chinese restaurant especially with regard to quantity of food, but I truly felt it was a memorable experience worth doing again. …
… with even some to take home.