Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tasting Menu at Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie - part 3

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie on Urbanspoon
This is the third in a three-part blog post about Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie and my experience of their tasting menu. In the first part, we talked about the restaurant in general. In the second part, I talked about some of the smaller plates that were part of our tasting menu experience. In this last part I'll go through the larger plates and remaining dishes.
The prices indicated are based on the May 2012. We had a set $30 + tax + tip tasting menu price.

The menu clearly evolves over time, so what you had months ago may very well be an unrecognizable variant now.

Petis Plats Chinois
  • Beef Tartare (picture) - $14 - Pemberton beef tenderloin, preserved mustard root, crispy shallot, ginger root, quail egg, watercress, burnt scallion oil and taro chips
    • This came early (right after the appetizers, I think) and wow was it tasty! Great choice to pair it with the crunchy taro chips for an overall lighter meal. It's a bit pricey and it's raw, but trust me, you want this.
    • Presentation was also very nice with the unbroken yolk of the quail egg sitting in a nest of three very thin round slices of radish (?).
  • Octopus Salad - $14 - Braised and wok charred octopus and scallions, crispy potatoes, kim chi cucumber, confit of garlic, watercress and preserved plum vinaigrette. This used to be more salad-like with no potato.
    • This "salad" was a mix of octopus bits mixed with chunks of crispy-in-the-outside-until-it-gets-cold potatoes. You have to pick out what's what to actually get any octopus. Hard to share with more than one or two people because of this since it's not as homogenous as a regular leaf-based salad.
    • I don't eat octopus on a regular basis, but shellfish-allergy-lady was apparently expert on properly done octopus, and she was very impressed this this dish.
  • Tofu - $10 - Cold soft tofu, black bean, green Sichuan peppercorn ground pork, shimeji mushrooms, garlic chips, and jade radish
    • Just the one bowl of this and it was meant for the member of our dining party who had the shellfish allergy in case there were too many things she couldn't have.
    • Looked like a bowl of ground pork with nary any tofu to be seen. Either that, or some keener snagged all the tofu.
    • Neither I nor the lady it was meant for got a bite as by the time it had made its way around the table, there was none left (possibly everyone thought a second bowl would be on the way).
  • Mantou - $9 - Steamed buns with pork belly, bean sprouts, preserved turnip and sugared peanuts
    • I like that they use very soft, almost spongy/fluffy buns here, which gives each of these small "burgers" a lighter feel that focusses more on the stuffing.
    • Lots of people really liked this but I thought it could the filling have used a little more something to heighten the taste. To me it was sadly just a soft bun with ground pork in it.
  • Noodles
    • Not on the May 2012 menu. Looks like a variant of char kway teow (basically noodles wok-fried with dark sweet soy sauce). Very dark, spicy with chili added, and pieces of duck way at the bottom, so toss the bowl of noodles thoroughly before eating.
    • We didn't toss this very well initially, so those who got the two heaping bowls after everyone else (like myself) found the duck at the bottom sitting in a bit of the sauce.
    • This is really very good, and if you can take even a little spiciness/heat, I would recommend trying it.
  • Sticky Rice Cake (picture) - $12 - Stir fried julienned pork, salted mustard greens, wood ear mushrooms, and bamboo shoots.
    • For most dishes we had two plates, but there were three plates of this with really decent portions.
    • "Sticky Rice Cake" can mean lots of things, but in this case you can imagine a really short, thick rice noodle. You may have seen packs of these things in the Asian Foods section of a supermarket: Long white ovals that are remarkably hard.
    • There's a good quantity of the "rice cakes" here but also enough sauce and other things to accompany what would otherwise be a really bland plate. Basically this dish works out to be like a plate of chow mien, with really thick, fat, rice noodles. An interesting variation of getting you a filling quantity of noodles/rice.
    • There were little discs of something crunchy that tasted remarkably like baby bamboo, but were thought to be water chestnut. Probably the bamboo shoots now that I've looked at the menu.
    • Didn't see much pork or mushroom on this, but that may have been because it got swiped by everyone who got the plate first.
    • It's not bad on its own but it really so much better with some of the chili available in a small glass pot on the table.
  • Steelhead Salmon - market price
    • Two bowls of this interesting dish. It's a slab of salmon about the size of a small burger. Looks simply steamed on the outside but was quite rare on the inside. If you don't like raw, you may need to ask about this part.
    • It sat in a bright green soup that looked like that green matcha tea goop, only a darker, healthy-grass-green in colour. Didn't seem to taste like tea, though.
    • Came with a small bowl of rice and a bit of soy sauce. This was definitely interesting to see and experience, but I didn't find it particularly tasty. I only had a bit of the fish, so I didn't get to experiment with putting more soy sauce on it or maybe more green soup on it.
After the whole tasting menu, the items I would recommend (if they are still on the menu) would be the beef tartare and the noodles. Possibly the mantou because so many people like, even though I clearly don't understand it's popularity. There must be something to it if there's so much buzz about it.

Despite how things turned out, I still think the tasting menu was a great way to try Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie for the very first time. If I were to do it over, I would have a smaller group (no more than 8) and go for bigger bites rather than more items. Also, if the restaurant is still being flexible about things, maybe choose 2-4 items that you would definitely like to see and leave the rest to the restaurant. I'd also drop the appetizers and choose just one of the two desserts.

Maybe I'll bring a vegan next time. See what they can do.

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