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REVIEW: Take a Bao, Century City

D is for the dry-as-a-bone beef in my rice bowl.

I is for the insipid blob of miso paste hiding underneath the dry beef in my rice bowl.

S is for similar, meaning that I couldn't taste the difference between the dry pork in my barbecued pork bao and the dry beef in my miso beef rice bowl.

G is for the gross uncooked-floury taste of the "bao" wrap in my barbecued pork bao, which was not a bao as I know it and not a Beijing duck-type pancake either but its own mealy yeasty grossness.

U is for the unbelievably salty marinade used to cook the mushrooms in my rice bowl.

S is for the sticky sweet American barbecue sauce in my barbecued pork bao.

T is for the terribly bored girl behind the counter who refused to make eye contact when I was ordering -- sorry I'm so ugly.

I is for the inedible rice in my rice bowl, because it had soaked up all the salty marinade.

N is for the next time I eat at Take A Bao, which would be after the market is flooded with hen's teeth.

G is for the gasp-worthy prices I paid for this lunch that sent me wandering to the Stand after squandering $14 on a lunch I couldn't eat.

I really need an edible lunch that's under $10 walking distance from CPE and Constellation.

Take a Bao
10250 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90067

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  1. LOL. I read this to the tune of "L-O-V-E" made famous by Nat King Cole: "L is for the way you look at me, O is for the only one I see...." But very different with your lyrics. lol

    1. 3 oysters @ Craft - $9.00 :)

      1. I feels for you, Uber, but having worked in Cent City a couple of decades ago, and having been forced to go there on a regular basis since, I'm just not sure $10's do-able....

        1. Is Clementine too far for you to walk? You might be able to get away for under $10, barely, like if you don't order a soda or anything.

          1. I haven't eaten there personally, but I've heard some pretty good things about the cafe at the Rancho Park Golf Course. Pico and Patricia. Probably more realistic from CPW than CPE.

            1. I respectfully disagree with you on every level. I eat there once or twice a week as I work in the area and it's fresh and healthy and so much better than anything in that food court. and i think you're forgetting the essence of this conversation- it's in a food court. maybe your expectations are too high?
              and let's not even get into the stand....

              1 Reply
              1. re: kra81

                "Food court" is not an excuse for bad food. It was just plain BAD. There's no reason for a blob of miso paste, there's no reason for all the salt, and there's certainly no reason to call that THING a "bao". Maybe it was an off day but I'm not in a big hurry to find out.

                I'd rather eat at Baja Fresh, Fuddruckers or California Crisp, frankly. And at least the Stand has good brats and OK mac 'n cheese.

              2. D'oh! Have you tried Clementine for lunch?

                12 Replies
                1. re: a_and_w

                  No... but looking at the menu, it looks pretty good, and not TOO far outside of my budgetary range. And it's certainly walking distance from here.

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    I like the meatloaf sandwich. They're also supposed to have great cupcakes, but I've never tried them.

                    1. re: a_and_w

                      I'd love a good meatloaf sandwich (room temperature, on rye). Does the Clementine meatloaf have a tight, smooth, and luscious texture, or is it the usual (edible but unmemorable) Betty Crocker grandma style -- open and coarse (the loaf texture, not the grandma)? In other words, does the kitchen add a little pork and veal to the beef and weight the loaf lightly as it cools?

                      1. re: sbritchky

                        I haven't had it in awhile but I think it's kind of in between. Not super smooth but not too rustic either. It's my favorite sandwich there and I tend to be kind of picky about meatloaf. Try it out...if you don't like it, at least you won't have spent a fortune. However, they don't serve it on rye. It's served on a country white, IIRC, with "1000 lakes" dressing and iceberg lettuce and caramelized onions. They'd probably give it to you on another bread. Also, I doubt it's room temperature. Wouldn't that be against some kind of health code or something (i.e. don't they have to keep it refrigerated?).

                        1. re: Debbie W

                          My recollection is basically Debbie W's. But sbritchky's question makes me think it's time to refresh my recollection! I'll also see if it's available on rye -- would go well with the 1000 Lakes dressing.

                    2. re: Das Ubergeek

                      in my opinion clementine is one of the best lunch options in the whole city. a little pricey but definitely worth it. its a must try.

                      1. re: emosbaugh

                        agreed on clementine. good food. good salads in the case. good egg salad sandwich, good tuna melt, great cobb salad, great arugula and citrus salad, great cookies, and SUBLIME butterscotch brownie. and I'm forgetting a lot of stuff too.

                        1. re: la tache burger

                          I've been a couple of times now. It's just the edge of my budget, but since work provides drinks I don't need to worry about that, and the $9.75 daily special is not too shabby.

                          They have, incidentally, excellent egg salad -- and I really am overly anal-retentive about egg salad (it's just a Thing).

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                            They also have the best scones I've had in a long time.

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              Mind giving more info. on the egg salad? I, too, am far too anally-retentive about egg salad and many disappoint.

                              1. re: ElsieDee

                                Nicely diced whites with the yolks being properly part of the dressing... tangy but not oppressively mustardy.

                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                  Dang. Now I'm salivating. Thank you.

                    3. I totally agree. Actually tried the place twice thinking maybe the first time was a fluke. Gross, expensive and entirely uninspired.

                      I kicked myself both times for skipping Clementine for that slop. You should check it out, Uber - lines and table-getting can be daunting, but the food is really worth it.

                      I haven't been to Bread Bar, but I assume that they are out of price range? Do they have pre-made sandwiches to go?

                      1. Agreed! I went there with my boyfriend before a movie. I was TOTALLY looking forward to eating there. The fluffy "bao" part was too much, the meat was flavorless, and it was just overpriced for tasteless meat, raw veggies in a big fluffy mess. I ended up ditching my bao and running over to the Japanese joint across the way for some miso and green tea.

                        1. Had the Panko Fish Bao. Bao=not very good. Filling=Meh. Price=outrageous. And congrats to Das on the Eater link.

                          1. In my limited experience, the meal I'd most look forward to eating in Century City would be at the Carvery, the Lawry's casual offshoot that serves prime rib sandwiches and the like. Looked up their website, and while there is a detailed menu online, it does not include prices. To get an idea, I called and spoke to a very friendly manager named Gina, who seemed surprised that the prices were not listed ("I'll get to corporate about that.") and related that their premium prime rib sandwiches started at $13.99. but that they also had more basic roast beef and turkey sandwiches starting at $8.99 and $9.99. She was very helpful and enthusiastic about the quality of their food, and had worked at the South Coast Carvery for about five years.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: nosh

                              Yeah-- the Carvery sandwiches are great, as is their mac and cheese. There's probably a million grams of fat in both but... :)

                              My favorite meal in the Century City food court is the Korean barbeque, Sorabol. It feels really healthy to me, too: skinless barbeque chicken with sauce, brown rice, and sides of broccoli and carrots. And glass noodles (less healthy). That giant plate is under $10.

                              Compared to other food courts, I think the one at Century City is fantastic. A higher caliber of food and more variety. I _can_ see, though, how it would get old quickly if that was my only lunch option every day.

                            2. I didn't think it was quite as terrible as DU, but it also wasn't good enough that I'd want to ever order it again. I also had the miso beef short ribs bao and agree that the bao was very doughy and the huge blob of miso paste was just wrong. I was starving, so I still ate both, but I'd rather have just had a plate of nachos at Baja Fresh. Sad, because the description sounds so promising and I freaking love the name Take a Bao.

                              1. I didn’t find it all that offensive at first. I’ve been eating there pretty regularly since their opening about 5-6 weeks ago (though less and less frequently) and have to say they’ve gone downhill fast. The bao were never good: the bun has an unpleasing texture and is tasteless, the fillings are almost always too salty, the salad that comes on the side, while tasty, is often overdressed. But I rather liked the vegetarian noodle bowl the first time had it – light brothy, gingery sauce, lots of fresh veggies, etc. The second time, the sauce was flavorless and almost entirely oil and the toppings were paltry. I also tried the chicken noodle bowl with shiitake mushrooms. It was good the first time but terrible the second time, which was yesterday and likely the last time for a long time. It was oversauced, too salty, mushrooms overcooked, some of the ingredients mentioned on the menu were missing, etc…. The general trend I’ve noticed is that they’ve increased their use of salt and sauces, probably to cater to the lowest common denominator that mistakes salt for flavor. Also, the toppings have been inconsistent with what the menu says, probably due to lack of training or sloppiness.

                                Take note, Take a Bao: Proper seasoning is not overrated!!

                                1. Hey DU -- Shoot me a quick email, my address is listed on my chow profile.

                                  1. Hi Das,

                                    Hehehe, nice review! :) My condolences. Doesn't Banh Mi Cho Cu's amazing Xiu Mai Banh Mi for under $2 seem even better right about now? (BTW, I thought BMCC was convenient for you?)

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: exilekiss

                                      Wow we are talking mall food here, right? Das Ubergeek that's a pretty harsh write up for a $10.00 lunch. I've had some pretty decent meals at this place. Is it Zo? No. is it Cut? Not. It's a place to grab a quick bite. What vitriol for a lunch you didn't enjoy. You must really take your food too seriously to accept a hiccup here and there. Would you like a little wafer thin mint?

                                      1. re: trojans

                                        We all take $10 food quite seriously--if not why all the endless debate on tacos, pizza and burgers?

                                        1. re: trojans

                                          Since I've never been to either Zo or Cut, I can't say whether I like them. But if you'd bothered to read any of my previous posts, you'd know that it takes a lot for me to write such a negative review.. In fact, I can think of exactly one other review in eight years on this site -- for New Trieu Chau, which is even cheaper (and worse) than Take a Bao -- where I was so pissed off by my experience.

                                          Cheap is a bad excuse for poor quality. The value needs to be there. The point of Chowhound is to celebrate great food and warn against bad food. Take a Bao was just plain bad, so bad I don't want to waste more money there trying to find something good.

                                          To exilekiss -- BMCC is convenient to my Orange County office. This is a temporary work location in Century City, on the Westside, near absolutely no banh mi whatsoever, more's the pity. I haven't found a lot of stuff here in Century City that's both affordable and good, though Clementine was a welcome surprise -- a long walk but the weather is usually fine.

                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                            in century city, I tend to go to Mrs Winston's alot -- do it yourself salad bar or sandwich -- and it should come out to be under $10. other than that, the selections are pretty poor .... and since I've worked here off and on for for a total of about 12 years ......

                                            1. re: tigercactus

                                              If there's a Mrs. Winston's in the area, that's a good bet too. I also strongly second DUG's emotion that "cheap" is not an excuse for poor quality.

                                              1. re: tigercactus

                                                The thing about Mrs. Winston's is that it's only open until 4 or 5 in the afternoon and only on weekdays. It's a great option if you're there during those hours. It's not in the food court, but rather in the buliding on the corner of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation.

                                                1. re: mollyomormon

                                                  Which building? That sounds pretty tempting, actually, and that's essentially right underneath me.

                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                    the sunamerica building (is it still called that?) on the northwest corner, in the back of the building ....actually between the building and the entrance to the parking structure on Avenue of the stars

                                              2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                Keep up the good work, Das, no need to defend yourself, you are always more than fair in your reviews. We are entitled to ask for appropriate quality in a cheap meal...that's what chowing is all about!

                                                On a side note, isn't it just weird that people tend to attack something/anything percieved as "negative" rather than support how they actually feel about said topic? This is a food discussion board folks. Lively discussion is part of the fun!

                                          2. Well done! (A comment on your review, and another way to describe how the meat in your bao were prepared.)

                                            1. Quite creative review, and I agree. We shall all 'Bao Out'. It wasn't disgusting, but wasn't tasty either. It was like $4 for a standalone bao.

                                              I like the carvey prime rib platter. More like $15 though.

                                              Otherwise there is "The Stand" near the Craft's. Open weekdays only. It's not the best dogs, but it's decent and you can get a semi-good approximation of the new york style onions (diced in tomatoey sauce) and their kraut's not bad. There were other fast food places around the Stand but I didn't check them out.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: notmartha

                                                I've been to the Stand many times. It's not going to win any awards, but it's pretty decent for what it is, the brats are tasty, the pickles are tasty, and I think those chips are pretty addictive. The much-vaunted cobbler is just meh, though. Try it once but don't freak if you miss it.

                                                The other two things in there are Piknic, which is tasty but frankly overprices, and Habanero Grill, which I haven't steeled myself to go to yet.

                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                  I got the fries at the Stand, and judging from others' orders, should have stuck with the chips.

                                                  Anyway, good when I am nostalgic for NYC food (they have the potato knishes too).

                                                  1. re: notmartha

                                                    The chips are great. Never got the appeal of NY "onions" -- spent most of my time in NYC looking for plain old chopped -- but they do indeed have them. My main complaint with the Stand is that the Chicago Dog is made with pickle chips instead of spears. They do, however, have a proper poppy-seed bun, which is nice.

                                                    1. re: a_and_w

                                                      As long as we're talking about the Stand, I wanted to mention that on Monday nights they serve $1 plain dogs and "loaded" dogs for $2.50. At least this is the case at the original in the SFV and the new one in Westwood Village -- assume they do it at Century City too. Won't help in the quest for an inexpensive lunch, but keep in mind for a bite before or after a movie or holiday shopping.

                                                  2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                    i think that habenero has a decent "tostada" salad. All the other places -- Piknic, Habenero, and Cuvee are overpriced.

                                                2. have you tried coral tree in the food court? i remember having a good tomato mozzarella & basil sandwich......and it's mainly organic & fresh which i like. it might be just about $10 tho. & as others have said, clementine is very yummy too.