Schnacks (assorted pickles, marinated eggplant, sichuan cucumbers)- These little bites were the perfect beginning to our dinner. Each had a very distinct taste and texture, and were amazingly spiced, giving a little taste of what was to come for the rest of the evening. Of the three, the eggplant was my favorite (perfect texture), but the cucumber came a suprisingly close second (so crisp, awesome spicy vinegrette).
Petit cadeaux (vegetable potstickers, steamed prawn and chive dumplings, steamed truffled pork dumplings)- I must admit that my husband and I are not usually big Dim Sum fans so were not expecting a lot from the dumplings, but we were in for a very pleasant surpirse with Bao Bai's version. The filling of the prawn and chive dumpling was superb and plentiful, with big chunks of prawn and the zing of scallion. My husband and my other pork-eating friends adored the truffled pork variety too. I was also a big fan of the potstickers which I would have never ordered had I chosen my own dishes. These fried dumplings were not the least bit greasy and had a mild filling. This is a great choice for all tastes- those that do not like spice can enjoy them as is and those that like it hot can add a few drops of Bao Bai's amazing homeade hot sauce (I added it to everything!).
Vegetables (king pea tips, lotus root)- It is no secret that I LOVE vegetables and the dish that I was most looking forward to after reading the menu and previous reviews was the king pea tips. It is therefore not surprising that I LOVED the king pea tips (the garmlic flavour was out of this world), but of the two veggie dishes, the lotus root was my favorite (the unique curry flavour was incredible). Everyone at the table agreed that these veggies were some of the best of the evening. Trust me, even if you normally avoid this food category, you must try Bao Bai's veggie offerings. They may just make a veggie lover out of you after all.
Petits Plats Chinois:
Crisp Pork Belly- My husband specifically requested that this dish be added to our tasting menu since he loved pork belly and heard that Bao Bei's version was a "must-have". And fortunately he was not let down. All of the "pork-eaters" at the table drooled over the crispiness of the pork as well as the anise sauce in which it sat. This was a resounding hit.
Kick Ass House Fried Rice- Wow, this one left me speechless. This dish, which, according to our server, takes 2 whole days to make is like no fried rice you have ever tasted before. The rice has the most wonderful light, almost fluffy texture and is complemented by a great variety of meaty mushrooms. The rice, with a few dashes of housemade hot sauce, are a little taste of heaven.
Sticky Rice Cake- This is a very unique dish that was enjoyed by the whole table (sans-pork due to multiple food restrictions). It is presented as a pasta dish but the "pasta" is actually sticky rice formed into oblong "noodles". The texture is very appealing, and the sauce is a lovely accompaniment. I was happy to get a taste of bamboo, which is currently in season (I learned this from our very wise server!).
Salmon- This was a steelhead salmon coming from Vancouver Island. It reminded me a lot of Atlantic salmon (which, being a Newfoundlander, I still prefer to the Pacific variety) and was perfectly cooked. It was surrounded by the most beautiful green pistou (oil, herbs) and topped with an Asian chili paste that, when eaten alone is quite pungent but together with the fish and the pistou worked magically well. This chef is an absolute miracle worker!
Although I expected Bao Bei to be good, I could not have predicted it to be THIS good. I would go so far as to calling this one of my new favorites in Vancouver. I was shocked at the complexity of flavour and the originality of the dishes- a true steal for the $30 we paid for the tasting menu. I really cannot day enough good about it. The next time (and yes, there will certainly be a next time, and hopefully soon), I may even be willing to wait the 2-1/2 hours...Bao Bai is just that good.