Thursday, February 19

Trendy Soup Dumplings

Bubby and i are attempting to make a standing monthly dinner date to catch up with each other AND eat at a restaurant either of us has had a hankering to go to.

which is how we found ourselves outside of Azasu last night in the LES. except Azasu was closed. inexplicably. there was no posting on their website. nothing on the storefront window. i even called them and there was nothing on the outgoing voice message. 

that is seriously annoying. especially since Bubby and i had been looking forward to the dinner all day.

so, forced to come up with a quick Plan B alternative, we hopped on the M15 and headed over to St. Marks to eat at Bao. the cold weather had given me a hankering for soup dumplings. 

we walked in around 8:00 p.m and the place was packed. it's not a large restaurant and is typical of most of the eateries on St. Marks in that it had an NYU-college-frenzied-atmosphere. we put our name on the list and were told there would be a 30 minute wait so we headed over to Barcade for a drink (plus Bubby really had to pee).

exactly 1 drink later, we were promptly seated at Bao. by this point, we were hungry, so it's no surprise we slightly over-ordered. Bao's menu has the plethora of selection, and it hits all the right notes between authentic Chinese options and dishes catering to the whities (ok, that's a little racist. Bubby's white and she would never order General Tso's Chicken). 

we started with XO Sauce Fried Rice, which was ordered partly because Bubby and i had chosen mainly spicy dishes from the menu and i didn't want our mouths to be on fire and because i've gotten an affinity for XO sauce ever since my visit to Vancouver. the rice is good and flavorful, with bits of pork belly mixed within, but nothing special. perhaps a noodle dish next time.

we also ordered the Radish Turnip Puffs, which were actually very well done.  the puff pastry on the outside was the perfect crumbly and crunch consistency without being greasy. the slight saltiness of the outside pastry was balanced out by the sweetness of the sauteed daikon radish on the inside. 

next, the main attraction, the soup dumplings arrived. we had ordered the Super Spicy Steamed Buns, mainly because i was intrigued at their use of the word "super." how spicy is super? apparently, very spicy. they use a ma-la flavored soup for the inside, which creates that super spicy flavor and saltiness. while it was a good dish, i think i'd order something else for next time.

we also ordered the Sauteed Black Goat and Stir Fried Lotus Root. the goat dish was cooked well, keeping the meat still tender. it was sauteed with chinese water spinach, which also added to the overall texture (and convinced you that you were eating healthy). the lotus root was also cooked well, maintaining a general crispy texture, although a little softer than i usually like it. it was the only non-spicy dish we ordered, aside from the fried rice (which should've been spicy but wasn't), which helped to balance out our overall meal. but i think that if you don't order such heavily spiced dishes, the lotus root could be a little bland.

i liked all the dishes we ordered at Bao and there were plenty more on the menu that i would've liked to try out. it's the type of menu that you want to eat with a bunch of friends, so you can try a little of everything, exactly the way chinese food is meant to be eaten (family style). BUT, i think the price point is too high for most of the food that Bao is serving. for 5 dishes and 2 glasses of wine, Bubby and i spent just under $100, including tax and tip. 

i'd probably go back to Bao, but just for their dim sum and cold appetizers portion of the menu, which is more reasonably priced for the items. although it'll be very hard to refrain from ordering other items when the rest of the restaurant is...

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