Oh hey Bao Bei, I didn’t see you there…how’s it going?

Bao Bei has been open for 5 years and we’ve never tried it until Wicca’s friend came to town recently and gave us an excuse to eat somewhere nice on a weeknight 😀 We decided on an “Asian with a twist” theme that night, with other possibilities including Pidgin or Bambudda. Luckily, we were able to get into Bao Bei without too much trouble. In a nutshell, our food experience here ranged from ok, to good, to awesome. We were surprised and enlightened by their take on “modern Chinese”.

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These Chinatown-esque neon signs are actually less common than you might think. I like that they’re carrying that torch. One part homage, one part inspiration.

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Same as with my previous España post, it was pretty dark in Bao Bei and I hope the pictures still give you a good idea of the food here.

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Beer list is just ok. Three great beers (VIB Hermann’s Dark Lager, Four Winds Saison, Duchesse de Bourgogne), one good beer (Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale), the rest I wouldn’t bother with.

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“Schnacks”….often my favourite part of the menu! Enticing, appetizing, often contains fried items, smaller portions so you can try more, stuff that gets your stomach rumbling and mouth watering! I’ll have to come back to try their pickles and that Taiwanese pork sausage, but for now we got the Sichuan Fried Chicken. Their full menu is on their website, but is a tiny bit out-of-date…

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Mantou for tonight, maybe Kick Ass House Fried Rice for next time… We’ve had some pretty good steamed buns at Dunlevy Snack Bar and also the (now sadly replaced) Red Persimmon at Crystal Mall. I miss the “Taiwanese hamburger” at Red Persimmon cuz it was huge and good, with a big slab of pork shoulder, pickled mustard greens and ground peanut sugar. (For fun: see this Red Persimmon post from long-defunct I’m Only Here For The Food blog by Kim Ho, the Vancouver food blogger who went out with a huge bang/rant back in April 2011.)

Anyways, I wonder how this mantou will stack up to other steamed bun sandwiches…

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I didn’t expect Chinatown to turn into this re-energized foodie hotspot. It’s still in the early days, but it’s happening. Bao Bei were there at the beginning of this trend. And now Bestie is serving German currywurst a block away. Wild. I’m curious to see how the new construction on this very block in Chinatown will change things.

Side note: we had our wedding banquet at Floata just across the street 10+ years ago! I don’t remember the food. If you’re part of the wedding party, you have barely enough time to eat.

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I like the view of the kitchen through the pass. Copper-lined pans…a sight they you’ll never see in a typical Chinese restaurant 😛

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If you judge an Asian restaurant by how many Asian people are dining there, then do you judge a modern Asian/nu-Asian/Asian fusion restaurant by…what exactly?

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We like the dishware! It’s like the Chinese rice bowls we grew up with except clean, not chipped, and a little bit designy. And it matches the Four Winds label design! 😉

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Four Winds Saison. More and more places around town are stocking Four Winds bottles. Good choice! Saisons go with everything, and Four Winds’ version is a good example of the style. The BEST Four Winds beers are their limited bomber bottles though (e.g. Saison Brett, Juxtapose Brett IPA), and I don’t see restaurants stocking them any time soon.

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Beef Tartare. “Pemberton beef tenderloin, preserved mustard root, crispy shallot, ginger, quail egg, watercress, burnt scallion oil and taro chips.” Taro chips are cut a tiny bit thicker than the ones we’ve had at Chau. Very good, not greasy. The tartare itself was good but I would’ve preferred a bit more seasoning and oomph.

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Sichuan Fried Chicken. Fried basil on top. There might’ve been one other fried herb on top but we didn’t know for sure. We all liked it. The coating was slightly crunchy, yielding and light. It crumbled in your mouth as you chewed, so a different coating than you might be expecting. Moist inside, little bit of salt and spice. Tasty! Some pieces didn’t have enough coating so you got that fried bare chicken meat in spots.

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Mantou with pork belly (chopped up), bean sprouts, preserved turnip and sugared peanuts. The bun was soft and pillowy. Good but the flavours needed the volume turned up, especially when compared to a typical gua bao (Taiwanese hamburger).

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Octopus Salad. “Wok charred, chili mustard root gnocchi, summer greens, pickled butternut squash, tobiko, clam and anchovy dressing.” Dressing was light yet flavourful. Not over-dressed. The gnocchi was fried on the outside so it came off like a tasty croquette/crouton-substitute. Octopus was tender but with a good amount of chew. I LOVED how the tobiko was served in a radish cone. This salad really came together for us.

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Kabocha Squash and Winter Melon with “gem lettuce and xia pi topping”. Another winner. Asian ingredients that we all know but cooked in an interesting way. The flavours of the vegetables were enhanced and not overpowered or masked. The broth was so delicious. (At home, I drink ALL the runoff from our Asian choy stirfries.) Tasty, healthy, and comforting. I have no idea was xia pi topping is though…

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Dessert time. Surprisingly, I pushed for dessert…ice cream in fact. I really wanted to see what this place could do with desserts.

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Kaya with pascade (sorta like an eggy pancake), amaretto sponge, fresh persimmon, pomelo curd and kaya (coconut milk, egg and pandan custard).

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Wicca fell in love with this dessert. Too bad they’re taking it off the menu! All the elements worked together. Asiany stuff we know, but combined and presented in a way that was really an eye-opening experience.

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Trio of Ice Cream:

  • Mango and Condensed Milk Caramel
  • Almond and Preserved Kumquat
  • Honey Tangerine Sichuan Peppercorn Sorbet

I thought the two ice creams were good but a bit subtle for me. The sorbet was the brightest and most flavourful. The Sichuan peppercorn flavour was really subtle but present, adding a very interesting dimension. I would’ve liked even MORE of that Sichuan peppercorn sensation 😉 The almond & kumquat one only had a little bit of finely chopped kumquat in it and could’ve used more.

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This is the card that comes with your bill. It has a language lesson on one side and photos on the other. The photos are owner’s old family photos. Very cool. This particular photo was also blown up huge on one of the walls at the back.

So, not a perfect meal, but whatever was good was good enough to give us a reason to come back. I’m looking forward to it! Please let me know what dishes you like here in the comments below! Or hit me up on Twitter or Instagram!

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie 寶貝小館 on Urbanspoon

BONUS SHIT: You gotta watch this Vice Munchies Chef’s Night Out episode on Bao Bei:

It’s Vancouver, man! Too bad they didn’t get as wild as they do in other Chef’s Night Out videos…

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