Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie

Restaurant: Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie
Cuisine: Chinese/Modern/Tapas
Last visited: June 2, 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC (Chinatown)
Address: 163 Keefer Street
Price Range: $20-30

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 4.5 (based on what I had) Dessert: 5
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4.5
Overall: 4.5
Additional comments:

  • French & Chinese fusion
  • Home made
  • Modern/Contemporary
  • Tapas – best with group of 3/4
  • Busy/line-ups
  • Casual dining
  • Organic meats, sustainable seafood, free range eggs
  • Fresh local sustainable seafood
  • Vegetarian/Vegan friendly
  • No MSG
  • Good for drinks and snacks
  • Street parking/paid lots
  • Open by Tannis Ling (bartender from Chambar)
  • Chef Joel Watanabe from (BIN 941, La Brasserie, Araxi)
  • No reservations accepted
  • Big parties reservations until 6pm
  • Tues-Sat. 5:30-midnight

**Recommendations: The Best F%$#ing Pina Colada You’ve Ever Had Cocktail, Beef Tartar, Shao Bing, heard the Crispy Fishies are amazing (traditional Chinese snack) Ginger Panna cotta, Assorted Ice Creams (Vietnamese Coffee/Avocado)

I came to Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie for dinner #2 after dinner #1 at Terracotta Modern Chinese Restaurant. I wanted to do a direct comparison because both restaurants are claiming to pay tribute to “authentic and traditional Chinese dishes” yet it’s done with modern execution in a contemporary setting. Bao Bei opened early this year and Terracotta opened recently so I had to explore this “modern Chinese” concept more.

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie VS Terracottra Modern Chinese

The most authentic and traditional part of both restaurants are the names of the menu items, otherwise the execution is quite contemporary and catered to Western tastes. Both are more traditional than PF Chang’s but I would say Bao Bei is more food focused than Terracotta. Although similar in food philosophy, they both aim for different customers – complete opposite actually.

I’d like to explore the food more at both restaurants, but definitely more at Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie. Although the dishes weren’t supreme at Bao Bei they left me wanting more and to make a bigger dent in the menu… which is what I want.

Food

Terracotta Modern Chinese: Popular Chinese favourites, more deep fried foods, some Taiwanese dishes, mainstream Asian flavours with nice presentation

 

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie: Traditional Chinese comfort foods (some with modern twists), Euro-Asian, some French inspired dishes, traditional Asian flavours with contemporary twists and simple presentation

Ambiance

Terracotta Modern Chinese: black slate interior, posh, somewhat pretentious feel, very “Yaletown” even though it’s in Gastown, attracts ages 20-35, attracts a night/weekend-ish crowd

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie: white clean interior, cozy, indie/hipster, very “Main street”, attracts ages 25-45, attracts neighbourhood locals and apparently 90% US crowd (fact from manager)

This was foodie + fashion date with fashion blogger Nicole (Le Mode Du Jour) part 2. Bad combination… my pants literally got tighter. What was I thinking?! It’s always a buffet dress!

On the table:

Didn’t order any cocktails, but heard “The Best F%$#ing Pina Colada You’ve Ever Had” is really “The Best F%$#ing Pina Colada You’ve Ever Had”….bold words.

It looks like a fancy Vietnamese set up.

Crispy Daikon Cake - 1/6

  • Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, and mushrooms $4
  • This was pretty much the worst daikon cake (“pan-fried radish cake” you get at dim sum) I’ve ever had.
  • It was overcooked and almost like bricks they were so dry.
  • It’s served with a vinegar chili sauce that wasn’t very spicy at all. Traditionally, it’s not served with this sauce.
  • They were really small too, if they were good I would have possibly let it go, but I think they’re overpriced. You can get bigger, better and cheaper at dim sum like Top Gun J&C Restaurant – radish cake.

**Beef Tartar - 5/6

  • Pemberton beef tenderloin, preserved mustard root, crispy shallot, ginger root, quail egg, burnt scallion and lotus root chips $12
  • This is one of their French and Chinese fusion dishes. (One of the chef’s is half French and half Asian)
  • It sounds like a lot going on, but the flavour is actually more simple than you think.
  • The quality of beef is already good so they don’t have to mess around too much with it. It’s nice and creamy, not chewy and they marinated it in lots of fresh ginger. I could have used some sesame oil in it to kick it up a notch in flavour.
  • Mixing the egg into the tartar made it even more creamy and rich. You top it on the crispy lotus root chips, which could be salted a bit more.
  • I wanted more crispy shallots to top off my bite sized make your own hors d’oeuvres.
  • I have no idea which part was the burnt scallion because I couldn’t taste or see it.

**Shao Bing6/6

  • Crunchy sesame flatbread with braised pork butt, Asian pear, pickled onions, and mustard greens $10
  • This is freaking amazing and I will vowge for it. Even if I hated everything else on the menu, I would come back just for this and take it to go.
  • I haven’t had anything like it. It’s like a delicious Asian sandwich or the Asian version of a Torta – it matches my liking for Las Tortas.
  • The bread is really thin and crispy and the pork is really soft, tender and juicy just like pulled pork. When I say juicy I mean very juicy! It was all over my plate and I wanted to soak it up with some bread. So good!

  • It’s piled high with stuffing and lots of pork!
  • It’s nutty, savoury, and sweet from the thin slices of Asian pear which was so creative, refreshing and perfect for texture.
  • I loved the combination of veggies and the pickled red onions gave it a tartness that complemented the savoury sweetness. Then you got the mustard greens called “Gai Choy” which gave it that mild hindering spiciness. I think they also chop cucumbers into it to give it an additional crunch and level of freshness.
  • Crispy, crunchy, soft…then nutty, savoury, sweet, tangy, mustard flavour – they nailed it at all angles in flavour and texture.
  • It’s big too, I think it’s totally worth it because it’s damn good.

Mantou - 2.5/6

  • Steamed buns with braised beef shortrib, hoisin, scallions, pickled cucumber,
    and roasted peanuts $9
  • This is a play on Chinese food, not really authentic but a good idea.
  • The shortrib was more tender here, but overall I liked the shortrib sliders at Terracotta Modern Chinese better.
  • At first bite it’s an obvious and strong Hoisin sauce overload. I think they braise, base and marinade it in Hoisin plus oyster sauce or something because it was overly sweet.

  • I loved the ingredients in it but it could have used more pickled cucumber, green onions and roasted peanuts to break up the sweetness.
  • The bun is really soft and it’s the same as the bun used at Terracotta but that one was the deep fried crispy version, which is more indulgent but also better.

King Pea Tips5/6

  • Garlic and Shaoxing $6
  • This is quite traditional, but it wouldn’t be as salty at a traditional Chinese restaurant or if eaten at home. It’s simple and very good as a side dish along with rice.
  • It’s sauteed perfectly cooked pea tips in Shaoxing, which is a Chinese cooking wine similar to dry Sherry. They mix it with soy sauce and minced garlic here.
  • The garlic flavour was all throughout the sauce and it wasn’t too oily.

Dessert

The desserts here are made in house and the ice creams are made from the pastry chef at Chambar. (To see Chambar desserts) They are so creative and amazing and what I wanted from Terracotta Modern Chinese.

**Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream6/6

  • $2
  • DROOL! And for $2?! LOVE IT! I would much rather come here for dessert – it was homemade, rich, creamy, quality ingredients and so flavourful!
  • There was also little ice crystals throughout and it was very refreshing.
  • It was like “coffee buttercream” as Nicole suggested, with a very strong roasted coffee flavour.

**Ginger Panna Cotta5.5/6

  • Meyer grapefruit syrup and curd, honey sesame brittle $6
  • Another home made dessert that was bang on!
  • If you’re not a fan of ginger you’ll still like this because it’s very light but still obvious. It’s not spicy but it lingers the aromatic ginger flavour.
  • This panna cotta trumps the coconut panna cotta at Terracotta – this is what I wanted!

  • How does the above NOT look good?! It looks delicious!! nom nom nom!
  • It’s creamy, silky and more liquid-y than most panna cotta. It definitely needs to be held in a bowl almost like creme brulee without the burnt sugar crust.
  • It’s served slightly chilled and perfect to end off a modern Chinese meal.
  • The yellow part is the grapefruit syrup which is so flavourful! It shines more than the ginger and if anything I wanted more of that. It’s was citrusy with sweet and went perfectly with the ginger.
  • The homemade sesame brittle was very crunchy and crisp and very sweet.

**Avocado Ice Cream4.5/6

  • $2
  • For avocado ice cream it’s 6/6, but on the scale of flavours in general it’s 4.5/6.
  • It’s amazing! Seriously I don’t think I’ll ever have avocado ice cream this good – let alone if I’ll ever find it anywhere else. I’m sure they have a gelato version, but I’m confident this one is better.
  • It’s home made and so creative. It’s rich and creamy and tasted like frozen and sweetened avocado puree, but better. It’s almost like pistachio ice cream, but avocado flavour.
  • It’s not even as rich as fresh avocado and it’s surprisingly not even that heavy because it’s almost sorbet-ish.
  • Job well done!
  • This was actually compliments on the house because I wanted to feature it for this post since it was so different. They didn’t know what I was doing or that I was a food blogger until after the meal when everything was served and done.

If I wasn’t so full I would have ordered the fried bananas just to try it all. We meant to pass on dessert (for once!) but because it kept getting better and better, it was impossible. After 2 dinners and 5 desserts (+ 5 scoops of Breyer’s ice cream we shared prior to the dinners) Nicole and I had to be fork lifted out of there. Last time we pulled this off was at Vita Bella Italian Restaurant. Good, but very painful times!

At the end of the meal along with the bill they give you this “learn to speak Chinese card”, which is really cute.

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